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September 2016

Acceptable and unacceptable eye rolls, your own experiences vs. your kid's present and future, and why military bases aren't the always the worst

I will spare us all a blow by blow from last night's school district community meeting about the boundaries because 1) you don't care and 2) nothing new happened. More tone deaf gobbledygook from the district, though I suppose it did reach an impressive new level of condescension, much of which, disappointingly, came from the involved principals. I guess the new thing is that I went from "assuming we've lost and wanting to burn things down" to "whoa, there are a LOT more people pissed off about this now, maybe we still have a chance?" So. 

(What I really want to rant about is the exhortations from the future principal of the "overconcentrated" school to "just believe!" and "think positive!" and "trust us!" as if we are idiot children who think a substandard crappy building will also be full of horrible teachers who will lock up the disadvantaged and underserved children in kennels for six hours a day while they snarf down donuts in the staff room and play Candy Crush. But I already wrote an incredibly bitchy (for me) comment on a local school blog about that and now it's out of my system. Well, not really. But I'm TRYING HERE, OK?)

There is one parent who made the same comment I've heard her make a few times now, and it always makes me think. Her child will be assigned to the substandard school building (mine won't) and she's mainly trying to make peace with it. So she stood up and told the district folks that that neighborhood is exploding in population and what's to say that this tiny neighborhood school won't be instantly overcrowded within a year or two and the boundaries will have to be redrawn all over again? She wants stability, community, and a place where her son will make "lifelong friendships". And I thought: HUH!

Because honestly, the "having to pull a kid out of second grade and send him to another for third grade" is not at all what I find scandalous about this whole situation. And I would bet this parent wouldn't rank it at the top either - she's firmly on the side of This Shouldn't Be Happening. But that's the added consideration for her and, I know, tons of other parents who are facing the redrawn boundaries in all of North Seattle. They are all about not "disrupting" kids and making sure they have "stability". I'm sure a lot of MY unconcern and lack-of-thinking on the topic has to do with the fact that my kids will stay in the same place. But as I thought more about it I also realized how much of my own background has to do with my perspective. How every time I hear a parent talk about "lifelong friendships" I involuntarily (nor do I stop myself) roll my eyes. 

The summer between fourth and fifth grade I moved to a new school in an entirely different country. I did it again between sixth and seventh grades, including the new country part. And again between ninth and tenth grades, to a school in, you guessed it, another new country! (Well, actually, one of the countries I'd already lived in. But the opposite end. Eh.) Andthe  community I was in during those years, that was, like, hardly moving at all. Those military families had been moving every 2 years their whole military lives. My friends had lived in ninety-seven different places before I met them. What stability? 

Which is not to say that I think switching schools and moving and a life that gets turned on end every couple of years is no big. None of those moves were easy ones. And now that I can look back with an adult's eyes, I have more understanding for behavior and attitudes I encountered from my fellow students, especially in high school. I have often thought friendships that began in elementary school would be amazing to have, especially when I was a very lonely college freshman and my roommate had a gang of insta-friends from her high school to do things with. (Of course I thought this was way lame at the time. HIGH SCHOOL. SNORT.) It would be so fun to have peers who knew me way back when, instead of, say, my PE teacher from 2nd grade who stayed friends with my parents all that time. 

But I think there is also a lot to be said for Something New, and I think if capacity issues (which are huge and real in our district) required my kids going to a new school, I don't THINK I'd freak out about it. I probably would freak, but more for my own self (having to get to know a whole new school/principal/teachers/system) than the kids. Last year Molly didn't stay with the cohort of 2nd graders who'd been mostly kept together since kindergarten because the parents (and kids) were so happy and gelled together. She made new friends in her new class and this year she's back with much of that cohort, but also knows all the OTHER kids. Granted this is Molly, the most easy going child on earth, but this would have been good for Jack too. I shared this with a parent friend who is upset with the class her daughter is in this year in hopes of encouraging her. Sometimes change is really good. 

I see, though, that this is me looking back at my experience and thinking, "I turned out okay!" (RIGHT?) I am actually often wowed by the idea that my kids WON'T move, that they'll live HERE and be from HERE and won't be 25 or 30 until they feel like they're FROM somewhere. My kids are going to have a completely different experience! WHOA! (An eye roll here WOULD be appropriate.) 

