It was meet-the-teacher night this evening for all six of my kids. Six kids, three schools, all tonight. And it’s not like my kids have gone to these schools forever. If we were still back in Chicagoland, I’d be comfortable if we didn’t make it to every school. My kids know their way around the schools. I know the teachers. We’re all familiar with the rules, dress codes, and procedures for getting to and from school, etc. If we were back home, we’d walk around the school while stopping every few steps to talk to friends.
But here? Well, we don’t know anyone here. We don’t know the layout of the schools. The schools are comprised of multiple buildings and portable trailer-like units that seemingly span miles. There were no familiar, friendly faces in the crowd. And I obviously felt the need to get to every school for every child. All at the same time.
We started at the junior high. There wasn’t nearly enough parking for the number of people who came out to the school. We got there ten minutes early and still had to park in the grass, blocks away from the school. It was well in the 90s and by the time we walked to the building, I was sweating. The little kids were complaining that they were tired and hot. I had no idea where to find Jackson’s schedule. I made my way to the office, the kids trailing behind me, and found someone who was handing out papers. I grabbed a paper and tried to move out of the crowd in order to take a look at it, but there was no moving out of the crowd. I don’t like crowds to begin with, but having to look after six kids, figure out where I’m going, and sweating my butt off in the heat while in a mob of people? Well, that was making me go postal.
We found Jackson’s name on the paper and headed to his home room class, which is in a trailer, in order to get his schedule. In fact, most of his classes are in portables which seems to be a common thing down here in Florida, but is unheard of back home in Chicagoland. I guess it’s no big deal unless it’s raining, in which case he’ll get soaked going from class to class. He didn’t get a locker. I don’t even think they have lockers at this school which is another foreign element for us. There were classes on his schedule I’ve never heard of. When I registered Jackson, he filled out a paper with his top five elective selections. His first four choices were band. Band was nowhere to be found on his schedule. I spoke with someone in the guidance office who assured me he could change that next week. We’ll see. I have no idea what supplies he needs, where to get him a gym uniform, if he needs a lock for a gym locker, or where he can park his bike if he rides to school. By the time we left, my shirt was actually stuck to my back with sweat (my kids were so kind as to point that out to me with great volume), I was frustrated because things are just so different down here, I was tired of hearing my kids complain, and I was feeling bad that my kids have to start all over in this strange new environment.
We drove to the grade school and met the little kids’ teachers. The teachers all seemed really nice. Only Clay’s room is in a trailer. I started to relax a little, thinking that school wasn’t going to be all bad. Until I had to fill out the forms indicating which things I’d like to volunteer for and then it hit me. I can’t volunteer for anything anymore because I’m a working parent now. Not a stay-at-home, care for my kids, be involved parent. Not a work-from-home parent. But a go-to-work parent who is too busy during the day to care for her kids; who will no doubt be too busy shopping, paying bills, writing, cleaning, and cooking in the evening to spend much time with them. I hate that! I mean, you gotta do what you gotta do and right now, I need to work outside the house as well as from home. And I am looking forward to this job, don’t get me wrong. But I hate that I’m no longer available to be there for my kids during the day.
That hit me hard, but I didn’t have time to deal with my feelings because my kids were still whining that they were hot and bored. The teens were anxious to get to the high school and walked out to the car despite the fact that I still needed to find someone to ask about drop-off procedures. I didn’t know where to take my kids in the morning and it’s not like I can leisurely walk them to school and make sure they get to their classrooms. Nope, I have to drop them off as early as possible, then speed to my own school.
By the time we got to the high school, I was feeling pretty bad about everything. The high school (that looks more like a college campus) was crammed with people. Moving through the crowd, hot and sweaty, trying to keep track of all my kids, searching for someone, anyone who had a clue where schedules and maps were just pushed me over the edge. I started crying. I’m not going to be around to help my kids. The schools here are huge. There weren’t any helpful folks in the crowd directing people, handing out maps, or answering questions. No bus schedule was included with the class schedules. How are my kids supposed to know when and where to catch a bus come Monday? Where and when do they get IDs? How about supply lists? Gym uniforms? Lockers? Do they even have lockers? Is there a dress code? What is it? What kind of crappy school doesn’t hand out information to parents upon registering? What kind of subpar educational system doesn’t send information about new student orientations?
My mind whirled crazily out of control. I came to the conclusion that I was a horrible parent for moving here. Bottom line – I’d ruined my kids’ lives. It didn’t matter that I’d made the right decision and did everything I could possibly do to ensure our future. It didn’t matter that I’d moved across the country away from everything and everyone I knew just so I could have a job with a steady paycheck and insurance. It didn’t matter that I’d moved into a more affordable house. No, my brain just shut that out and all I could think of was how my kids were having to start all over in these strange schools and it was all my fault.
I bawled, unable to get a grip on my emotions, then I got mad at myself for losing it which made me cry more. To top it off, it was Jackson’s birthday today. He’s thirteen. There was no party, no relatives, no special dinner since we were running to schools all evening, and his day ended with his mom losing her mind. I don’t lose it. I DON’T LOSE IT. I handle everything with a sense of humor. I find the good and the funny in everything. I smile through adversity and keep going. I’m strong for my kids. Always. And I absolutely detest it when I break down. I don’t care if it’s human or healthy or okay. I hate it. And I hate that instead of encouraging my kids with a positive attitude, I made everything worse by freaking out.