Big Fake Nails

This has happened before.  (I get so far down the path, the wrong path, I just don’t realize it.)

I think of my wedding.  The small DIY get married on the prairie some random afternoon if we feel like it wedding that it was supposed to be, homemade and handmade and full of people that I loved.  And it was all those things, it was.  It was a beautiful wedding.  I probably didn’t need to spend $1700 dollars on a custom made wedding dress, but you know.  I loved the dress, so at least there’s that.  Plus I can totally wear it again to all kinds of things.

But when I look back on that day sometimes I think about those big fake nails I decided on and I wince.  I’m not a fake nail person, and here I was on my wedding day with these big huge fake acrylic french manicured nails on my fingers, and I know I just went too far down that path.  I lost some kind of a grip on who I was and on my stubby fingernails and why I couldn’t just throw on a few coats of pink nail polish and go get married, I will never know, quite frankly.

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Eli didn’t pass the screening assessment for the special fantastic best public school in town Kindergarten. Honestly, any email that starts out “unfortunately” always smarts a bit, but I’m just mad at myself because I let it happen. I went too far down the path.

I knew better.  I should have known better

I actually do believe that “rejected from Kindergarten” could some day make a charming opening anecdote for one’s Harvard valedictory speech, but I am also the friend of someone who was the valedictorian of his high school class and went to the University of Chicago and then killed himself, so I do know that academic success is no guarantee of future happiness. And although I was not surprised when I got that email, when it comes to Eli and how I feel about him, it makes no difference to me.  No damning statement about gross motor controls will ever diminish that for me my son will always shine brightest in any room I am in.

It is true that we could have worked more.  We could have bought more flash cards.  However, I had a childhood filled with math tutors and math camp and math treehouse and none of the hours spent struggling over something I didn’t like, didn’t understand, and wasn’t good at served to turn me into a mathlete of any kind.

And one of the things I have consciously or unconsciously moved away from in my old age is making myself do things I don’t want to.  The world tells me I should want to travel to far away places and to have crazy adventures with spanish chickens, but actually I don’t like taking vacations to places where I don’t speak the language.  It’s stressful and I don’t have a good time and I don’t care what the world wants, I don’t want to do it.  I like the idea of Palm Springs and a pool and a kindle.  I don’t want to take a bus with locals around some third world country. I just don’t.  And I’m not going to.

So the fact remains that while, yes, I am a mom, and I am only going to dispense bubble gum for breakfast on a few select days a year, I don’t wan to be the Head of the Number Recognition Committee.  I want to be the Head of the Fun Committee, and the Vice President of the “Oh, Screw It, We’re Going to McDonald’s Committee.”  I don’t want to drill a five year old on his numbers.  I don’t want to do that. So I’m not going to.

My cousin said something to me along the lines of “I hate the competitive school thing.  No, my kid can’t read.  That’s not my job. That’s YOUR job.  That’s why I am sending her to school!” and I guess I pretty much agree with that.  My job is to cram a lot of tennis playing and trips to the Orange Freeze into every summer. I will buy the ice cream cones. Someone else is going to have to buy the flashcards.

So no, I am not disappointed. I am not upset at Eli or worried about his future prospects or adding workbooks to my amazon cart, but I am a little mad at myself.   Because somehow I ended up, once again, metaphorically, with big fake nails.  I ignored reviews about hours of homework for first graders. I ignored my mother when she said “Hmmm. That place sounds a little… fascist?”  I ignored other parents whose opinions I respect and who gave me the raised eyebrow and I ignored a little voice in the back of my own head that thought that maybe this wasn’t the best fit for my child, and somehow I got so caught up in words like “best” and “test scores” and I decided somewhere along the line that my instincts must be wrong, that we owed it to us or to him or to some idea of the future to just “go for the gold” and even though Eli can still go to the (crappy) neighborhood school and he also still has a chance to get into the second choice (very good) kindergarten, I just feel stupid.  I got caught up in something I knew wasn’t the right thing. I went too far down the path, one more time.

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15 Responses

  1. Even if it wasn’t the right fit, even if you ignored things to get there/here? You heard the word “BEST” and you wanted that for your child, because you think your child deserves the best. In the end, it’s admirable, that you tried to get your child the best that you could even if maybe it wasn’t exactly the right fit…and even more so admirable that you can take a step back and not continue to force the issue.

    He already has the best…the right mama for him.

  2. It is so very easy to get sucked into societies ideas of what is right for our children. Good for you for taking a step back and realizing that this wasn’t what you really wanted for him.

    Aint nothin’ wrong with a little Micky D’s every now and again- cause at least you don’t have to cook it or clean in up!

  3. We’ve sort of fallen into a situation of not having to worry about that. And I love it because I can see how very easy it would be to start thinking about this stuff waaaayyyyy to soon.

