School’s out for the summer. School’s out forever.
Thank goodness that last sentence isn’t true. By the end of August I will be happy to load up backpacks & school lunches & jump back into the battle with the Honda Pilots at drop off & pick up.
The Kids faced an enormous challenge this year going from the private school they’ve attended since they were each three years old to the neighborhood public schools. The Girl to middle school, The Boy to elementary. It was probably the hardest thing they’ve ever had to do.
The Boy had it a little easier. His school is big enough that there are four third grade classes. So even if a kid had been at that school for the past few years, there was a chance he could be in a classroom where he didn’t know anyone. Even so, I remember the first week of walking The Boy to school & having him cling to me, almost in tears. “Why can’t we go back to St. Joe’s?” he would ask. And how do you explain to an 8-year-old that everything he knows has changed because his mom & dad can’t seem to make it work?
Fast forward to the end of the school year where I now have this incredibly confident 9-year-old who plans on joining Student Council & the basketball team next year. Finally at a school where no one knows his sister, there’s no comparison. So he’s gaining confidence where, in the past, he had everything his older sibling had accomplished looming over his head. It never occurred to me before, but it must be hard to carve your own niche in a small school where your outgoing, social, funny, smart sister has already gone before you.
The Girl had it worse. Much worse. Starting sixth grade in a middle school that begins in fifth, she knew no one. Okay… almost no one. She had one friend who moved away after two weeks & one other friend who she knows from the neighborhood. A boy. A very sweet boy but not the friend that The Girl needed at the time. To make matters worse, sixth grade girls are… well… bitches. They have their cliques all set, they’ve known each other for years & they’re all at least a foot shorter than my long-legged daughter.
Basically, there’s no room for anyone new.
She spent a lot of time at the school psychologists’ office & he was a God send. Mr. B was kind, generous with his time & great about keeping in touch with me to make sure Grace was getting the help she needed. Even so, I watched the first few months of school go by & my outgoing, social, funny, smart girl sank deeper & deeper into a pit of depression. At the same time, I got my breast cancer diagnosis & was exhausted from all that went into treating that, so there were times when I felt useless to her.
But there is no wake up call like hearing your 11-year-old tell her counselor that there are times she would rather not be alive than to have to deal with everything she was going through. Add to that the realization that the private school curriculum she had wasn’t teaching the same things as the public school. Her grades plummeted & my A/B student started bringing home D’s & F’s.
I’m going to tell you a little secret right now. If you think it makes me a bad mom, then so be it. Here it is…
Yup. Bribery works.
“Make Honor Roll & I’ll get you a laptop.”
I said those words. A laptop of her own is something she has wanted forever. So I made it part of the deal. Honor Roll = Laptop.
That Girl started going to extra help every Tuesday afternoon. And early morning help every Wednesday & Thursday morning. And tutoring every Thursday afternoon. And she did it. I am now $300 dollars poorer but she closed out the year with two semesters on the Honor Roll. And she did it all herself.
As we started getting The Girl the help she needed to dig herself out of the pit, she found Lilly, a kindred spirit. Lilly is funny & outgoing & sings all the time. The first time I met Lilly, we were walking home from the local Santa Parade. The Girl was wearing sweatpants with a large pink guitar down one leg, a rainbow fleece & an Angry Birds hat. Lilly was wearing sweatpants with Tinker Bell down one leg, a rainbow fleece & an Adventure Time hat. It left me no room to wonder why they were friends. Thank God for Lilly. She will never replace Emily, The Girl’s original BFF or Lynnea, The Girl’s other BFF, but she is ever-present & has given The Girl that one trusted friend that she really needed to get through the year with.
The Kids have proven to themselves that they can overcome a lot & that there is nothing that they can’t face with a little bit of extra help & perhaps some
bribery motivation. And they have reinforced my knowledge that they are two of the most amazing kids I will ever know.
Recently, the principal of The Kids’ former private school saw The Boy at church. I won’t go into my diatribe about how she should have kept her mouth shut but here is the conversation:
The Principal: “Hi, Sam. Are you coming back to school next year?”
The Boy: “Oh… I’m still in school.”
The Principal: “I mean, are you coming back to St. Joe’s next year?”
The Boy: “No. My mom still doesn’t have any money.”
Now that’s acceptance. God how I love that Boy.