Thursday, September 29, 2011

Unchartered Waters

I started this post at the conclusion of Beezus' second week of elementary school.  It languished in the drafts folder, and I decided to go back and edit it now, at the end of her 6th week of school.

At the end of the 2nd week of school, now about 4 weeks ago

I love thinking about why I'm feeling or thinking about something else.  As I've mentioned before, whenever something is bothering me all it usually takes is some quiet time during my 35 minute commute to work to get to the bottom of it and the resolution comes pretty quickly thereafter.  In fact, after years of this practice it is rare that I can't get to the bottom of it rather easily and it is also rare that my emotions catch me by surprise.  At the ripe old age of 38, I know what makes me happy (almost everything, especially a snickers and a diet coke in the afternoon); what makes me sad; what makes me mad; and what makes me anxious.

I expected that the past few weeks of Beezus' entry into elementary school would be a deeply emotional time for me.  They were, but not in the way I thought.  I felt so good about her teacher, about the community at her school, about the way our family was working that I wasn't sad or anxious at all about that.  I thought that I would feel wonderfully overwhelmed at the magnitude of her entire life stretching out in front of her, and there I was right - I did.  I am so.excited. for her and what her life will bring I can hardly stand it.

Even the earthquake and the hurricane that we experienced in the D.C. area wasn't enough to shake my earlier excitement.

At the end of the first two weeks of school what I was been surprised by (although I shouldn't have been since my friend June told me a million times that this would happen) is the mix of emotions and the strength of the unexpected emotions. 

By the end of the second week, fatigue was starting to set in, despite the new fall grid that I had sketched out.  I'm still waiting on a couple details to fall into place which is why it isn't typed up yet !  But I was finding myself forgetting things, not being sure what made sense for dinner that night, and just generally not feeling in the groove yet.

The next day, I was feeling downright depressed.  Sad that soon I wouldn't be walking Beezus in to her classroom anymore (only 1 other parent was still walking their child in); anxious that I had little control and even very little knowledge about what she was doing at school; and even a little fearful that it would be essentially this way for the next THIRTEEN years.  THIRTEEN. 

I told several people about these feelings, looking for some solace.  I told the friendly clerk at 7-11.  She's 6 months pregnant with her first child, a girl, and she said that she and her husband are so excited.  I told her to enjoy the sleepless nights because soon enough she'll be going to elementary school and you won't know what she's doing. (hey - watch out for that crazy customer at 7-11: there's one in every store !)   I stopped by for a visit with a friend who homeschools her children and she was so wonderfully sympathetic.  I suspect she's been in that place before.  I poured out my thoughts to one of my wonderful neighbors - a very well respected professor of international and comparative education.  He joined in my lament that children start school here at 5 or 6 and agreed with me that the Fins have a much better system (children there start formal schooling at age 7).  I even mentioned my feelings to the mother of one of Beezus' friends, someone who I suspected does not think deeply about these issues - she's really more of a kind of just go along with whatever is expected/whatever most people do kind of person.  I was surprised that she said she is feeling the same way.

I briefly considered homeschooling, moving to Finland, or moving to Africa and joining a tribe where children don't leave their parents for formal schooling until 8 or 9.

As I thought about it that night and the next day, I figured out what was really, really bothering me and I calmed down a little.  Unchartered waters.  That's what it was.  Dealing with a new schedule for our family is tough for me, handling the politics and the other parents (who are so very knowledgeable about our school) was, and probably will be for a long time, intimidating for me; not knowing what Beezus is doing is also hard for me.

And now, 6 weeks later . . .

In a nutshell, I've made my peace with this school.  Rather, I've made my peace with the American education system.  I accept the things that I have no control over and that cannot really be changed by me, our PTA, or even the principal.  Class size and the state of our facilities.  I accept that school is five days a week for 6 hours a day.  I cannot change those things. 

I celebrate the things that I like: the very well-educated teacher, the tentative relationships I'm forming with some of the parents who live outside our neighborhood, the PE and the music class 2-3 times a week, the wonderful after-school enrichment classes.  The very friendly, very kind, tell it like it is principal.  The PE teacher who knows Beezus' and Ramona's names.  (Please note that Ramona does not even attend this school yet.)

I'm still feeling that, at times, the logistics of our life aren't falling in to place quite as easily as I would like.  I've had some misunderstandings over hours and pay with our after-school nanny, and that's been awkward.
The older I get the more I try to accept that, to some extent, this is the way life is.  There is no grid in the world that will make things easy.  But I can try to be content and go with the flow of this busy-ness a little bit more.

As Beezus (and our family) embark on this new phase in our life, I'm encountering new and unexpected things.  They just aren't the new and unexpected things I thought they would be. 

At 38, life is still throwing me the occasional curve-ball.  Guess I'm learning something new, too.


(Not) Maud said...

I think I was so concerned with just keeping my head down and forging on with our difficult first two weeks of school that I didn't have much time to ponder the deep'n'meaningfuls of it all.

And now that they're past and things are good, I see how happy and confident my son is in his new environment, and I'm sad to miss so much of his day, but oh so proud of who he's becoming.

Helen said...

I love this post.

-- H.

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