Punky Mama


As Our Experiment With Public School Fades Into The Rear View Mirror

As of Monday Aaron will no longer attend the public school down the street.

The straw that broke the camels back, so to speak, were stories he shared about one of his teachers.  He told me of her screaming in the kids faces and threatening to rip up papers that didn’t have the kids names on them.  The kids are not allowed to speak in class at all all afternoon.  He went on, my stomach hurts when I have to go to her class because I know no matter what I do even if I am perfectly good, she will scream at all of us. He today talked about the faces of his friends as she screamed at them. This on top of the not being able to use the bathroom when he needed to and him having to sit alone at lunch, I broke.  I can’t send my kid off to school or have him come home in tears daily.  It’s not for him and it makes me ill to think this is what happens in that school.  I know not all teachers are this way.  His one teacher he loves.  Ryan has adored all the teachers at Ed Plus but there are some, like the one who abused Ryan and the one Aaron has, who need not to teach.  I am proud of Aaron for telling me what exactly was happening.

Although Aaron is a super social kid he is choosing to cyber the rest of the year.  It is too late to find a school for him and this gives us time to figure it out. I have already looked into a STEM co-op a few days a week.  I am nervous about it but I think having Aaron at home will be way easier than having Ryan home. Aaron is a very self directed kid at 10 years old.

I knew I had made the right decision when I asked if he wanted to go back and say goodbye and he said, there is no need for that.


Bathroom Denial In Public School

The adjustment back to a large public school has been hard on Aaron.  The homework is more, there are more kids to manage, and how the classes are taught are completely different to what he has been used to for the past couple of years.  The two things that burn me up the most is that Aaron, who is food allergic is made to sit alone every lunch period even when it rains. He is only allowed to use the bathroom at lunch, any other time of the day he is denied use of the bathroom.  I understand that public school has so many kids in each class and they are understaffed but prisoners can use the bathroom more freely than my fourth grader. I emailed the teacher first who told me that in fact, he could use the bathroom during his early lunch and not again until dismissal which is almost four hours.

It prompted me to write the principal the following letter.

Hi Mr (redacted)

I need to bring to your attention the fact the kids at (large urban public school) are being denied use of the bathroom during the day.  I live only two blocks from the school.  My son Aaron often comes running home unable to hold in what he has been holding all afternoon.  It is not healthy and it is a violation of his constitutional right to keep him from using the bathroom.  Aaron used to go to a school where he could use the bathroom if he needed.  I know (name of school here) is a large school but even prisoners are afforded more chance to use the bathroom than the kids at (large urban public school) are.

“All Americans, including children, have Constitutional rights.17 Among
these rights is a fundamental substantive Due Process right to bodily
integrity.18 Using the bathroom is a basic human need of the body and
is therefore protected by the Due Process clause of the Fourteenth

the UN has put out a Conventions of the right of the child.

The UN’s Convention on the Rights of the Child (pdf) outlines very basic human rights (e.g., to protect children against child labor and violence and secure their right for education). My list of children’s rights starts from the assumption that children are in an educational environment. I hope this list of rights will raise awareness for the subtle abuse and hidden suffering that occur in schools every day. If we allow children to feel more comfortable in learning environments, we adults will also feel better and happier! Instead of having to worry about being thirsty or feeling emotionally drained, children will consistently have their needs met. Children will gain the opportunity to experience true, authentic learning with joy. This leads to a lifelong love of learning.

All children have the right to do the following:

Go to the toilet when needed.
Have drinking water available.
Move the body when needed.
Learn to take care of personal needs.
Learn and process emotions through play.
Learn through exploration, trial, and error.
Make mistakes and not be judged or shamed.
Learn at a personal pace.
Fully understand a subject before being tested.
Not to be tested involuntarily. Instead, share knowledge by free choice, only when ready to receive feedback on learning progress.
Not to be punished. Instead, children should be respectfully encouraged to become more self-disciplined.
Not to be compared with peers. Instead, acknowledged as an individual student with individual talents, opinions, and characteristics.
Not to be judged for being different.

What can we do to help the children of (large urban public school)  gain a very fundamental right?

Has anyone else had to contend with this?  It’s inhumane.

I received this email later from the school principal.  I am STILL banging my head on the desk.

Good Morning Ms. Rogan:

Thank you for reaching out with your concern.  As I am sure you are aware from Mrs. (teachers name redacted) response to you last evening that your child is not being denied the opportunity to use the restroom.  Mrs. (teachers name redacted) made you aware that the whole class has the opportunity to use the restroom during two scheduled times, once after lunch and once before dismissal.  Children are also permitted to use the restroom when they request to. Your letter to Mrs. (teachers name redacted) and Mrs. (teachers name redacted) mentioned that Aaron is afraid to ask.  That is quite different than a student being denied to use the bathroom.

I hope this clears up any confusion on this topic.



