Wednesday, September 05, 2007

What would you do?

This motherhood business is the hardest job imaginable.

This morning was the third time in a week that Kaitybean has glared at me from outside the van door and yelled "I hate you!" in response to my cheery "Make good choices! Have a great day! I love you!"

Scud has begged to stay home from school at least four times since school started (just over two weeks ago). And twice he has called me from school complaining of a vague stomach ache, saying he just wanted to come home.

This morning he woke up and said that his stomach hurt "Just a little, I think." and that he didn't want to go to school.

I made him go anyway. And I made him stay when he called about his stomach hurting.

Then, there's this nagging feeling that maybe there really is something wrong with his stomach and I should get him to the doctor to get it figured out. But, strangely, his stomach ache (and all memories of it) disappear magically when I pick him up from school. He feels perfectly fine enough to play.

So, this morning was particularly hellish. Scud didn't want to go to school, so refused to get dressed until about 8:15. We have to leave our home at 8:15 at the LATEST in order to make it to school on time.

Kaitybean got right up and did her math homework, got dressed and ate breakfast. Then, when we got to school, she refused to get out of the car. I cajoled and pleaded and threatened. She wouldn't budge. I asked her why she didn't want to go.

"I'm too tired," she said one minute and then, the next, "I just want to be home."

As we talked, she insisted that she LOVES school, especially her school and that she does NOT want to do homeschool again. And yet...

She sat there.

Morning meeting got over and a gaggle of fifth graders and their teachers passed by our car, all staring. Questioning. Kaitybean's best friend walked by and waved and said hello.

Still, she sat there.

Finally, after much begging (and, I'm ashamed to say, guilt-tripping), she got out of the car. I could see her eyes welling up with tears, I knew she was unhappy. I tried to reach out and hug her, caress her cheek. She jerked backward, glaring. That's one funny thing about this age. The times she most obviously needs a hug are the times she most adamantly refuses to be touched.

"Well, I love you, honey," I told her. "Try to make it a great day."

"Hmph!" she grunted. As she rounded the corner, she shouted, "I hate you!"

"Kaitybean," I responded, "if there's something real that you want to talk to me about, come back here. If not, just go to school."

At this point, I realized that not only was she 30 minutes late for school, but we were right outside the principal's office. His blinds were open. I'm not sure how much of this struggle he may have witnessed.

After waiting a few seconds, I turned back to the van, tears in my eyes. No matter how much I try to stay cheerful and loving and patient, it hurts to have my daughter tell me repeatedly how much she hates me. I made sure that Mashuga was safely restrained, then stepped back out, surprised to see Kaitybean standing right by me, tears streaming down her face.

"Kaitybean, what's wrong? What can I do to help you?" I asked her.

"I like going to school," she said. "I just miss you SO MUCH all day long. I hate being away from you. I just wish you could be my teacher. That would be perfect."

You can imagine how puzzled I am at this point. She hates me (okay I know she's probably just trying to distance herself), yet she misses me terribly all day and THAT is why she doesn't want to go to school. Also, um, we used to do homeschool which consisted of spending all day with mom, who was her teacher. Yet, she insists that she DOES NOT want to do homeschool.

I held her and comforted her. I told her I loved her and that I'd try to come up with some solutions and I wanted her to do the same. Then, I walked her into the school and got her checked in.

Then, I drove home crying.

Can I tell you how much I HATE THIS?!?

I hate driving an hour a day to take my children to a wonderful charter school that I put a lot of work into getting started, only to have them tell me that they don't want to go to school. I HATE forcing my children to go to school, or stay at school when they don't want to be there. I HATE in an inexpressible way (or at least in a way that is impossible to express politely) the politics and the stupidity of compulsory public schooling. Either I completely take my children out of school and homeschool them, or I am required by law to send them to school, whether they like it or not, whether I feel it is best for them or not. Some days (a lot of days, actually) I really feel like my children would be best served by staying home, reading, playing math games, learning at their own pace. Some days I feel like school is the best possible thing for them. It kills me that I can't just choose on a day to day basis what I feel will be best for them in the long run.

Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.

Why shouldn't I, as a parent, have that control and authority? I understand the difficulties of planning for a school and that they just couldn't survive if they never knew, from one day to the next, which students would and would not show up. I understand that, if my children weren't in school every day, they might miss out on some of the things learned in school. I understand. I accept that. But, I also know that my children learned just as much, if not more, with much less effort when we were homeschooling than they have in school.

And then there's also that part of me that LOVES having two in school all day and the freedom it gives me to go and do the things I need to do with just my little guys. I hate to give that up.

Oh, and I'm just not sure what to do about Scud's class. He is BORED SILLY. He's in first grade in a school with a fairly advanced curriculum. Yet, if the "homework" his teacher is sending home is any indication, his teacher is not following that curriculum. The math curriculum is what I am particularly concerned about. Part of the reason I signed on to this school is that I LOVE the math curriculum that they have chosen for the early grades. It is logical, smart. It promotes a visual, kinesthetic and deep understanding of the principles of math and the laws that govern it. There is an early understanding of place value, of equations as parts and whole. In short, it is fantastic. Perfectly what I want my children to be learning in their early exposure to math. And yet, Scud's teacher is sending home stupid, cutesy math. Count how many butterflies there are and such. Blech! Not what I signed on for, and not at all in line with the chosen curriculum. Counterproductive to what he's already learned, actually.

I'm not sure whether or not to confront her. Or whether or not to talk to the assistant director in charge of the curriculum. Or maybe, since I have been so closely involved in the curriculum of the school and its implementation, I should volunteer my time as to help the teachers find resources and learn how to better implement the curriculum.


I intended this to be a thoughtful post about the difficulties of parenting, of choosing what's best for these sweet souls entrusted to my care, of constantly feeling inadequate and often feeling thwarted in trying to do my best for them. It has turned into a rambling complaint session, I'm afraid.

I wish I just knew what was best to do. I'm trying. Oh, how I'm trying.

And oh, how I love these sweet kids. They try my patience one minute and the next minute they are so beautiful, so wonderful that I could cry.


Emily said...

i'm so sorry heather. it sounds like the entire situation is so frustrating. i don't know what i'd do, especially not having any kids, i'm not sure i'm in a position to give advice. but i just wanted to say that i'm sorry things are so frustrating, and i sincerely hope they improve soon. i know how frustrating things like this can be.

Rynell said...

I hear you about the cutesy math coming home. It seems way off what I thought 1st graders would be doing.

Just for the record--when I was little, I used to hide when it was time to go to school.

This is such a tough dichotomy.

Kristin & Brett said...

Oh Heather...this sounds so hard. Know that there is no perfect solution. Some days my kids would rather be in school than homeschool. And they can still tell you they hate you if they are homeschooling. :)
Sounds like you were brilliant in being there for your daughter, and in the end she opened up to you. That is what it is all about. You can't fight their demons for them, but you can let them know that you listen and that you care and that you are willing to do what you can to meet their needs. Hugs to you!

kickenchica said...

I think you came up with your own solution through your ramblings. Volunteer at the school. You can do it when it fits your schedule and your children will know you are there with them (even if not right there with them) it might ease the whole not wanting to go to school part, along with you being able to monitor the curriculum.

we as parents are wanting nothing less than the best this world can offer for our children.

I try and keep in mind what I had or didn't have growing up as compared to what my boys have now... and I would like to think I turned out okay.
Don't be hard on yourself, you are doing a great job!