Sunday, May 15, 2005

Decisions, Decisions.

Last night, I remembered I left something in the car. I walked to the front door and said, very loudly, “Going outside now”.

I waited a beat and hollered “Yep, going to the car”.

I rattled the front door handle and called out “This is me, going to the car”.

Consort stuck his head out of the office.

“Is this some sort of hint? Do you want me to go outside for something?”

I shook my head as I loudly sung show tunes in the foyer.

“No, just letting the skunks and the raccoons know I’m coming out”

A hundred years ago, what is now my front door must have been a major thoroughfare for all nocturnal animals in the Los Angeles basin. A house was built but the animals, rightly, view this as an intrusion on their prior claim, and have chosen to ignore it. This means that every spring and early summer, if I open the front door after dark, I have a better than average chance of meeting something hungry, irritated by my existence, and more inclined to be predator than prey. I have firsthand knowledge that a full-grown raccoon comes to my knee. I have smelled skunk spray so fresh and so close it brought me to paralysis (Apparently, there is some sort of skunk time-share in our hedges, where all the more fashionable skunks compete to raise their families). Our dog doesn’t slow them down, they sneer at our cat, and they view us with either indifference or overt contempt, depending on how close we wander. These animals have made a decision about where they are going and what they are doing, and nothing short of my adopting a puma is going to dissuade them from their chosen path, their destiny.

I really need to tap into my inner raccoon. And soon.

Daughter will be attending a new school next year. I just wish I knew which school it was. Unlike most of my hard-working parental peers who are waiting for the schools of their choice to decide, the lack of closure is entirely my fault. I cannot make up my mind.

We have known since October that Daughter was going to need to move on. By December, Consort and I agreed it would be either School A or School B. By February, after doing the walk-through at each school and talking to friends who have kids in each, we had all but settled on School B. I then happened to have a conversation with a parent from School A, who said in passing how passionate the teacher was about science and math. My brain started scrambling. Why, science and math are just the places where girls fall behind! And Daughter loves science and math! School B made no mention of making those a priority! I need to reconsider School A! I told Consort my concerns, and he agreed with me: School A it was.

In March, Daughter had a playdate with someone who is currently at School B, but who briefly attended School A in the same class Daughter would be entering. The mother gave me all the gossip on why she had moved her daughter, which mostly had to do with one disruptive child. My brain scrambled again. Would this disruptive boy still be in the class? Why wasn’t the teacher able to keep him in line? Was I setting up my sweet daughter to be the goat of some boy with poor impulse control? Or, was I setting up my daughter to become Bonnie to his Clyde? How much was science and math actually worth to me? I told Consort my concerns, and he agreed with me: School B it was.

By April, I was hearing a rumor a week which would change my first-choice school. I heard a report that Disruptive Boy was not being invited back to School A. So Daughter shall go to School A. The next week, I learned that a girl Daughter really looked up to would be going to School B. All right, School B. School B’s teacher is certified to teach the youngest kids, but not primary school. That could be a problem, but the kids seem to be thriving. School A’s class is larger, also a problem, but the kids seem to be thriving [Disruptive Boy was thriving in a way which involved kicking].

After the fifth “I mean it, here’s where she’s going…unless I hear something new”, Consort wearily asked me just to tell him in September where he was picking her up. I kept thinking the reason I couldn’t make up my mind was because I didn’t have enough information but, by last week, I realized an excess of information can really gum you up, too. I know everything but the teacher’s blood types and whom they took to their high-school prom, and I feel less certain than ever. The principals of both schools suspect I need to be medicated. I start hyperventilating when anyone mentions the word “School”, “Choice”, or “September". I have composed so many Pro-and-Con lists I can write them in sonnet, epic or limerick form.

It’s important you know that while I admit I'm a lunatic, I have never held a flashcard in front of my daughter’s face. She has never seen a Baby Einstein video, nor am I taking her on walking tours of top colleges. This isn’t about me or Consort. This is about Daughter. And what makes this decision so difficult is because, up to now, her school experience has been wonderful.

She doesn’t know that some kids hate school. Unlike many of my friends, I've never had a sniffling child wake me up at 3 a.m. pleading a stomachache and begging not to go to school the next day. Wherever she ends up will have more of her waking hours than we, her parents, get and I just want it to be…right.

I keep hoping I will hear some magic combination of words from a teacher, and I will think “Yes, that’s it! That’s the ideal place for her”. It would be nice if, at that moment, a shaft of sunlight pierced the clouds and illuminated my careworn face as angels sang, confirming my gut instinct. I suspect it won’t work like that, though.

At some point, well beyond the absolute final day I need to make a decision, I will make a decision, and it will all work out, in some manner to be determined later. They are both good schools. She will get everything she needs at either. She might miss out on something, but she’ll get something else. I will look back on this time – and this entry -- and wince at how I let the world know how I briefly lost my mind.

Until then, what have you heard?


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