Hanging On By a Fingernail

You can’t fix the darkness with unending light, kind words can’t fix this……….  It’ll Never Be Alright – Thorazine 2015

It’s been a really rough fall.  It’s hard as it has been in a long time. Yes, of course good has happened and I am trying to be grateful, but I am struggling a bit. I am furiously looking for work.  I have not made a “normal range for the bar” in about eight weeks, two months.  Summer is always slow in Philly and the Papal Visit to Philly killed the business in my bar.  I am at the bottom of the restaurant food chain, so to speak.  My bar is where restaurant workers drink after work late night meaning after midnight.  The restaurants in Philly lost a ton of business during the papal visit and the weeks after.  They are struggling to pay their rent so they are not going out after work to drink.  In turn I am making 1/4th to 1/3rd of normal.  It’s hard.  I am looking for freelance or part-time work pretty much constantly because Ryan could never survive after school program daily. Luckily my husband’s job covers all the bills but the bar covers food, gas, and extras.  I am not sure how the kids are going to join swim team next week, especially since they stopped letting people go onto a payment plan.  I am selling stuff on ebay, looking for work, and doing everything I can.  I know it will all be ok but for now I am stressed.  I am trying to remain grateful for what I have and not what we are missing.

Ryan’s school is in danger of closing any minute. I have been back and forth with the School District of Philadelphia and the local school since August about him and a school placement.  I am fighting for an approved private school for him.  It’s gotten ridiculous.  I bring them paperwork, they deny they received it, and say that I am not returning phone calls and on and on and on.  They are employing a tactic called gaslighting.

Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse “in which information is twisted or spun, selectively omitted to favor the abuser, or false information is presented with the intent of making victims doubt their own memory, perception, and sanity. Essentially, gaslighting is a tactic used to destabilize your understanding of reality, making you constantly doubt your own experiences.

It’s gotten to the point where I am in touch with two lawyers and all correspondence with the local public school has to be sent certified return receipt requested.  I send each letter to the principal of the local school, the special ed liaison, the superintendent of ALL Philly schools, and the Department of Special Services.  To send Ryan’s evaluation and IEP cost over $40 to send exactly three blocks. They have Ryan enrolled and I am in danger of hearing from DHS because he has been according to them, truant. GREAT.

What makes this all so complicated is that Aaron goes to school there. He struggled for the first two weeks and all his grades were C’s, but his grades at midterms are all A’s and B’s as he became accustomed to how regular school and all the testing works.  He is struggling with the the two or more hours of homework a night, but he is ok.  He is a conscientious student and very capable.  It’s good because at this point I am struggling with going near the school. The other parents don’t speak to me and truthfully I have nothing nice to say.  I drop Aaron off near the school in the morning and in the afternoon I gave permission for him to walk the three blocks home alone.  He is very capable and it helps him to walk alone since he comes home from school less cranky with the quiet mental headspace.  He loves the freedom and responsibility.

I have been visiting schools for Aaron.  It’s been hard though.  Yesterday I was at a school that was essentially a prep school, the kids were in suit and tie and it was very rigorous academically. I am sure Aaron could succeed there but I grew angry. Where was the magnet type school for the smart but learning disabled?  There isn’t one in Philly.  Better yet why won’t they send Ryan to an APPROVED private school that is prepared to help him succeed.

I know that answer.  Ryan represents dollar signs that they don’t want to spend, that no one wants to spend.  PERIOD.  Fuck that, someone has to educate him and I am going to make them…………


The Pope Is Making Me Bitter

The Pope is going to have a grand showing in Philadelphia, where I live.  The local news has been talking about the event and the World Meeting of Families for over a year.  It is supposed to be a grand honor to have this event in my town.

I don’t buy it. The FBI, the Secret Service, and the police have most of the center part of the city locked down and little by little the whole city center will be closed to nothing but foot traffic.  The trains, buses, and trolleys will not stop in Center City and you can only ride public transport if you have a “Pope Pass”.  Apparently there are Catholics from all over the world visiting. Most businesses are closed Friday, some even closed on Thursday, and the kids are out of school most of this week and part of next.  WHAT!!  For the damm Pope!!  I know you all may think he is a swell guy and he is the first Jesuit pope which puts him in the realm of weird rock star status.  I have been listening to the newscasters and the Mayor saying what a wonderful thing the Papal visit is to bring money into our city.  If so much money is coming into our city why have I made less last week and this than I have in YEARS?

You think to yourselves, dummy nice Catholics with families in tow are not coming to my smoking bar. Of course!  Summer in Philadelphia is slow.  Bars and restaurants have less business as people tend to vacation or weekend at the shore which is 80 miles away.  After Labor Day typically we can expect business to pick up as the students pour into town and the shore weekends and vacations end. Not this year.  August was slow, business picked up slightly in early September but with the Popes visit and the near hysteria from the media about the crowds and closures in central Philadelphia have had people staying home since last weekend. I am not the only one who is suffering.  I talked to a friend tonight who works in a high end restaurant.  She worked a 13 hour shift today and brought home less than $7 an hour for her trouble!!! She said that she served many from the World Meeting of Families and the clergy.  They tipped horribly.  I am not sure where in the bible it says, thou shall be exempt from tipping if you are part of the clergy and eat in a pricey restaurant, but I would like to see it. I am not looking for a huge tip for my friend but the standard 15% – 20% would be nice.  Heck, it would be nice if my customers could get to my bar without a huge hassle.

