A New Year's Message From Carmen McGuinness

Carmen McGuinness 2017December 31, 2016

Dear Friends,

It's official! We have all lived much longer than we imagined. I recall a New Year's Eve, sitting by the fire in Tuscany with my father. I was twelve-years-young. He spoke of how I would see the millennium change. I laughed and said no one would be alive by then. I was a Cold War baby... kinda dark sometimes. But, doing the math, I reckoned I would make it to about 2010. And here we are!... and surprise, surprise... I'm still young. Why?... when I was in my late thirties I started having babies... again. I attribute my youthfulness to their needs. This time my babies were imported from China. With the arrival of the first import I began to contemplate my older two made-in-the-USA kiddos... what had gone well and what could use improvement. My improvement of course. Because I raised them. In fact, there was no one else to praise or blame, as I'd raised them alone.

Today, on the brink of the seventeenth anniversary of the millennia, I ponder what has gone right this time around. This morning, as we planned an evening of ice-skating at the park, my fifteen-year-old Lily (the afore mentioned first import) confided in me that she doesn't like to see her little sister stay at Dad's house when she's not there. At first my inner psychoanalyst popped out and said, "Oh it's okay, you know your daddy loves you too!" But her response woke my inner teacher. "No Mom, I'm not jealous. I'm worried." You see, Rose (my second Chinese flower) has autism. And as it turns out, her sister Lily was worried for her at Dad's house without her big sister to look out for her. Not because of Dad! He's an amazing father. But because of an aging relative, who he looks after. Those sensitive readers understand how difficult it was for Lily to confide in me that her beloved relative is not always so patient and understanding as she might be with little Rose. So, Lily and I talked, and talked, and talked some more. We talked about advocacy, and how to keep safe those who are less fortunate than we are. Part of that talk was about how Lily had also advocated for her aging relative, by keeping her safe from making bad choices. After we talked, and I made a difficult phone call to Lily and Rose's father, I sat in awe of my fifteen-year-old. How does one so young learn the art of advocacy?

Advocacy, like most of what we learn, is learned from our parents and teachers. Lily was blessed with parents (who were also her teachers for many years) who advocate for those less fortunate. I suppose that's how Dad ended up with a child with autism and a grumpy, aging relative under the same roof two days a week. So how does a parent or teacher teach advocacy? Like most of what we teach, through modeling. Just the other day Lily stood off to the side, pretending she didn't know me while I called for the store manager after I noticed a woman in an antiquated wheel chair trying to shop alone. The manager's initial reply was, "Well, it's just a chair. You might need help." Of course, I explained the principle of 'self-determination' woven into modern legislation. This is my message today, on the eve of the days that were never to be. We have come a long way since our aging relatives were young. We live in a world blessed with legislation like Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). But we must model the principles of these important documents or our children and students will only be governed by them, but never actually learn and live them.

May the Force be with you ~

Dr. Carmen McGuinness

Phono-Graphix Reading Company

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