Monday, September 2, 2013

Mom, Mind Reader

It's 7:40 AM and rather than being in bed, where I should be, I'm in an unusual place: sitting outside my daughter's new middle school, parked in the parking lot with the window cracked open to hear the bell, and watching the clock tick.

Next to me, of course, is Daughter.

She's gone to a Jewish Day School from Kindergarten through seventh grade. Suddenly, last year, she was through. Not the most courageous kid, yet she wanted to move on.

Husband and I were flabbergasted. We were committed to Jewish education - full Jewish education, like through eighth grade since we don't have a Jewish high school. She'd never been interested in leaving before. We'd had a few forays into public school before, most of which ended badly. But Cheap Husband was thrilled about one thing in particular: no tuition. And I was interested in Daughter being happier, with more social opportunities. So we began looking into it, touring, taking placement tests.

And she left, moving from an eighth grade class of ten to an eighth grade class of four hundred.

I can't always relate exactly to everything my kids go through but this, this starting over at a school in eighth grade -- this sometimes feels like the central narrative of my life. My family moved out to Arizona from Skokie just in time for me to start eighth grade. The nightmares of that year can still make me wake up in a cold sweat at night. This whole experience has made me unusually perceptive, almost a mind reader. Good skills to have when dealing with the teenaged Daughter.

Each day, after school now, we talk about the events of her day. I use my Mom Mind Reader skills to ferret out any troubles, troubleshoot any difficulties, offer advice. But there's this one thing, the thing that leads us to sitting in the car at 7:40 AM each morning.

Math's going well, Social Studies is going well, so is English and PE and Science. Lunch is even going well, though each day her group shifts and morphs. Success looms before me when, three weeks in, Daughter informs me that she's no longer a "new kid." I am astounded, mostly because I felt like a new kid in Arizona from the day I started eighth grade to the day I graduated high school.

So it's just this morning thing.

Each morning from the time kids arrive till the bell rings at 7:56, they gather in a huge courtyard socializing. Has anyone ever imagined how terrifying this might be for new kids? It's not that there's bullying, because there isn't. But there's the more subtle problem of non-inclusion, of the established kids hanging with their friends and not talking to anyone they don't know. We've all done it.

So she sits. Then the bell rings and she flies out of the car to her first period class. And as I begin backing out of my space I see she's not the only one. All over the parking lot I see other kids who were sitting in their cars, all waiting out the bell, all dashing from their mind reader moms' sides to their classes the minute the bell rings.

Have you ever started over, or watched as your children have?