Bryce is being stifled at school. I know this. It isn’t even a question of whether it’s happening. The question has become how badly it’s happening, how much it’s going to affect him in the long run, how long we can allow it to happen before we step in and do something drastic.
He comes home with papers with nearly everything correct, a red slash here and there but mostly the red check marks that his old-timey-shoulda-been-a-nun teacher uses to indicate correctness. He scoffs at it all, how ridiculous it is that he had to do it. He refuses to read the books that are sent home with him–unless it’s to Juniper, because she is little enough to appreciate how babyish and easy they are. And, with the sickening feeling that’s been present since the dawn of time when a teacher first didn’t like a student, I feel annoyed and resentful. Why isn’t she handling this? Can’t she see how creative and amazing he is? Why is she putting red “wrong” slashes through the extra things he writes on his tests because he has extra time after finishing them? Why isn’t she giving him creative tasks? Why do they have assigned seats at lunch? Why why why???
And now, his behavior at home has finally reached a tipping point. A “we aren’t able to deal with this any longer” kind of tipping point. A “we are in need of some sort of intervention” tipping point. The screaming, you have no idea about the screaming. How much of it there is, how long it can go on, how easy it is to incur it. It’s gotten worse, like a thing he’s holding back all day that has no choice but to erupt violently at night. And he says, sadly, “I don’t want to go to my school any more. My school isn’t a good fit for me.” So sad…to have that realization at age 7.
We think he’s bored and frustrated. We think he needs a different school experience. We think he’s better suited to a school that really nurtures his creativity, his kindness and curiosity, and doesn’t tell him he needs to sit down and shut up and be patient while the rest of the class catches up with him. And there are so many schools like that around here!
The problem? They come with a steep price tag.
There is one school I think would be a particularly good fit for him–a school aimed at more advanced or “gifted” students (he’d have to have an intelligence test administered to qualify at all) that allows them to be creative and participate in self-directed learning. It also costs about half of what most private schools around here cost.
The problem? It’s still $14,000 a year. And we have two children. And we can’t very well tell Juniper to go screw if she ends up needing/wanting a better school experience.
Can we afford it? Probably. At least, for just Bryce. And there’s a not-small part of me that is so enamored with all of it–the idea of being part of a non-trashy, intelligent school COMMUNITY where Bryce wouldn’t be expected to shrink to fit the mold cast for him any longer. Would his behavior improve? Would he thrive? It’s totally worth it!
But $14,000 a year. We aren’t even properly saving for retirement. Or college.
I could go back to work! (I kind of want to. But I kind of don’t want to. And I don’t want to do that ‘just’ to send him to private school. But would it be worth it? Shouldn’t I do it anyway?)
We could swing it! (But it would be tighter…maybe fewer “non-school” experiences, fewer vacations, fewer fun things, more belt-tightening. I hate belt-tightening.)
What about other schools? (I should check them out. But the parochial thing gives me pause…)
I’m just at a weird loss right now. I’m not sure which way to lean. I’ve begun the process of having him tested for a “disability” through school (essentially, something I’m doing because it opens the dialog and gets him free testing), which made me feel like I was violating him somehow. “Hey, kid, I know that you’re probably just advanced and insulted, but how ’bout you hang out and let people make sure you’re not mentally challenged? Or don’t have ADHD or a brain injury or something? Cool?” Ugh. But it’s a first step, at least. Maybe we’ll luck out and be able to get some results this school year (although the Sp. Ed. dept. seems to doubt it…). Maybe we’ll have to spring for an intelligence test elsewhere and use that to open a dialog. Maybe a dialog is beside the point. I just don’t know. I’m barking up all these trees at once, not sure which one the cat is in, or if I even would be able to chase it if it were in some of them.
Also, I’m making funny metaphors. So there’s that.
I’m a lax-ish parent. Not in the care way (well, I hope not, anyhow), but in the behavior way. Just this morning, my son told me to shut up more than once. Here’s the thing: he was in a full-fledged fit of HANGER (hunger + anger) and it’s not worth fighting him on it, on any of it until he actually consumes some calories. Here’s the other thing: I don’t actually care if he says “shut up” to me. Really, I just don’t. It doesn’t really bother me. I mean, I am a grown-up, and I therefore realize that him telling me to shut up doesn’t mean in any way, shape, or form that I will actually need to shut up, so it means about as much to me as if he said “Sprout wings and fly around the earth 46 times while wearing a loincloth!”.
