Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Hard Things

There are many things that are hard about being a mother: watching your kid climb out of the car in the morning and not even look back at you as they troop into school, worrying about them all day while they are away from you, deciding whether or not it's okay, just this once, to have oreos, grapes and milk for supper. I could go on all day, but instead, I'm going to tell you about a couple of hard things I'm experiencing right now.

1. Sick or Not? Last Friday, Brynna took the day off of school She told me her tummy hurt and she felt like she was going to throw up. She lied. The truth is that she probably needed to stay home from school. She spent most of the afternoon in my little brother's bed, so she was definitely more tired than usual and she did develop a scratchy throat later in the day. I like to think that this didn't develop into anything nasty in part because of that extra time in bed. I'm not sorry she stayed home, but I'm very sorry she lied to me. I don't really know how to handle this situation from here. We talked and I think she understands, but how do I trust the next time she tells me she's too sick for school? How do I determine for myself how sick she is?

And the thing is, she likes school. She, in fact, loves school. So, why did she do it in the first place? Just needed a break? Too tired to get moving? The world may never know, but I feel like I should.

2. Race Stuff... Thursday is Brynna's day in the school library. Each week they are allowed to check out a book to read for the week and bring back the following Thursday. Brynna takes this very seriously. She does not remove the book from her backpack, except for reading it and she is so conscientious about them. So much so, that I sometimes forget to look at what she's brought. Yesterday morning, I pulled out Whitewash by Ntozake Shange. I read it and started crying about halfway through. It's the story of a little African American girl, who, while walking home with her older brother is attacked by a white gang. The gang beats her brother and spray paints her face white. It speaks to the trauma this act causes the brother, the girl, the family and the entire community. It's a good book, I guess, the way Schindler's List is a good movie. I'm just not sure what to say to Brynna about it.

We've talked about race before. She asked me why it mattered that President Obama was black, and she's asked me about Martin Luther King Day and what that means. I've never lied, but I've never really told the whole story, either. How do you explain to a kid who sees so much beauty in "brown skin" the atrocities of racism and hatred. How do you explain all the little atrocities that serve to break people down.

I suppose, you do it with this book, at least in part. But, wow. I didn't want to do this now. I wasn't ready to talk about this. And I am not sure that I'll know what to say. I think I over explained drugs during red ribbon week. That's my tendency.

3. Grades... Brynna's teacher thinks she should be in Kindergarten. As she just turned six and is easily the youngest child in her class, no doubt some of you agree. I don't really care. She reads, she does math, she love science and complained to me because there's no geography in her new school. The way I look at it, she can be bored in Kindergarten or struggle in first grade, and I'd rather her not get bored. That said, it's hard to see those grades printed on that sheet and wonder if you're doing the right thing. Wonder if maybe this isn't so good, maybe it's too much, maybe she won't catch up. Also, also, she has a D which stands for "Developing Skill" and means below average in Art. Her favorite subject and also, what criteria is used to grade first grade art? Seriously. It's not like they are looking at composition and color usage. I have a nice long list of activities we can do at home to help, but we already have at least a half hour of homework every night.

I was so sure in my decision just a few days ago, and now, I'm just not sure. Not sure she's ready. Not sure I'm not screwing her up. Not sure.

Motherhood is hard, people. It is not for the faint of heart. But, I'm telling you, all you moms of cute, cuddly babies, trouble making toddlers and precocious preschoolers, motherhood is much, much harder when you throw the education system in the mix.


AnnaMarie said...

Oh Jessie... Hang in there! I will tell you, one of the BEST books I have ever read on parenting is called "Nurture Shock" (http://www.nurtureshock.com/) I got mine from the Library.

It deals with talking to your kids about race, lying, etc. etc. It's really tremendous. Good luck. I'll come to you for advice next year when Sophie's the youngest one in her class. Sigh.

Jenn-Jenn, the Mother Hen said...

My boss will be back from lunch soon, so I'm typing quickly to let you know I will comment more on this when I get home... Sending you lots of hugs!!!

Suze said...

Grades? In first grade?
I'm dreading school for many of these reasons.

Jenn-Jenn, the Mother Hen said...

Here's my gut instinct response to your post. Item #1 - when in doubt, use the thermometer as the decider of whether or not she can stay home. If there's no fever, she has to at least try to make it through the day. This is what I do with Jamie when I think he just doesn't want to go to school because he's sleepy or he doesn't want to do something required that day. As for #2 - I have no idea. Jamie (unfortunately) discovered how stupid racism is because he was exposed to it all the time in the form of my father. I told Jamie that some people were raised to hate anyone different, then pointed out that we all are the same on the inside and God loves us all, so hating someone because they look different is really a stupid thing to do. I guess it helped, because Jamie has friends with a wide spectrum of backgrounds and ethnicities. Item #3 - When dealing with doctors, teachers, school administrators, etc., there is one rule you must keep in mind at all times - YOU know your child best. So, after you sit down with Brynna and talk to her about the school situation, ultimately you know what is best for your child. If you think she can handle it, stick to your guns, by all means! Maybe what's happening at school is more of a reaction on Brynna's part to the change from her old school (wasn't it Montessori-ish?) to public school, where things are definitely NOT Montessori. Only you know what is best, no matter what someone else wants you to do.
I'm going to stop now, because I don't want to hijack your blog. Just know that I'm sending you thoughts, prayers, positive vibes and all the mom-experience I can muster if you ever want to call me! More hugs, coming your way!

Mrs. Allroro said...

Oh, yeah, you know what? I bet it does have something to do with the transition to public. That same thing happened to me when I transitioned to public. My teacher didn't know I could read (because I liked to read upside down), and she told my mom I never came back after spring break (as in, I was checked out--there, but checked out). And in 2nd grade, I never finished my work, once I got the concept, I was ready to move on. Doesn't work that way in traditional school. I'd say that may be why the D...maybe she was finished before her teacher was?

r.austin said...


On comment 3, My kids have been in the public school system for years. I have made some poor choices with my first experience (Tim) choices I wish I had never made. I have learned if you don't stand up for your kids no-one else will. If her teacher looks at you and says Brynna is failing, you look back at her and say I am doing my part as her parent what are you going to do? That gets them everytime. Once the system realizes you are not one of those parents who just send their kid to school and say here they are on your time know. They will back off. Personality conflicts start with children when they are very young. Teachers don't like for a child to be smarter then they are especially if the child makes them look bad in front of the class. Go with your gut with her, and ALWAYS ask her what she thinks about it. Don't make the decision before talking to her first. I know she is just a kid, but GOD is making our kids super nova these days. I can't ever remember seeing three year olds using word or excel when I was young???