Wednesday snapshot

November 16,2011
Professor Mom
Aliki McElreath( )

Aliki is a writer and college English teacher. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, two children (ages seven and ten), a dog, a cat, a rabbit, and too many fish.

We survived our first middle school parent-teacher conference. I was surprised by how different it was from the conferences we attended all throughout L.'s elementary school years. In looking back on his elementary school experience, we're realizing more and more that a large part of L's anxiety and stress and anger over school was created and fed by the school environment. There were good teachers there, and we valued them, but the intrusive, hands-on environment of the school--the very environment we sought out when he started kindergarten because we thought it an improvement over the larger, less intimate schools, was too intrusive, and too hands-on for a child like L. Yet, by the time we realized this it was, in many ways, too late to move him elsewhere.

Maybe we should have. Maybe things might have been different. There are the kids who thrive in that type of learning environment, and the kids who don't--and can't.

I promised myself that I wouldn't live in the land of what-ifs, because with a kid like L., you never know how things might have played out. I am thankful, though, that we all pushed through it. No matter what might happen this next quarter, or the one after that, or next year, I'll always be grateful that L. has had the chance to enjoy school, and to feel what it's like to be successful at it.

The other day I said something to L.--a sort of wondering out loud about why we didn't switch schools, even with only a year or two left of elementary school.

"Oh no, Mama," L. said. "I'm a firm believer in fate. Everything you do is connected to something else."

I was silent, processing this.

"I had to go to that school, so I could go to this one. I had to hate that school, so I could like this one."

My L. is a wise, wise child. It makes perfect sense to me.