One of my favorite bloggers showed me the future. And it frightened me.
I wasn't able to sleep last night after reading her open letter to the parents of Casey; one of the students she's encountered in her role as substitute teacher in a Texas classroom.
The letter starts with a little background: The child, one of the smallest and youngest in the second grade class, had moved into the area from another state over the summer. He’s left behind everything he knows, has made no friends and is getting penalized daily for being unprepared.
One of the penalties for not being prepared: The child must sit on a wall and watch as other children play at recess.
It seems only the child (and this teacher) cares that it matters not whether it was the child being forgetful or the parents being lame when they didn’t investigate his bag for homework. The hurt and embarrassment of having to sit out recess stings either way.
The premise is unmistakable: This boy’s parents are fucking up.
They are perpetually late. They are disorganized. They’ve not taught their kid how to pronounce words. They don’t sit and eat dinner together. They have not made his education their priority, or even a distant second.
They make excuses rather than remedies. They send notes begging for leniency for their son, whose homework got misplaced under a bunch of crap that should have been sorted out by now. They didn’t think to correct their son’s pronunciation, probably because “fought” is so much cuter that “thought” in toddlerhood. Or maybe they thought a teacher would just sort all that stuff out.
I suppose it was this teacher's last line that hit me the hardest:
“Be the parents ... so we can get back to being his teachers.”
At that moment, I pictured Casey’s mom, and decided she probably looked a lot like me.
I felt the disorganization of being in unfamiliar territory. I felt the terror of the knowledge that the hours I work are not entirely conducive of conventional life. Dinner won’t ever happen until after 7 p.m. When will homework get done? I don’t even want to think about the commute.
Will I have to quit my job? If I do will we have enough money? How will we get health insurance if my job disappears? What if my husband gets hurt on the job? How will we save for college? None of the basics seems so basic anymore.
And then there’s making friends. I am the last person who can teach my child how to make friends.
I’ve lived in my town for nearly 10 years now. I’ve gone to community events. I’ve volunteered. I’ve invited people over for parties and dinners and cookouts. The friendships haven’t materialized.
It’s probably me. I suppose I’m the same person I was when I was in second grade: the same little girl who’d bend over backwards to have someone take notice. I’d give away any Barbie in my collection – Hell, you could have them all – if you’d just be my friend. No one wanted my Barbies then. It shouldn't suprise me they don't want my potato salad now.
It's true that we've lived here longer than we've even been parents, but we spend most of our time in other places. Our children have even gone to other towns for preschools and daycare. Come next September, when the reality of Kindergarten comes to pass, we will all feel as if we just moved from other place entirely.
But even in my own awkwardness, I don't think I'm alone.
I am not the only one who commutes or gets home after dark. No one else is at the park on weekday evenings. Playgroups don’t meet on weekends, they didn't even meet in the summer when I was last on maternity leave. Only laundry sees me eye to eye.
I think about how long it takes a person to settle in, and I realize it could be a lifetime. I suppose the neighborhood 'Welcome Wagons' have always been an idyllic convention of Hollywood. That's what churches are for, heathen.
We've all said it before: "Why are people so idiotic?"
We wonder with our pointy fingers, "Why can't they see that their children should take priority? It doesn't take much; just a little more attentiveness."
But wanting change doesn’t make it happen, just like wanting my husband to take the recycling to the curb won't actually get it there. Screaming and ranting generally don't produce desired results either. But figuring out what will work just isn't fair to me ... especially when I'll just end up taking it to the curb myself anyway.
There’s no such thing as an even playing field, no matter how much we’d like it to be. Love doesn't always mean logic.
There’s always going to be someone out there who doesn’t play by the rules, or who doesn’t realize the importance of the rules. There’s always going to be the people who do it all wrong, and whom clobbering over the head will only build up resistance not effect change.
I suppose what frightens me most is that there is that Casey really is the victim in all of this. He’ll find himself fighting two systems, at home and at school. Home where time is too short; and school where there are few accommodations for the basic failures: there’s too much to cover already.
I have no answers. I just hang my head and hope I can manage to avoid receiving this letter.