One thing I DO feel strongly about is the experience of attending diverse and equitable schools. There was ONE school and EVERYONE went to it. We were all different ethnicities and races, and while there were socioeconomic factors, the base commander's kids went to the same school as the lowest NCO's kids and everyone partook of the same resources and offerings. The first time I realized this was my first week on the University of Washington campus. There were tons of white kids, more Asian kids than I'd ever seen in my life, and the handful of black students were all, as far as I could tell, athletes. Were there Hispanics? No idea. I remember calling my dad and babbling incoherently about it. (And then my best friend from high school, a Filipino-Chinese guy who went to Berkeley came up to visit me and and marveled about my "whitey" campus. Which - could there BE more Asian people at a campus? APPARENTLY SO.) 

I don't know that American Department of Defense schools overseas are the model of integrated funded schools (hello, your taxpayer dollars funded many foreign country crazy fun extracurricular trips for me, thank you) but it does give you a certain frame of reference. 

Because I went to those schools I also got to go to very small schools where everyone knew you (it helped, perhaps, that your parents were teachers). And if I got to choose for my kids, they'd go to very small schools. Our school has grown from 250 to 350 and next year the brand new school can fit 660. It's not my ideal, but we live in Seattle where the reality is that there is no space for a whole bunch of small schools and maybe not even enough space and funding to build the giant schools we need. I don't want to live in Small Town, WA so this is the trade off we make. I may have had the opportunity to play sports AND do drama AND be on the student council AND be in the band AND pretty much everything else my high school offered, but I hear the giant local high schools will have way more opportunities and pathways not to mention all different kinds of people than the tiny somewhat stifling 50-person graduating class I had. 

Speaking of high school - moving during high school was probably the Premier Formative Event in my personal history and I probably will do everything I can to make it so my kids don't have to switch high schools because it was so miserable for me. Does this negate everything I said above? Hopefully not - even if my kids had to move high schools, it wouldn't be the same experience I had. It could be worse (but I think because it wouldn't also be in a new country with all new everything and where everyone's dad is off bombing Bosnia a few times a week and a Thick Dark Existential Fog hangs over the community it would be easier... but I digress.) 

ANYWAY. The fact that Seattle Public Schools is, in essence, creating a segregated school FROM SCRATCH remains utterly scandalous, in my opinion, and yes, my own experience colors this and I need to be more understanding and open to the other reasons other people object to it. I need to save all my eye rolling for principals cautioning us to "speak positively" about the decision, even though THEY are the ones creating the negative environment, not ME. FTLOG. 

I don't really know if I made a point, if I was trying to make a point, or if I was exploring my own convoluted thoughts on a convoluted subject AS PER USUAL. I've just noticed this idea has come up in my brain more than a few times and sometimes getting it out on virtual paper at least reminds me that I told myself my thinking should expand. I  have now spent all of preschool time writing this instead of writing the most interesting PTA newsletter on earth, YOU'RE WELCOME. 


In which I have no act to even pull together

I am probably the only parent in the world who is struggling with the start of school. All the other parents are off eating bon bons in their bath and hosting mimosa brunches and, I don't know, turning cartwheels and eating cookie dough right out of the tube. All things I fully support and would be doing myself if I could only GET MY ACT TOGETHER. 

I have a list of things to blame. Obvs. First up is the change in school bell times for the big kids' school. All of Seattle Public Schools switched up bell time to accommodate a later high school start. Most elementary schools are now an hour earlier (because of buses, because of money, it's always money, I will not rant about the boundary issue, I will not). WHICH IS FINE. I am just fine with the kids starting earlier and high school kids going later and I AM A COOPERATIVE PARENT but you GUYS it is HARD to get UP. Possibly because by the end of summer none of us, including the four-year-old, were going to bed until 10. I don't know. The guiding force in our parenting is Sloth, followed closely by Inertia, what can I say. 

Anyway. The lucky thing is that Phillip has to get up for work (no bon bons for him!) and he's always berating himself for not going in earlier and guess what! Now he does! Because we have to get the kids to the bus stop by 7:15. (We were rolling out of bed at 7:15 last year. Sigh.) So this is hard for me. I need my beauty rest. And my beauty rest is more like Just Enough To Speak Coherently Rest, beauty has nothing to do with it. Unfortch. 

In a miraculous display of Thinking Ahead and Using My Smarts, I have been laying out clothes and making lunches the night before. We haven't had to drag the kids out of bed yet, which surprises me (just wait for the gloom and doom of late fall and winter, though) so it's just me wandering around in my jammies and rat's nest hair, barking about being late and put your shoes on and is that a milk mustache on your face? I even made a bunch of breakfast burritos so no one can force me to make scrambled eggs in the morning. 

