Sunday, January 31, 2016

Not like my daughter

My husband recently got a new job, which is really great. However, it's a big change for a family that was structured around keeping one parent home at all times. That's why for years my husband had no job, or a nights and weekends job, while I worked days. But now the kids are older and an opportunity popped up, and now for the first time in seven years my husband and I will both have a day job. There's been a lot of scrambling over the past week and a half to find a new car (when someone's always home, it's easy enough to share one vehicle), get pre-employment stuff completed, and work out all the details of a new job. But the biggest deal by far was finding daycare for our toddler and after-school care for our older kids.

Last week I was at my kids' school signing them up for after-school camp. I gave the camp director my registration form and she looked at it and said, "Oh, you're signing up P and E! You know, E is SO GOOD! SO different from P!"

My stomach dropped. My daughter E is a very compliant child at school, that's true. She loves her teacher. Actually, no...P loved that teacher back when he had her. E would crawl across a desert of broken glass for that teacher. And when you love a teacher that much, you want nothing more than to make her proud, which means being very good, even when the camp director is subbing for your teacher.

P has trouble controlling his emotions. He has outbursts. He doesn't hit, or kick, or even call names. But it's not normal for a seven-year-old to wail and dissolve into a puddle of tears when he can't find his lunch bag in the cafeteria, or when he gets an extra worksheet packet in class. In his school, where so many kids are so very much alike, he sticks out like a sore thumb.

I blinked at the camp director and then said, "Wow, burn," with an uncomfortable laugh. Did she realize what she'd just said? I wanted to give her some space to backpedal.

"Oh, I sub in the classrooms sometimes. I've known them since they were..." She held her hand about three feet off the ground. "And E is always very good."

"Huh," I said. I could feel tears prick the backs of my eyes.

"But today...P was good too. I was subbing in his class and he was very good. No crying, no fussing. I even said to him, 'P...you're so good today.'"

I was torn. I wanted nothing more than to verbally assault her. Truss her up in her own statements and squeeze her. Trap her and badger her until she admitted that maybe the problem was, at least in part, her own perceptions of my son.

But she's the camp director. And we need a place for our kids to go after school. And, at least for now, we can't afford an in-home nanny who could watch our toddler and pick the kids up after school. And we don't have family or friends nearby who could go get our kids at 2:30 and watch them.

And so I sighed. Partially because I couldn't fight for him. And partially because apparently my son is just "the bad kid." A conclusion so obvious and an assumption so widely held in that school that people assume that even his own mother would know it's true and not blink at having it pointed out.

My head says that might not be completely true. But my emotions aren't listening.

Tomorrow is the enrollment period for next year. We're going to enroll both of our older kids in a new school. Lately I had been wavering but this conversation made it a lot easier. Good-bye, neighborhood school. Sorry it didn't work out.

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