Posts tagged ‘moving’
I always feel somewhat melancholy this time of year; the school year is drawing to a close, and it feels like something important is ending. This year, something important probably is ending as it looks like we may move over the summer. We’ve been here for three years – just about as long as we’ve been anywhere since C was born.
There are many things I don’t like about this place we now call home. Class sizes are shooting up to 31 next year, the summers are beyond hot, and our state has just passed a new law that frustrates me to the core. Yet there’s also many things to love – grandparents that are 15 minutes away, an elementary school that has been nothing short of wonderful for C, and C’s friends. Yes, I did say “friends.”
For the first time in his life, C actually has a few friends. Whether it’s due to changes in him or just the luck of the draw with kids in his class, I’m not sure. But he seems to have eased into himself this year, and to leave behind the place that brought it out in him seems somewhat counterintuitive. Part of me wonders if we just stuck it out here, he would settle into himself even more. The kids know him better, and while there are still issues with a few children that grow in severity with each passing year, for the most part, I think C has found his place with the other children. Will that happen quickly in a new town, or will it take another three years for him to figure out where he fits? It’s hard to say.
Last year, when C was preparing to make the challenging move from lower elementary to upper elementary school, we discussed a myriad of options including having him repeat second grade. As we all sat around at C’s IEP meeting last Spring discussing the upcoming change that seemed so potentially traumatic, the lower el principal said something to me that I still remember. She said, “Have faith in your child.”
This principal knew something the rest of us did not. She knew – despite all our concerns about a new school that required much independence of the children, a new school that did not seem as welcoming to parents’ constant presence on campus, and a new school that seemed far less nurturing than the one where C was – it was not about all of that. It was about C. Madame Principal felt that whatever it was, C was prepared to handle it. And sure enough, she was right.
When I was growing up, I always wanted to move somewhere new. We lived in the same house from the time I was one year old until my parents moved to Arizona 35 years later. Bored with my small town, I fantasized about being the new girl in school just about every year when school started. I wanted to reinvent myself, become someone new, and change personalities like a chameleon changes its color.
College, and subsequent multiple moves after marriage, afforded me that chance to morph into a new person. I could be in a place where I knew not a soul, and be whomever I wanted to be. Yet now, facing the possibility of yet another move, I wonder what this new place will bring. Should I become the ever-patient mother who befriends everyone and bakes fabulous gluten free/casein free cookies for all the neighbors? Should I turn into that Mom who knows everything about autism and is the resource for all the other moms? Should I be the cool Mom who always has kids running through the house because they all want to hang at our place?
What I have found, however (and I won’t tell you how many moves it took me to figure this out, but I’m working on double digits here), is that wherever I go, the old me follows. I’m still the slightly frazzled, pretty tired, mostly good Mom who is trying (not always successfully) to do right by her kid, husband, and self. No new personalities that don’t really fit, no new ability to magically become June Cleaver (even though subconsciously she must be my ideal), and no new “cool factor” that I’ve never really possessed before.
I’m just always me. Just me.
As we prepare to head back to the mountains for an autism day camp so outstanding we’re willing to drive 12 hours to take C (and, I admit for the cooler weather), I am reminded of the various reasons we left our paradise to move south to the desert. We’ve lived in a ski town before, before we had C (and then we moved to the desert, and then we moved back to another paradise, and now we’re back in the desert). After we had C, Husband would ski on Saturday and I’d go on Sunday. Not ideal. Despite the fact that 5 feet of snow in a single weekend didn’t much make a dent in the lives of folk who live there (us included), the winters did get a bit long with a small child who hadn’t learned how to walk yet, much less ski. C eventually did take some ski lessons, but because of his low muscle tone, it became clear he wouldn’t be tearing up the slopes anytime soon.
Yet first and foremost, were the school challenges we faced in paradise. Once we pulled C from what should be known as “The Terrible Montessori Experiment,” we enrolled him in the regular public school. The catch was that we didn’t enroll him in the regular public school in our town. The public school in our town had failing scores year after year. We knew the truth behind those failing scores, and they didn’t phase us. A school’s rating doesn’t generally tell much about the special education program, so we tend to take ratings with a grain of salt. The challenge in our public school was the fact that 82% of the students were English Language Learners. First generation English language learners. Lest you think I’m saying something I’m not, let me clarify. Our issue was not the racial makeup of the school; we considered the diversity, and the opportunity for C to learn Spanish in one of the innovative dual language classrooms, advantages. However, we consider C an English language learner. We have observed, over the years, that he has operated much like a student learning not in his native tongue. The subtleties of a language must be learned by immersion, not by reading a book. And to put C in a situation where he, like most of the other students, would be “learning” the language, and all the social intricacies of that language, was not a good idea for him at the time. He needed to be in a situation more balanced, one where he had the opportunity to interact with kids who already knew the language. So we enrolled him in the school in the next town, which had about a 50% ratio of ELL students to native English speakers. And he flourished.
The fatal flaws? The school was 25 minutes away, no bus service, and snowy, icy roads to contend with. All his friends lived in another town. Not the neighborhood school we pictured when we envisioned his elementary school years. Now, in the desert, we’re 5 minutes away from school, and almost all the kids in town go to the same school.
Do we miss it? Desperately, at times, especially as the thermometer is always over 100 degrees this time of year, with no end in sight. Yet Ga and Pa are 15 minutes up the road, C can ride his bike all winter, and school is going well. The opportunities afforded to him by living near a large metropolis are endless. And the mountains will always be where they are, eventually, I’m sure, beckoning us back to paradise.