My children attend a charter school that divides each grade into three classes, “Basic” (for those needing a little extra coaching), “Standard” (for the middle of the pack) and “Proficient” (for those who would benefit from some enrichment activities). So far Christopher has managed to keep his head above water in the “Standard” class (though if his reading scores don’t soon improve, that may change).
I, on the other hand, have decided that I belong solidly in the “Basic” camp.
It all started in preschool. The first school we tried — an expensive Montessori program — was a disaster. We were asked to leave after a month, obstensibly because Chris (who was still getting used to life at Chez Saxton) kept using words like “kill” and “dead” (which apparently was a much more serious offense than the word he came home with … “stupid.”) The parents contended he was a “bad influence.”
In reality, I suspect it didn’t help that I just didn’t fit in with all those model parents. I refused to get up at 4:30 a.m. when it was my turn to bring snack, so I could make homemade miniature cinnamon rolls for two dozen unappreciative toddlers. I stuck with Cheeze-Its and juice boxes.
And when it was time for the annual bake sale, I didn’t contribute a half-dozen homemade New York Style Cheesecakes (complete with strawberries I had picked myself). I brought in three plates of homemade brownies.
And when it was time to pick Christopher up from school, more than once I was the L-A-S-T parent to screech up to the front door and take my son’s hand under the eagle-eye of the teacher, who pointedly asked me if I owned a watch. (And I wasn’t even late, mind you. I just didn’t see the point of arriving twenty minutes early and pressing my nose against the glass partition, salivating like a Labrador in front of the butcher shop.)
Fortunately, the next place was more accommodating (it was a co-op, so I spent more face time with the teacher, which helped, I think.) But even there, with certain moms who made a full-time job out of bossing around the other parents. It amazed me at times how much these full grown women … could act just like preschoolers. And I wasn’t always good at hiding my impatience. So sue me.
Now, at South Arbor Academy we started over with a fresh, clean slate … all of us. And despite the fact that I work whenever the kid are in school, I was determined to make a good impression. After all, at charter schools parents are strongly encouraged to participate as actively as they are able to do so — and I didn’t want to come across as a freeloader.
So, when Chris’ teacher asked me to come ten minutes early on Friday mornings so I could monitor the class while she pulled car duty, I gulped and tried not to think about how many mornings we made a desperate dash into the school parking lot at 7:59. For Mrs McK, we would get our collective rears in gear.
And we did … for about four weeks, until we started showing up too early. Next thing I knew, our services were no longer needed. This year, I volunteered to take home two large boxes of reading materials that needed collating and stapling … and threw my back out in the school parking lot. (I still did the books, but the teacher felt compelled to apologize for weeks afterward.)
To make matters worse, my kids are always in the office for something: forgotten medicine or homework, failure to meet dress code (someone snuck her sparkly pink shoes in her backpack when mom wasn’t looking) … and of course a forgotten lunch on a semi-regular basis. They need continual reminders to eat their lunch, wear their glasses … and not crawl around the floor like gerbils on crack or they will rip a hole in the FOURTH pair of pants that winter.
The teachers and staff are always unfailingly nice, models of compassion and kindness. They know my kids’ backstory, and have worked really hard to help them succeed. But somehow, I don’t know, I look around me at all the other parents who are pulling car duty and pushing pizzas and carpooling every class trip and assisting in the classroom every week and … wonder if I’m the one who belongs in the remedial group. Most days I struggle just to show up on time.
Yes, oh yes I do. My personal low-point came at assembly last week, when awards were given out for “academic achievement” (how well they are doing) and “moral focus” (how hard they try). Awards are given out for “cum laude,” “summa cum laude,” and “magnum cum laude” for all grades — even kindergarten. Every single one of my child’s classmates got at least a “cum laude” in something … except mine, who got a “participated” award. Ouch.
That day I drove home with tears stinging in my eyes. How can it be that we couldn’t even pull off a MORAL FOCUS nod? I mean … honestly, the school’s “moral focus” was our primary reason for sending them to this school instead of the public school. We believe in those global virtues … compassion and honesty and perseverence and cooperation and courage and goodness and self-control. Why aren’t our children making the grade?
As it turns out, they are. The teacher called me later to alert me to an irregularity in a computer program that resulted in my child slipping off the radar temporarily. Thank God.
Still, it got me thinking: The next time someone out in cyberspace tells me how “together” I have it (I about fell over the last time it happened), to be able to work and raise kids and keep house (ha) and write books and … and… and… I’ll just laugh and point to my “remedial parenting” award. Here it is right here … wait, I just had my hands on it … maybe in this pile of papers over here… Oh, Rats.
Remedial Parents, Untie!
P.S. Today I held in my hands … for the very first time … my first copy of Raising Up Mommy. (What a rush!). The first six who want to review it get a free copy. Just drop me a note at hsaxton(at)christianword(dot)com!