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.
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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