So far so good. Painful but possible. 

The other stuff is just stupid. Like school uniforms. SO SO STUPID AND YET SUCH A BIG DEAL. 

When we signed Emma up for pre-K at the Catholic school I received a packet of info which included a letter from the teacher saying UNIFORMS WERE NOT REQUIRED. But a dress code was enforced and if we wanted to dress "like" the uniform, to buy certain kinds of clothes and colors. Which I duly did because WHEE! Emma in a little school uniform jumper CAN YOU EVEN? 

About a week before school started I took a closer look at the uniform section in the handbook, which the school staff thoughtfully emailed out to all the parents just in case they hadn't felt like they spent enough money yet, and I realized that the primary age students didn't wear NAVY shirts, only WHITE. And they didn't wear KHAKI skorts and pants, they wore NAVY. Oops. So I took all the wrong things back. And Emma wore navy pants, a white polo, and a little navy hooded cardigan on her first day. 

But allllllllll (ALLLLLLL) the other pre-K kids were wearing the regulation uniform. 

I told myself I was paranoid. 

The next day I picked up Emma and she was wearing the regulation school cardigan. Her teacher said, "I just keep this sweater here and she needed it." 


That same day I noticed that not only were alllllll (ALLLLLLL) the kids wearing brand new regulation uniform clothes, ALL the girls were wearing SKIRTS. I said to myself, "Self, a school cannot POSSIBLY demand girls only wear skirts in 2016. That just cannot be the case." But see above: paranoid and also Rule Follower, so I asked the teacher. "Is it okay if Emma wears pants?" 

And she said, "Hmmmmm... you don't have one of those?" And she pointed at a little girl's jumper. 


When I got home I threw all my pride out the window and wrote a panicked whimpering email to the school. WTF IS EMMA SUPPOSED TO WEAR? WHAT DID I DO WRONG? CLEARLY I CANNOT FIGURE OUT, REQUIRE DETAILED ANNOTATED LIST, PREFERABLY WITH LINKS. 

A few hours I received an email from the school. "We are so very sorry! Pre-K IS required to wear the uniform." 

But! Pants are OK. 

You guys, I am ashamed of how stressed I got (sort of still am) this uniform thing. Everyone loves uniforms! I loved uniforms! Why was it so hard! Why didn't I just fork over the $50 per skort and jumper instead of buying the $9 navy skort from Children's Place?! That's what I get for trying to save a little money! That's what I get for assuming the papers in the information packet were correct, even when every single email I received from the school made it pretty clear that everyone wore the uniform! CLEARLY THIS IS ALL MY FAULT. (No.) (But.) (You know.) 

Really, though, there is no easier problem to throw money at. I jumped online, bought a handful of sweaters and vests and one jumper because $50 for a size 5T jumper I JUST CANNOT. The school had a used 4t skort that I could use right away and poor Emma, she's wearing it because 1) her mother needed her to be in uniform RIGHT AWAY and not wait for the jumper to arrive and 2) her mother doesn't care that it's a little tight and a little short. Pull it down below her belly, it's all good! 

We've covered early bell times and uniforms, what else? How about the PTA! You guys, not only am I on the PTA, I am on the PTA BOARD. How did that happen?! I don't know?! I volunteered to do all the newsletter/Facebooky things because, well, I can DO those things and also if I do those maybe I don't have to do anything else. But this board meeting yesterday made me realize what a poor excuse for a human being I am that I am not volunteering at school NOR DO I WANT TO. What sort of stay at home mother AM I? Everyone is so! excited! And I am all... eh. But after I finish this bit of drivel I'm going to figure out how to send HTML emails from Gmail and draw up a production schedule for sending this stuff out and can they do THAT? 

Another blog topic for another time: why, whenever I feel inferior, is my first instinct to hunt around for something in which I CAN feel superior? #poorexcuseforhumanbeing 

But you know the worst thing? And I mean worst in that it's the hardest and also MAKES me the worst? Our bathroom still isn't done (maybe by my 40th birthday?) and after I drop the kids off I can't just go home and go back to bed. BECAUSE THERE'S A DUDE IN MY BATHROOM. Hence the hiding out in a coffee shop this morning and writing to you. Otherwise you know I'd be passed out on my couch. Is there a bigger and more I-should-be-ashamed-of-myself first world problem? NO THERE IS NOT. 

Here's to hoping you are handling the transition back to school with more grace and intelligence than your trusty blogger.