When you are in a long-term relationship, you make certain investments in the relationship to help it grow. You give it your time and attention. You are careful to respect boundaries while still pursuing intimacy, trust and friendship. You work through bumps in the road together. You make certain concessions when the other party isn’t playing ball and hope they allow you the same courtesy. You never, ever quit.
No. I’m not talking about my marriage.
I’m talking about school. I’m talking about our decision to trust our children to the public school system. To date, only one is currently enrolled in public school and she’s going into 5th grade this year. Our last year of elementary. Then…OMG…middle school. [excuse me while I take a moment to stuff that impending reality back into the dark corners of my mind; not to be thought of again for at least a few months…]
The last few years have been challenging. (to say the least) Oh, I’m not denying Munchkin’s culpability in creating and/or maintaining some of the drama through which we found ourselves wading. I’ve posted before about her amazing ability to find the most dramatic situation and implant herself smack dab in the middle of it. I’m also not denying there were things that were just part of another year of getting older, moving on, transitioning into another phase of childhood, etc.
What I AM saying is that there were some parts of the last couple of years where I felt a real sense of partnership and cooperation with the school and parts where I felt like I was dealing with avoidance, passive-aggressive behavior and constant conflict. Again, I will reassert that Munchkin can be something else and she IS entering the phase where she thinks she is more grown-up that she is and following those “little girl” rules are starting to pinch her, but she’s not mature enough to handle any more freedom. When she IS given freedom, she usually puts her foot in her mouth or makes some other dumb decision that, upon reflection, should have been foreseen by the adults in charge (ahem…us).
Academically, last year was an enormous catch-up, but the instruction was great. She made up all the ground she’d lost in the jumble of third grade math teachers and she gained and built on the spark ignited for reading and writing. Socially, my gawd I lived for weekends and holidays. I KNOW this is the age where girls hate each other with a venom that rivals the most poisonous animals on earth. Females can be vicious and cruel and we experienced both sides of that equation: Munchkin as victim AND Munchkin trying on the role of the spider. I watched her struggle with the seemingly endless cycle of cruelty. She was unhappy with her own behavior, but not mature enough to navigate away from it or work through it when it found her. I saw a side of her last year I hadn’t seen. I hope the experience worked itself out of her system and she is now content to go to school to learn; not be a gladiator. And yes, I know some of this is unavoidable. This cycle lives and breathes and grows freely in “good” and “bad” schools alike; public and private. So, no, I’m not looking at this through some kind of wonderland looking glass. The jabberwocky is everywhere.
Where I am hoping to see some measurable change is in the overall climate of the school. Teachers need to be supported by administration to demand respectful behavior in the classroom. Violence against one another MUST not be tolerated in any way.
Investment. Rather than pull her out and run to another school or district, we are going to stay in the fight and work through it. Because we have a relationship. Because Munchkin must learn that the way to handle your problems is not to run away from them but to roll up your sleeves and work HARD to fix them. Find a way to dialogue on topics you don’t understand or approve.
And I’m scared to death.
Scared to be “that mom.” Scared NOT to be “that mom.” Scared that not moving her to another school is going to automatically doom her to another awful year like I’m on the quest for the holy grail and her experience becomes collateral damage.
I just want to get it right.
This parenting stuff is hard, y’all.