You’ve probably noticed that the Parent Imperfect doesn’t receive a lot of comments from its loyal readers. You’d think that at least a few of the 100,000 or so people who read each post would have something to say about it, but…
What is true is that many people who have unraveled the great mystery of the Parent Imperfect send me comments on the side. I always say, “Why don’t you post this to the blog so others can see it?” but no dice. Once in a while one of these comes along that I need to post, even if the writer won’t post it. That happened last week, after I wrote about the difficulty of the Exam School Choice for Dear Connie (more for her father, really). The names have been changed here to protect the innocent…Let’s call it “Phoebe’s Fable.”
We felt the same way last year at this time, or maybe earlier… Anyway, in the fall last year we were midst of feeling rotten about the nation’s oldest and feeling great about Sara’s K-8 school… and I was probably doing my own mourning about leaving that place, which was such an amazingly rich experience for her and for me.
Anyway, we just weren’t sure that BLS was the best match for Sara and we felt like BLA might really offer the right amount of academic challenge and social diversity that has been so important in her life (less so for Daniel, in the short run, but that’s another story). We made a real decision to pursue both options equally from the beginning, not favoring one over the other in how we talked, touring both, and really explicitly talking about the pluses and minuses. We talked to as many kids and parents as we could in her presence so she could get a feel of both from the ground (not just from her brother).
In the end, the decision was really hard with major factors being all the ones you’d suspect: BLA = more supportive, less intense amount of work, more diversity, harder to get to (practicalities were a factor, though small). BLS = probably more kids she’d know, easy travel, harder to get into, more of a challenge (her words). In the end I felt thoroughly torn and agonized as usual, but she was the one who made the call. It came down to this: ”I think I’d be happy at either, and BLA would probably be the right amount of work for me but I feel like I’d be more challenged at BLS and this is something that I think would be good for me and is something that I want.” This was a real shock to us as, though she’s been a strong student, we didn’t know this part of her and had definitely never heard anything like that from Daniel. We ended up ranking it #1 over BLA really based on this and the idea that we couldn’t override her ‘ambition’ when we’d allowed Daniel to go there (gender politics in play here, too). This ranking, done in January, sat with me for the two months of waiting and I really still felt unsure that we’d done the right thing.
Fast forward to the end of first term: the school seems like a different place with her as a student. I feel like I now have a better window into why some parents are NOT up in arms about the inconsistent announcing of homework, the unfair teachers, the punitive attitude, the lack of communication, etc.. It quite simply IS a different school for her. She’s working hard (no instrument so she has one to two studies a day and uses them well, it seems) and then works between one and two hours a night, but then has four hours completely off because she’s actually done and not dragging the torture out. We’re almost completely hands off besides the occasional quizzing on stuff, which she initiates. NO PARENT TORTURE! This magical formula has led to good grades and to a very happy child. Granted, she’s not in Cluster A (still rumored to be harder, but exorcised of some of its demons) and it’s still only one term in, so this all could be temporary. Socially she’s really happy, and though she’s maintaining close ties with her two closest elementary school friends and making a diverse group of new friends, her social world is tilted toward the neighborhood a bit much for my taste.
I feel sure that the suck-i-ness of BLS will rear its head for her, too, at some point, and I may curse my words, but right now I have no regrets. I feel pretty certain she’d be happy at BLA too, but I do think that the challenge has turned out to be up her alley and the amount she’s learning (really just due to her hard work) is pretty exciting.
Overall it’s been another reminder that perspective is paramount. Different child, different school. Take this with a healthy grain of salt though, as maybe I’m just still exhaling from the worry that this would be a disaster for her and for us. Just wanted to add my two cents to the mix.
So, there it is, the parental guidance that I crave. It’s not news to me that the nation’s oldest can be a great place for students ready to deal with its quirks. “It’s not for everyone,” but it’s definitely for some. Plenty of Vince’s friends and their families fit the description. I can easily imagine Connie following the same path as Sara, and really thriving at the school. I can also imagine other outcomes. We’re definitely on that path, but it’s a strange place to be as Vince’s struggles with the place seem to be approaching a tipping point. Once bitten, twice shy. If the two of them end up in the same school, how will Vince feel having a high-octane sister sweep in behind him? Maybe I should follow Phoebe’s example and ask him…