    In the UK, children start formal education at 4, so Myles has already been in school since September and is going to be a full year ahead (academically) of kids in his grade when we do move back to the states. To be honest, I knew he was ready and that is the only reason that he’s in school this year. He’s doing great and he loves it and he’s getting a first rate, free education at British public school.

    But man oh man do people around here get worked up about education! There are lots and lots of private prep schools for kids Myles’ age. They have tutors and extra curricular study programs. For 4 year olds! It’s crazy, but on the other hand it makes sense because up until last year, if your school age child qualified they could go to college anywhere in the UK for FREE. So the insanity starts really early here. And we are incredibly lucky because we get to reap the benefits of amazing public education for the first few years when it really matters, without getting sucked into the vortex of worrying about what happens next.

    Not looking forward to what all of this means when we do move back to the US but I’m playing ostrich with my head in the sand until the time comes.

    In the end, I chose Myles’ school out of three in our area, all really good, based on how they teach and how I feel Myles learns at this point. It was a great fit and he loves school and what more could I ask for, really?

    You’ll figure it out, you just have to remember to keep a sense of perspective. You know what’s best for Eli and what kind of learning environment he needs at this point. And guess what? If it’s not working a few months in, you try something new.

  4. There is something about a “no” directed at our children that smarts, even when we realize that the “no” is really a “yes” for something that fits the child — and family — better.

    My little boy is going to the preschool my girls have gone to next year, and falls right on the borderline between two age-level classes. I asked for him to go in the younger group and the teachers agreed — great! Except when they said “yes,” it was followed by “he seems a little immature for the 3 year old class, better stick with the 2’s,” and part of my felt like HEY! You should be begging me to put him ahead because of how funny and adorable and brilliant he is!

    Anyway. I think you know what’s right for Eli and you’ll get it for him.

  5. I really like your posts. You don’t know me but I’ve been reading your blog for awhile & am in the Sacramento area (work in Land Park) I need your advice, my son is 4 1/2 & has been in preschool since he was 2. I don’t like the school in my neighborhood in Roseville and have no idea where to search for alternative schools that don’t cost a lot of $.I think it’s great that you are a stay at home Mom, I wish I could do it. It’s not the most fun thing to rush your kid in the car to get to school when he just wants to hang w/you.

  6. I think it’s super easy to take one extra step, because the line is invisible until it’s crossed. I think as long as you then take a step back when the line appears, everything is fine. I’m thinking of people who in this situation would instead be outraged! writing letters! making demands! ranting about unfairness! etc. That stuff’s not right, and there’s a lot of it: the line appears, and people take ANOTHER step forward.

  7. This line, right here: “for me my son will always shine brightest in any room I am in”

    Yes to that.

  8. I need to remind myself of that academic success does not equal happiness thing from time to time (to time). My own husband is proof of this, as he was the failingist failer of elementary and middle school and he ended up being that engineer in all the classes in college everyone wanted to work with.

    I get panicky, sometimes, because I think my internal radar is all messed up from years of being overridden. I go so far down a path and have to turn right around and trudge all the way back and start over. Which is ok, but I just wish I would listen the first time, or the second, or the third, that I got those twinges, either with my kids’ lives or with my own. Why is it so difficult? I don’t know. But I do like this analogy, and you. Very much.

  9. As an educator I’m pretty concerned about the competitive nature of education rat race…..When do kids get to be kids? When did Kindergarten turn in to desk work with no time to play? They are going to be in school for 12 years and then 4 years for college, then graduate school. Let’s have some fun!

    I have parent confrences today, and 2 different parents talked about the 60 minute special of “red shirting” their children, so that they’ll be leaders in the class and bigger for sports, etc.

    I think it’s your job to exposure your kids to books, talk to them all the time, and expose them to real life expereinces! Not flash cards! They’ll endure enough of that at school.

  10. Thank you for this. It’s so easy to forget that a big part of being a mom is having fun with your kids. That gets lost in the hustle & bustle somehow. I appreciate the reminder.

  11. It’s such a hard balance, isn’t it? You really are an inspiration to me as far as parenting goes. Knowing you, you’ll probably snort at that, but seriously, you are.

  12. Sometimes the only way to really, REALLY know what’s a right choice is to make a wrong one first. Then it’s all so much clearer.

    Or maybe that’s just me.

    (LOVE this post.)

  13. I just love everything you said here. From the story about the big fake nails to the line about your son shining brightest in any room you’re in. Just awesome!

  14. Two ridiculous things:

    First, I thought you said, “I like the idea of Palm Springs and a pool and a KNIFE.” and my eyes kind of bugged because that seems very badass and just wow. Then I snort laughed when your mom said that she thought the school sounded fascist. Heh.

    • Well, I am pretty badass, and so from now I am going to describe all my ideal vacations this way: “Palm Springs, a pool, and a knife.” New tag line!

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