“It’s a process, not an event.” I heard this about a number of things in my kiddo’s toddler life – weaning, teething, potty training. Now I’m midway through another process with kiddo – switching schools for a second time. As before, it’s dragging and flying simultaneously. The dragging part has been the waiting: the acceptance pending final report card, the health reports to be filled out after the doctor’s appointments, and still a month until final enrollment, until I have proof of our new address. I can’t unenroll kiddo from his current school until the ink is dry on the new one’s paperwork, yet as soon as that ink is dry, I have 24 hours to complete the task, lest the state get confused and believe he’s attending two schools at once.
Forget hurry up and wait. This is wait and hurry up.
The first time we changed schools, three years ago, kiddo was leaving a brick-and-mortar private school. The kind of school which asks for contributions of volunteer hours as part of tuition. I had to wait until school year’s end to resign my volunteer gigs, so my disloyalty wouldn’t be held against the kiddo (and to keep my connection to the grapevine, through which all the news worth hearing flows). Yet once I had done my last school office shift, I ran home and emailed the volunteer coordinator to take me off the schedule for September. As I had the couple years prior, I still carted the contents of the lost and found boxes home. Hats and gloves, coats and clothes all got sorted and laundered in a marathon session ending at 11 PM. Dropping off all the used uniform pieces on the porch of the school’s exchange coordinator felt like a version of midnight dumping.
The hardest uniform piece to toss into the exchange was the kiddo’s school tie. Most of his other pieces would’ve been outgrown by New Year’s at the latest, so I wasn’t attached. But the tie … he only had one, and he wore it every day. I had just run across his first school tie a few weeks before, when I’d moved his overflowing “memory box” items to a bigger container. Ridiculous, really, that a first grader should wear a tie. How small it was, yet the knot had been half the width of his toothpick neck. You can still see him in that tie on the school website, because his class was little and cute, and thus very photogenic, back when the new site was being built. There he is in scienc class, giving a hands-thrown-up-from-the-elbows gesture of frustration behind the calmer kid whose experiment was working better. There are flashes of his then-blonde hair in the crowd shots. And he’s front and center of the morning TV spot they filmed, his body thrown into an X as he cheers enthusiastically.
It was losing that enthusiasm which brought about the end. The cheering had been for the little school that could, for the chance that had been taken on building new science and computer labs, for the first uptick in enrollment in years. But improved facilities and growing enrollment, when coupled with the closure of two competing private schools, had led to an attitude shift. Kiddo’s old school was in the process of becoming prep, and in so doing, any special needs students were left behind. Per the assistant principal, we had to find some way to “make him be normal,” because kiddo was “too much of a distraction for the other children.” Keep up or leave; we’re not providing accommodations anymore. A decision the school, as a private entity, was within their rights to make. Hence our decision. We left, though kiddo’s image remains.
Leaving, the process which involved flipping the “A-student or else” prep-school script that had gotten stuck in kiddo’s head.
Leaving, the process of realizing bullies can be left behind physically, but that there is a world of work to do to rebuild self on the foundations the bullies have tempered. For kiddo, that process took five months of decompression, seven months of one-on-one therapy, and a year-and-a-half of social skills group (results more typical than you’d want them to be).
Leaving, the process of entering into something else.
The something else the first time around was a cyber charter school. The very enthusiastic school staff fibbed a bit (okay, a lot) when they said it would only take several weeks to get up to speed. Try several months. As one year became two, and then three, I got to be one of the old-hand parents, again. No, I would tell newbie families, it’s not like school, but at home. You will be spending more time with your child than you have since (s)he was a toddler, and in the process, you will very likely discover the reasons your child struggled in brick-and-mortar. Plus, they have bad habits you don’t even know exist, yet. I would also tell them – though they wouldn’t believe me at first – that they would grow to miss some things about brick-and-mortar. Like the copy aides, school secretary, lunch ladies, gym teacher, school nurse, recess supervisor, and teachers’ aides, because all of those roles become yours. And I thought the private school wanted a lot of me.
It took three years, but kiddo’s knowledge gaps were filled and his self-confidence rebuilt. So much so that he wants to try brick-and-mortar again; the siren song of social life in high school too strong to resist. Little does he realize the reacclimating he’s in for, beginning with not being able to attend first-hour class in pajamas. I’m sure he’ll be complaining for weeks, or even months.
As will I – the newbie parent once more.
It’ll be a process.