Friday, September 11, 2009

Dumping Grounds

Can I just be really real for a minute? Honestly? I am so, so fed up with kindergarten.

I'm just - over it.

We've been sending Ari for several weeks now, and rarely does a day go by when I'm not called on the phone, summoned to the school, or met at my car by his teacher with a bad report.

I feel completely defeated.

Let's be honest: anytime someone has something negative to say about your child, it's really you, the parent, that they are passing judgement on. So, it's not just Ari living under the scrutinizing eye of the school administration. It's also me. So yesterday, when we sat in the principal's office for an hour, being lectured by not one, not two, but three adminstrators, it was defeating. Trust me, it was not just Ari who had been called to the principal's office for discipline. And they made no bones about it, pointing out several "flaws" in my approach to handling these disciplinary issues. For one, they prefer that I not touch him in any way when I arrive. So when he leans against me, during the hour-long stretches of disapproving looks and sad faces and heavy-handed questioning, I should push him away? I should alienate him and make him feel even more attacked? Sorry, administrators, but you aren't the ones who go home every night and have your child cry to you, "Do you still love me when I make bad choices at school?" So pushing him away physically, not going to happen. And also, you're a meanie.

I was called yesterday because he broke a large tree branch off of a young tree. Seriously. At no point in Ari's life has he ever been told that he must not touch trees. Could he have known that this was a super-special sapling, planted last year after some fundraising effort by the students? Of course not. Was he being malicious? No. But because of who he is, because he is earmarked as "trouble", then we're called. And we must stand trial for tree massacre. And I sit, crying in the principal's office like it's my own fault, because it is, and Ari cries because what else do you do when three adults are looking down their noses with disapproving looks, and your mom is sad, and you know that somehow, you did something, but you're not sure what.

And today Keith is summoned, and there has been punching, and Ari is sent home before lunch. Who is this unhappy child? And what else under the sun can we possibly do to make the point that this behavior is unacceptable? He has zero access to toys, computers, video games, desserts and treats. He does chores and copies words and takes naps and goes to bed early. His life is sparse and I am out of ideas. And I want to shake those teachers and say, I am not a bad parent! He is not a bad kid! But this place, it makes him bad! And I want to run away with him and never go back.

It feels like a failure, and not because Ari is a failure, because he is NOT and he is my BLESSING and not my problem. But somewhere down the line, I have failed, because I can't comprehend how to communicate with my child what is right and what is wrong, and I can't protect him from the trouble he's in, and I can't make them understand that he is loving and sweet, and yes, mischievious, but remember? Loving! And sweet! And empathetic. And because they don't love him like I do, they don't bother to push past his label and see that there is more there. Because they are teachers, they are busy, and I understand that. But if this place isn't a place where he can learn and become better and be nurtured and loved, then it is not a place for him.

I guess his place must be with me.