He grabbed a carrot stick and said, “You guys… It’s crazy the amount you’re planning to spend on that school you’re sending him to. It doesn’t make any sense. It’s more than college. How can you even think of spending that kind of money on school?”
Thomas is right, of course. It is crazy. And it is as much as a private college. Which is one of those things it isn’t polite to talk about. I’m only embarrassed to talk about it because it is patently unfair that parents without savings to spend would be at the end of their ropes. We are lucky enough to have an extra length of rope to try. I don’t know what we’ll do if it turns out he needs to stay at the school for longer than we have savings to spend, but we’re good for this year.
I’m sure Thomas is voicing thoughts his folks have made the mistake of discussing in front of him. None of our friends have said anything about us pulling Jasper out of the public school system and sending him across town to a private school. Not to us, anyway. I guess it’s complicated by the fact that both of his parents are public school teachers. And that our relationship started because our kids went to the same public school and we waited for them together at the bus stop . Andy and I have been very active on behalf of the public schools ever since we heard that being involved in your kids’ education was the best thing a parent could do to help their child succeed. We wanted our children to succeed. It turned out that sometimes the best you can do isn’t good enough.
This was a conversation I needed to have. Whether it was with myself, because I am torn about the decision; with the neighbors because they didn’t approve; or with Thomas because he was ballsy and righteously indignant.
What I wanted to say first was, “You, my lanky friend are 16. You haven’t a clue about anything outside your own cavernous and hormone addled mind, so shut up. ” But I didn’t say it.
That “so shut up” part of myself is one I have to do daily battle with. I won the battle this time which left me to focus my energy on the other parts of myself, who were not exactly all in accord.
There was the “my poor baby” part of my brain who wanted Thomas to know how hard learning to read and write has been for Jasper, and how he deserved the best we can afford. And how dare this tall handsome, graceful young man who spends his spare time reading at Border’s question what’s good for my strong, but very small boy who is only a year younger than him but reads in the 1st and 2nd percentile. He’s still never read a real novel, much less gotten lost in one.
There was the “He’s probably right” part of me which wondered if he wasn’t right; if I wasn’t exaggerating the seriousness of the situation and the need for decisive action. Does the fact that his state testing shows he’s in the 10th percentile in reading and math really matter? I hate all that testing. I think there is too much of it. So why do I let it alarm me? Why do I feel the need to fix this? Can’t I just accept my kid where he’s at? What are we doing?
That’s the punchline, here isn’t it? We don’t know what we’re doing. Most of us aren’t trained professionals in the field of parenting, education, special education, medicine, psychology, whimsy or discipline. We’re doing the best we can with what we do know, sometimes getting lucky, sometimes not. All I know is this: When he is a grown man, I never want to wonder if I was too lazy, cheap or set in my own ideology to do what was best for him while that was still my job.