Friday, June 3, 2011
June 3, 2011 ~ Day 175
Be True To Yourself
Normally this would be a special day where I would try to arrive early to pick him up from school with arms full of flowers and thank you cards for his three teachers (or gift cards, if I was running short on time).
Instead, I found myself heading up the hill to fetch him about two minutes late without cards, flowers or gifts.
Lately I've been trying to live more by my own truth, without compromising my sense of what is 'right' just to be nice. This can get tricky, because I don't want to become self-righteous or rude. It's meaningful to me to be kind, well mannered and accepting.
I think it may be an important part of my growth or evolution as a person though - to learn how NOT to please others all of the time, and to be more honest about my genuine emotions.
The truth is, I have been very disappointed with this school. For nearly four months I've felt let down by the teachers and the staff. I've been terribly unimpressed by what they've taught my child... and I've been truly grieved to see how much of his love of learning has faded (but not yet disappeared, thank goodness). I was horrified when they sent a letter home about MRSA in his classroom, as though it were as benign as the common cold.
I cringed when I called to alert them that his brother had hit him in the head before school and asked if they could just keep an eye out to make sure he continued to feel okay (and call me if he didn't) the secretary responded, "We really don't want him to be here if you are worried about him."
"Oh, I'm just an overly-protective mommy," I laughed - but inside I felt so bummed.
I'd called our old preschool teacher a million times over the course of three years with my elder son to say, "Hey - my kid said he felt a little funny this morning, can you let me know if he doesn't perk up right away?" and she was always an absolute doll about it. It was no trouble for her at all... she made me feel that we were on the same team.
"Well," she'd typically laugh, "Right now he's busy singing/riding a trike/playing with his buddy/working on his numbers/digging in the sand. But I notice anything unusual, I'll let you know right away."
She and I would both end our conversation cheerfully; we'd forged a true friendship. (On a few occasions she did call back to have me pick him up... most of the time though, he ended up having a great day at school.)
Our family always loved that teacher but we never imagined just how much we would miss her until we got to our new community and new preschool. It's been quite a slog over the last four months to watch $3200 of tuition slide down the drain as my son has returned home daily with a piece of teacher-created art and tracings of the numbers 1 through 9. Every. Single. Day.
Even when I attended his school's "Mother's Day" celebration, I noted that he was encouraged to do only two activities with me: Glue together a teacher-created art piece (everything cut out by teacher, child's only job is to glue) and then... surprise, surprise... work on the numbers 1 through 9.
Here was my inner response to that: Are You F($*ing Kidding Me?
But clearly, they weren't kidding.
Readers may wonder why I didn't step in, make a fuss, rant and rail about the $800 monthly tuition (for half days, mind you) and the terrible lack of education my child was getting.
I didn't make waves because we want the option of sending him back to that school in the Fall if his new school, which he'll start in three days, doesn't work out. The school he ended with today may not be academically enriching but it is safe and beautiful, and it provides him with the chance to grow socially if nothing else. It's considered by every parent we know to be the best private preschool in our area, with a very long waiting list.
We need it in our back pocket. Not just for this kid, but for his little sister too...
So, for two months now I've seethed in silence (that can't be good - right, Law of Attraction?) and worked quietly to get my child set up at a different school - an amazing school - which is is located near my husband's downtown office. We'll have a longer commute with a lower tuition, so thanks to gasoline costs it will probably average out to the same price.
Our son appears to be extremely excited about what he has seen so far of this new school that he'll start on Monday, and all of us fell plumb in love with his new teacher Ms. Miranda* when we met her for the first time. She is an experienced teacher who has been working at the school for over 20 years and she hit it off instantly with our four year old, who confidently showed her all of the things he knows how to do (which no-one ever asked him to do at the school we've just left).
Best of all, Ms. Miranda is a close friend of his first preschool teacher - the one we adore. Their schools are run by the same head administrator. It honestly feels like we're heading back into the familiar, comforting fold of family again... Ms. Miranda feels like the lovely cousin of an adored and much missed best friend. We don't know her well yet, but we're highly predisposed to like her.
Getting back to today.
It did occur to me several times that it might be polite or kind to bring flowers to the teachers we were saying goodbye to today, since it was his last day of school. I thought about it this morning, first around 8:30am and then around 10am. I had plenty of time in which I could have run down to the local corner flower stand and spontaneously picked them up something decent looking and inexpensive.
Spending our money on a present to give to a teacher that I don't feel deserves a gift, though, wasn't sitting well with me. In reflecting upon the question of whether or not to get the flowers, I thought about how tight money has been for us recently and the fact that my children each have birthdays coming up within the next few weeks.
I realized that I would actually begrudge the fifteen dollars I spent on insincere flowers for those particular teachers, wishing that I'd spent the money on Star Wars action figures for my younger son's fourth birthday instead.
"If you give a gift but there is no sincere warmth or appreciation behind it," I pondered, "Is it really a gift?"
In the end I decided that there was no reason to pretend to be effusive about the teachers or the school. "I'll be polite and thankful," I reasoned, "but it ends there."
My daughter and I were running about two minutes late, then, as we pulled into the parking lot of the school. My son saw our car from the inside of the playground and happily ran for his belongings. His teacher walked him to the gate.
"Well, goodbye!" she said.
"Say goodbye, honey," I prompted him.
"Goodbye," he said in a tiny voice.
"Is he going to Summer camp?" his teacher asked.
"No, he's not,"
"Oh. A lot of our kids are going to Summer camp."
"Oh, really? Well... thank's for everything."
"Um, you're welcome. I know your son has enjoyed it here."
"Yes. Have a great Summer!"
"Okay. Thank you. You too. Goodbye."
And that was it. Our entire exchange lasted for less than 90 seconds and I walked away with my son's precious hand tucked into mine, feeling peaceful and genuinely glad that I hadn't gone out of my way to bring flowers.
For my children, the lesson here is simple:
Be true to yourself, and don't act in violation of your own personal code of ethics just because you think you are "expected" to do so. In other words:
Bring flowers to show love and gratitude.... when you actually *feel* love and gratitude.
*Named changed to protect the privacy of the person in question