But I know I’m supposed to “not allow him to speak to me that way”. So I feel a little guilty and like a shit parent when I do. Which is stupid, because I actually have the right to parent however I choose. Maybe it’s left over from being brought up in such a restricted, miserably southern and uninformed area? I’m not sure.
Also, I don’t care if he curses. Just as long as he doesn’t do it at me. We do actually punish him for that. You can say, “FUCK!” when you drop a glass and it breaks. You cannot say “FUCK YOU!” to someone. Not that my kid actually says fuck, but you get the gist.
It’s a balancing act of sorts, parenting is for me. I find myself having to check myself to discover, really understand, a lot of my knee-jerk parenting reactions. Is it something that there is a good reason for my children to adhere to, or am I just being a control freak? I try very hard to stick only to the first one. You see, children are actual human beings who have the right to a certain degree of autonomy, I believe. So if my kids want to stand up while eating, or eat with elbows on the table, or sleep in clothes instead of pajamas, I try not to let it bug me. Or, I allow it to bug me a bit, but I try not to react and tell them not to do it.
Most people aren’t like me. I get that. Well, I get that they’re not. I don’t really get why. I mean, is demonstrating your control over someone younger and more helpless than you really so crucial to parents? Ooooh, I’m so impressed. Someone you could literally beat to death easily does your bidding. Oooooh! Ok, maybe that’s going too far. But…I don’t know. So much of what people “expect” from children seems to fall into the category of Stupid Human Tricks. “Yes Ma’am”. Sitting with knees under the table. Not eating unless a parent says it’s Ok. Keeping your room clean (as in, sparkling clean, not safely clean-enough). Stupid shit like that.
I think I mostly adhere to the Partner Standard, honestly. I expect my kids to treat me the way I treat my partner, or how I would treat a friend. Would I tell a friend how to sit? No. Would I say “yes sir” to my husband? That’s a FUCK NO. I wouldn’t actually say “yes sir” to ANYONE unless I was being ironic. Would I tell my husband to shut up if I was angry with him? Probably, yep. In fact I’m pretty sure I have. Would I hit my husband or friend? Nope, that’s why that action gets a time-out or worse.
Interesting, working that all out. It sounds like I mostly just treat my children as human beings with their own rights and agendas. Which is how they kind of should be treated, right? So why does it feel so…controversial to me to not give a smack-down for saying “shut up”?
That thing where you see a picture of yourself (or, in my case, a large number of pictures of yourself in rapid succession) and you suddenly realize that the picture you have of yourself in your head, and the picture of yourself you get when you look in the mirror, are both terribly, impossibly skewed, and that in reality, the sheer, nasty, morning-after sort of reality that smacks you in the head and screams “IT’S TIME TO GET UP!!!” when you really just want to sleep, sleep some more, sleep the alcohol and sadness and emptiness away, but you can’t because reality is busy smacking you in the head and you realize that you don’t look anything like you do in your own special reality, that you have stretched out with age and inflated with pounds and pounds of ill-advised hunks of cheese or crispy fries or slices of cake or whatever the hell it is you’re eating that’s gotten you here and now here you are, inflated, the real you that you can still see in your head and even in the mirror trapped somewhere beneath dripping fleshiness and you want so badly, just so badly, to rewind the clock and tell yourself that Fat Acceptance is GREAT and you should feel GOOD about yourself and you should eat and feel happy and feel comfortable…but maybe you shouldn’t eat that or that, maybe you should keep the food-obessed part of yourself that kept you thin(ner) and happy(er) even if it IS truly “disordered eating”, because “disordered eating” is what got you to both the good and bad places you’ve been, disordered eating is what makes you roller coaster from one to the other, disordered eating is what thin people struggle with or don’t struggle with but just adopt so they stay thin and happy and not like you, all inflated and miserable and looking nothing if not like someone who isn’t going to do a damn thing, not a damn thing at all, and you look back and realize, again, that you’ve somehow changed from the person who nodded absently but then later laughed to your then-boyfriend-now-husband about how your tubby fatso friend was mocking people who didn’t want to eat soup that had cream in it, and you thought it was hilarious because DUH, THIN PEOPLE LIKE ME DON’T EAT CREAM OR WE GET FAT, and now you’ve inexplicably become a fat person who would say that some things should have cream in them, would eat the cream, drink the cream, defend the cream, all the while saying you can’t understand why you are so fat, so fat, so fat when you eat well and exercise and everything else you’re supposed to do except you maybe were doing the right things before when your belly was concave with hunger and you ate very little hoping to lose more but mostly you just maintained your weight and ran 3 miles a day and worked and worried and wondered who you’d become and probably would have screamed in agony if you had shown yourself then a picture of yourself now, inflated and stretched and bearing so little in resemblance to the you of then.
