Ethan and Lauren started school today. Sixth and first grades. And I cried.
I don’t remember crying when they went to preschool or kindergarten, but this year was different – and super emotional. The kids are going to a new school. Each to a different school, actually. And I’m happy and I’m sad and I feel completely and utterly overwhelmingly guilty.
When Mike and I decided to have kids – actually before that – we agreed that we wanted the kids to have a Catholic education. It was so important that I converted to Catholicism before we got married so this would be a family thing.
When the kids and I moved here, Mike was fairly involved in the “finding a school” process. We continued to agree that the school should be Catholic. As I looked at areas to live, Mike was looking at schools (via the Interwebs). While he never visited the schools or talked to anyone, he had a say in where our kids would go.
And I really liked the school we chose. Then Mike died.
I’ve written about it before – just weeks into his new school, Ethan was called down to the principal’s office to get the news. His teacher, the principal, the priest, the families made us feel so welcome and so much part of the “school family” in those difficult early days and weeks and months (and beyond). Same when I was diagnosed with cancer. I truly
loved love the families at the school.
The school isn’t a good fit for Ethan. That’s hard to think, to write, to say because I did a lot of research to find this school.
- With only a couple of exceptions, school activities are limited to sports-related things, and Ethan’s not sporty. At all. (Plus sports remind him of Mike, who coached Ethan in little league and soccer, so there’s an emotional connection that Ethan associates with sports. And not a good one since Mike was sloppy drunk the last year he coached.) New school has OPTIONS, so many options, like a robotics club, a reading club, chess, yearbook – and several less competitive intramurals like dodgeball.
- And when I found out two of Ethan’s greatest allies/friends were leaving the school, I knew middle school would be hard for Ethan without these boys. These boys stuck up for one another, and Ethan would be miserable and bullied – with no support. I know he had other friends, girls mostly, but that only added to the bullying he was experiencing at the end of the year.
- Ethan has asked for years to go to a different school. Having his dad’s death happen so soon into his time there AND finding out at the school have tied all those memories together. I’m not sure Ethan can separate things in his head, and that’s made for some self-imposed difficulties at the school. The new school is a fresh start. A clean start. No one knows him there, and he can create the persona he wants to be (starting with today’s outfit, which he introduced as his “new look” – much different than the athletic shorts/stained t-shirt boy I looked at all summer).
- I won’t even go into Family Life or the repetition of explaining childhood grief to the administration and teachers… New school has an onsite counseling DEPARTMENT, and it hosts workshops and meetings for kids who’ve lost a loved one, or have anger issues, or are dealing with family status things (remarriages, parents dating, divorce, etc.)
And I feel guilty about making the decision – the best decision for him and one he’s asked for for several years – to change schools. Guilty because Ethan will attend public school for sixth through eighth grades. And that’s not what Mike and I agreed to. And Mike’s not here to support or refute my decision. And I can’t discuss it with him. And I can’t get his okay.
I CAN’T GET MIKE’S OKAY. I will never have his okay…
So, regarding Lauren, I decided to move her to a different school, too. I’m keeping her in a Catholic school (for now). I’ve met with the principal and her teacher to discuss the situation, and they seem more competent/compassionate/understanding. I’ve explained some of the childhood grief issues we had at the other schools, and they seem better equipped to handle it. Lauren’s a completely different kid with different needs. She’s going to be alright no matter where she goes. I feel really good about her new school, and wish I would have moved Ethan here last year (it only goes to fifth grade, unfortunately).
So glad for the fresh start for Ethan and Lauren… and for you too. I can’t even imagine how hard it is to make new decisions when you and Mike talked and planned and discussed all this together. But he opted out of those decisions – so do NOT feel guilty for what’s doing the best for your family. The transition to middle school is tough enough – so your love and support (and the support of great friends) is what Ethan needs most right now (along with his new look – which I love).