08 September 2014

Knowing when to let go

You know how sometimes you are in a relationship, you are completely committed, yet things aren't quite right, you know you should probably give up and cut the person out of your life, but you've known them forever and you just can't quite sever the relationship, even though you know it will probably be better for all concerned?

That's how our relationship with our son and his school has been since we moved to Texas. 

Note: I am a firm believer in the power of Catholic schools. I am a product of them, and I believe in what they teach and how they teach.  

When we moved here, we did what we always do: Tour the possible schools, buy in the best possible public school district, and enroll our kids in the Catholic school that seems most like family to us, because that place becomes our family. We live so far away from relatives, we need a support system like that to lean on. 

I realized this might not be the best fit for our son years ago, when we advocated advancing him a grade. He was beyond bored in class. That child, if bored, is a troublesome child who will invent ways to keep himself entertained. 

We made our pitch. We brought the gifted and talented program testing that he had gone through in Missouri, the IQ scores, the grade cards from the teachers. 

We were shot down. But the public school wasn't a better option: we did the tour and asked the questions. When GT teachers tell you straight-up that it isn't worth the stress of moving your kid because the program is underfunded and weak, you have to listen to them. 

So, we and he stuck it out. Some years were better than others. 

Middle school hit, and it all went to hell. 

He's a bright, funny kid. I've written before about how he asks questions about Supreme Court cases. He uses big words. He reads big books. He has big thoughts. He's competed in the regional spelling bee. 

He is not really a video game addict or a super-athletic kid. He plays some video games and he plays some sports as an average Joe, but he's no whiz at either.  And therein began the problem. 

Most of the smart, witty, funny kids left after 5th grade. 

Then the differences in families cropped up: We don't allow our kids to have TVs in their rooms. We are strict about electronics and the type of video games we own. You will find no first-person shooter games here. 

The boy isn't even interested. I can't watch CSI or Homicide or SVU or Person of Interest with him around, because that stuff gives him nightmares. I've missed out on entire shows because I didn't want to scare him. 

The other boys picked on him for it. They picked on him because they didn't get his humor (or were too cool to get his humor). They picked on him for being fat. (He's not.) They picked on him for a myraid of reasons. And my son, being my son, held it all inside. 

He just got sadder. And sadder. And sadder. His face showed no emotion at all. He never, ever smiled. 

It finally blew apart last spring, and we filed bullying forms and did all the things you are supposed to do. School ended shortly thereafter, and we figured the summer break would do everyone good. 

Then school started. And we filed bullying reports the first week. Things were done. Parents were called. Detentions handed out. 

It didn't help. He was crying every night about how he had next-to-no friends. He hated school. He didn't want to go. The other boys stopped picking on him. Instead they started flat-out freezing him out and not talking to him. 

You can't make kids be friends. You can, however, affect how they treat each other. Our school did not seem to be doing much to change the culture. 

After three weeks, we had enough. 

A Catholic education isn't really a Catholic education if the kids aren't actually acting like Christians. 

So we made a wrenching decision. We love this school, for the most part. It works for our youngest; she's happy and has a ton of friends. I love most of the teachers there. Heck, I'm friends with more than a few. I am a Girl Scout mom. My spouse coaches CYO teams there. We are invested in this place. And yet . . . 

It's like a bad relationship: You know you need to go, but you can't quite make yourself do it. You keep hoping it will get better, even though all evidence points to the contrary. 

It was beyond difficult to make the decision to pull him out. We found a public charter school nearby that had an opening. After a tour, we asked him what he wanted to do. He wanted to move. It was time to start over somewhere new. 

These teachers and kids are more his type of people. They sort homerooms not by teacher, but by elements from the periodic table. My kid is a Xenon. 

He had his first day today. He seems happier today. He actually smiled. 

The breakup was tough, but we have hopes that letting go was the best thing we could have done.