How do you know which decision to make, whenever there’s a decision to be made? I am not a hemmer, or a haw-er. I consider myself a pretty good decision-maker. Truly, I do. Not that I’ve always made the best decisions in my own life, but I think I kind of get it. (At least, now I do. We won’t go into my processes back when I shacked up with a loser instead of going to college or chose to obsess about a dude instead of following niftier career paths…let’s not dwell on all that. *Cringe*)
On and off for a few years now, I’ve flirted with the idea of bariatric surgery. There. I said it in a public(ish) forum. I always ended up discarding the idea for one reason or another. Like, because it’s scary. And permanent. And has possible nasty complications. And because really, it should be Ok for me to be fat.
The last time I discarded the idea, I went ahead and roared full-force into the world of Fat Acceptance. You know, the groundbreaking and controversial idea that people should not be treated differently based on their weight? I totally agree with that. I agree with all they stand for. I think I’m gorgeous, and I don’t shy away from calling myself fat. (It is, after all, just a descriptor…not a bad word. And I am fat.)
So I embraced who I really was, I stopped making myself uncomfortable. I stopped thinking of certain foods as forbidden. And you know what? My weight leveled off and stayed somewhere for a looong time. Longer than I’ve probably been any single weight in my adult life. My doctor even remarked on it–she was unconcerned about my weight. All my numbers (BP, lipids, etc.) were good, and I wasn’t gaining. So all was fine! Except until it wasn’t.
I have gained 10 pounds. I get it, that’s nothing. “Just” 10 pounds. Except it’s not. It’s not “just” 10 pounds. It’s 10 more pounds on top of the other 90 or so that I’m already “overweight”. (Over what weight? I know. I can be any weight I want to be. But…you know what I mean.) And the thing with that 10 pounds is that it’s different from the other times I’ve gained weight. In the past, although it might not be the full-on norm, whenever I’ve gained weight I can easily see how it happened. It was those weeks I kept eating cake and ice cream, those multiple cheese binges, etc. This time, I’m working out regularly and making the “goal” on my FitBit most days (actually, exceeding it most days!). I might eat “what I want”, but it’s not crazy like it once was. And yet…I am 10 pounds heavier.
And it’s not just that. I am feeling encumbered by my weight in ways I wasn’t before. My neck feels fat. When I sit in certain positions, it’s harder to breathe than it should be because of my neck fat. Working out is more difficult than it should be at times. Life just feels…harder than it did 30 pounds ago, 20 pounds ago, even those 10 pounds ago. And I don’t want moving my body and being part of the world to be as hard as it feels right now. I just…don’t.
And now I think of what I know already. How diets don’t work in the long run, how your metabolism is permanently changed (crippled, really) by them, and that you’ll never really be able to diet yourself to where you want to be and stay there. Like, unless you’re one of the lucky 5% who do. (I’m never in the lucky 5%). I think about that, and I think about feeling this way forever, and I feel…sad. And helpless. (Although, let’s face it, I’m sure that at least part of that is the nasty weather!)
But, the other voice inside me says, what if you really, REALLY tried this time? Have you REALLY tried? What if you just do Weight Watchers again?
What if you die?
That’s the worry. Or, one of them. What if I die? What if I have terrible complications that makes life not worth living to me?
Because it is, now. I’m not living optimally, but it’s worth living.
So how do you separate the factors out? How do you really decide?
I’m still trying to decide how I decide. Sigh.