Tonight was not awful, people were still able to drive through most of the downtown and we had many young people who are off work tomorrow who are going out tonight but they are leaving town tomorrow to escape the city because of the dire predictions from the media and road closures. The city would have been better served if the people who lived here stayed for the event. They would have been stuck downtown and would have frequented their favorite bars and restaurants.  Let the pilgrims see the real Philly and it’s natives in our non Catholic, not scrubbed, may be gay or different glory.  Let the world see the melting pot I see in my bar every week.  The slice of Philadelphia I see may not be holy but they have learned a to accept those who are different and have accepted a live and let live attitude about the world without judgement.  Those here for the Papal Visit and who are visiting Philadelphia for the World Conference of Families can learn a lesson about the world in my bar and how to accept those who are different from themselves. I wish I could show every attendee the Philadelphia I love and not the whitewashed version that is going down.

If you are stuck in Center City this weekend, go out, tip generously.  Please.


Happy 12th Birthday Ryan

Ryan's first day of school

Ryan’s first day of school

Dear Ryan,

I feel like I have blinked my eyes and you are twelve. I started writing you these letters on your birthday when you were four, and it has become a tradition in our house to read the birthday letter. You have grown so much this year. You are looking me in the eye and your shoes and bigger than mine. You are turning into a manly looking boy. Your face still looks like a boy, but bigger changes are coming.

This was an incredible year. You are still swimming on the team and this summer in B champs you won four-first place ribbons and one-second place. Your behavioral consultant came to the meet because she first wanted to witness you in a competition. She was so nervous as she saw you so unfocused behind the block but I reassured her. As you stepped onto the block to race she saw how you became all business, and had a laser focus. It is always like that for you. You killed the competition and she and I stood together and wept because you fight so hard to even be on the swim team, yet you succeed and it is sweeter than sweet. As I walked the behavior consultant to her car a parent from another team stopped me to ask if I were the redhead’s Mom, because “he is one talented swimmer” and

You with all your ribbons

You with all your ribbons

wanted to congratulate me. The behavioral consultant had to hug me as I sobbed because for you, every win is sweeter than sweet.

You were diagnosed with Autism this year, finally. Your needs are complicated but you constantly rise above all of your diagnoses because you are a person not a label. I am glad that I get to watch you become the amazing kid you are. You are not a typical person. I don’t say that because I am your Mom but because it is exactly who you are. People have always reacted strongly to you, either negatively or positively. Keep the positive people and loose the negative, because you are amazing all the time.


You and Dallas in Los Angeles.

The school that has been such a safe haven for you is in jeopardy. It has been a tumultuous back to school season but you are weathering it because your school is trying to keep things as normal as possible. Your brother went back to public school and I can tell you like the alone time we have on the commute. I am learning that your brain is a super busy place and I enjoy our conversations except when you tell me I am wrong about almost everything. I am not perfect but I promise I know a few things, but we will get back to that when you are thirty.   Today you and Aaron were in the back seat of the car together as we drove to a party. You asked Aaron what it was like back in the public school and how he was making out. You have been waking up in the night with nightmares about public school. I will continue to promise you that your Dad and I will not let you go back to the school where they treated you so badly. We will do everything we can to assure that NEVER EVER happens. You are safe with us, but then again you already knew that.

This summer you got to see the entire United States. I can’t describe how happy I am that I got to show you what it is like to be

You and your Dad in North Dakota.

You and your Dad in North Dakota.

on tour with a punk band. You have at this point in your life have figured out that most other parents don’t play punk rock. You thrived on the road and I enjoyed you most of the time. For the first time in years you became very flexible. More than once you slept between your Dad and I for the first time in many years. I secretly enjoyed it. You supported your Dad and I and more nights than I was comfortable with you had to stay in the van during our set. You learned a ton about table manners and having a filter on your mouth from Dallas and Hoover. It warmed my heart as they stepped up to show you the world of men in a way I can’t ever show you. For about a week after we got home from tour you were often sad because real life couldn’t compare to the road. Sorry to tell you that for now you have to go to school, but there are a million and one careers on the road for you

The boys were very happy to be together at the end of tour

The boys were very happy to be together at the end of tour

Ryan, I am truly honored you are my son. You are a glorious person and contain greatness in you. I hope your twelfth year is as amazing as eleven was for you. I love you with every single of molecule of my being.

May your Birthday be amazing!

Love your Mom.


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