Okay so I’m sitting here in the entry way to yet another school that could be an option for kindergarten.
Pre-school and pre-K were basically a bust and I don’t want to blow it with kindergarten. When my top choice pre-school was full, we opted for a Catholic school that, while it covered all the basics plus morality and “God loves you,” was not a good fit for our smart, curious, talkative, shy, toe-walking, rambunctious, silly, obstinate, stubborn, goof ball, happy, fun, inquisitive, independent, hopeful, vibrant, sensitive son.
Even though he had what’s colloquially known as an IEP (special ed serviced provided by the Dept. of Ed here in NYC), we had a rough school year. Everything we liked about the school in a big picture sense fell apart on the micro-level, and for a teacher with a large class who needs to be able to manage her classroom, our son posed too much of a challenge. He had a SEIT who went to school with him for several hours per week, who helped him figure out how to manage himself, and be managed in the classroom. He had occupational and physical therapy three times per week after school, and those therapists had additional methods, strategies, routines, rules, goals, expectations.
To me it feels like too much, it feels like there’s this heavy weight pushing down on him trying to blot out his essential essence, which is bright like a burning sun, all giggles and light. I want to tell everyone, even me and his dad sometimes, to stop pressing down on this miracle of a person.
At home there are a different set of expectations, namely that he do as he’s asked or clearly explain why he can’t, or won’t, and ask for help if he needs it. This morning it took us 25 minutes to get him to put on his underpants. By the end of this mayhem, he’d lost tv for the whole weekend, and was on the verge of losing Legos (which would break my heart because they are a great occupational therapy tool, but it was the first thing I could think of, and I couldn’t stop the threat from slipping out of my mouth). Once the underpants, and the rest of the ensemble, were on, I asked him what the deal was.
Me: What was up with that? Why wouldn’t you put on your undies?
C: I don’t know.
Me: Could you elaborate on that response?
C: I was afraid of your angry voice.
Me: What’s my angry voice?
C: (adopting a deep, gravelly voice that sounds like horrible fire breathing monster) Put on your undies! Put on your undies! Put on your undies!
(At least I have the good sense to laugh.)
Me: Did I start out using my angry voice?
Me: What could you have done so that I didn’t end up using my angry voice?
C: Put on my undies.
Me: When I ask you to do something you need to do it, I’m never going to ask you to do something that is harmful for you.
Me: Or if you can’t do it, or there’s a reason why not, you need to let me know why, and if you need help, you need to just ask.
When it was time to brush his teeth I suggested that we just get it done before I end up using my angry voice. And he did it. So fear of the mother’s mean voice is more encouraging to get him to do things than taking away tv and Legos. Gross.
C is registered in our local public school. There are lots of caring teachers there, and the administration seems dedicated, there’s plenty of parent involvement. C is signed up for a special ed class with only 12 students in it! So it’s really not a bad second choice. But all things being equal, it’s not a first choice either. C’s SEIT recommended this other school, so we’re checking it out. Today C is visiting the class while I wait out front, here with a statue of Jesus and a big banner with a gold star from the Anti-Defamation League. I can hear the drum circle from here. I like this school. There are less kids in this school than in the entire kindergarten at the public school. If it’s the right match, it would be great. If it’s not the right match, I’d like to know that so we don’t make another mistake.
There’s so much emphasis put on education. It’s like this glorious thing that a kid has to do well or else they will be jobless, homeless, and spouseless. But as all us grown ups with bachelors and masters degrees know, education is no panacea. Life can still turn out completely weird and not what you thought you were working towards at all. Things are super hard, and following your bliss could land you just as squarely beneath under a gondola floating face down as in whatever your dream life is. What do you want? What are your goals? Don’t decide too soon, don’t decide too late. This square life can be crushing. If only living off the grid in the woods seemed even remotely reasonable with my collection of odd skills and a spouse who likes his whole thing here in Brooklyn.
All my fears squeak up to the surface sitting here on a hard wooden bench in the little lobby of this cute school.
The drum circle is still going. Children come and go, speaking of Michelangelo. There’s a giant light up peace sign I can see from here, and a sign that says “God’s biggest giggles come when we make plans.”
The cute little lobby. I’m in the mirror.