Saturday, April 09, 2005

DREAM ON

Around this time last year, I started thinking about the advantages of moving Ross from his current Elementary school to a Jewish Day School. I contacted the school and asked them to send me some information in the mail. When I received it, I read all the wonderful things about the school, and somewhat nervously, skimmed over the page that listed the fees. I noticed that there was a committee for financial assistance and as is very often the case with me, I made a limiting decision that it was all financially unaffordable. As the year progressed, we became more and more concerned about some aspects of Ross’ school experience.

To us, going to school and getting an education is not only about the academics. There is a social aspect to the experience that is equally important. Ross is a very sociable child. Other kids like him, they take to him and they enjoy his company. There has never been an issue with him not having friends at school, and there has never been a parent/teacher conference where problems with socializing have ever been discussed. From the feedback received from teachers, I feel I can confidently describe Ross as a well-adjusted, popular child.

In First and Second grade, it is still pretty much up to the parents to initiate play dates and activities for the kids. When Ross started at his school, I was concerned about the fact that he had gone to a private nursery and therefore he was at a disadvantage of starting First Grade not knowing anyone in the school. All of the kids he was in Kindergarten with were going on to other schools. The kids going into First Grade were mostly moving up from the Kindergarten attached to the school. It took Ross a relatively short time to identify the kids he was more friendly with in his new class, and at that time, I started contacting Moms to set up play dates.

Interestingly, I would always get a positive response, but the calls were never reciprocated. It soon got to where unless I was consistently calling, Ross would have no kids to play with on the weekends. The summer vacation last year came and went, and I did not receive a single phone call from a parent to set up a play date. This has continued to present time and in the last few weeks, the situation just came to a head for me.

A recent string of events, all related to my own activities and socializing, have made it clearly evident to me that we as a family, are not, and never will be considered part of the community in which we live. In spite of all our efforts to integrate, the fact of the matter is we are living in a small American town that does not embrace new –comers.

We are fortunate that we have a child who knows how to occupy himself. I think that regardless of your age, there is an art to being comfortable with being alone. Fortunately both for him and us, Ross is a child that can do this. He has an amazing ability to play by himself without getting bored. This however is no way to grow up. It is so drastically far removed from everything we experienced in our childhoods and from everything we envisioned for him. It breaks my heart as I watch him weekend after weekend, playing by himself other than when our lovely neighbor Jessica comes over to play with him, or invites him over. Jessica is two years older than Ross, but they get on really well and have a good time together.

Rightly or wrongly so, it just got to a point for me where I could no longer be the only Mom phoning to make plans for the kids to get together. Friendship, be it that you are acting on your own behalf, or on behalf of your children, is a two way street.

Motivated by wanting to change this situation for Ross, Daniel and I set up an appointment to visit the Jewish Day School. I reminded myself that only by going there to visit the school, would I be able to create the possibility that could ultimately result in Ross being enrolled at the school for the new year.

We received a wonderful welcome and within 24 hours had made application for a tuition grant. Within a week this was approved and yesterday we took Ross to the school for an interview and a tour of the facilities. He was very well received and the Guidance Counselor and Principal thought he was a lovely kid. They described him as being “confidant, articulate and an old soul”.

Given that Ross would stand to lose nothing by leaving his current school, and would have everything to gain by getting a head start by joining the new school now, instead of waiting until September, we decided to move him over at the end of this month.

This morning I called the principal of his current school. I explained that we had decided to move him and that his last day would be April 29th. I went on to tell her that I had some documentation requesting the school forward his records to the new school and she explained that I would have to get a transfer card as well. She put me on hold while she checked with the Secretary when I could collect the documents. As the school closes for Spring Break next week, she advised me to collect the necessary documents on Monday 18th. Once all these logistics had been discussed, she said, “we will miss Ross, he is a lovely young man”. I thanked her for that and she said goodbye.

I sat with the phone to my ear and listened to her put her phone down, and I was completely shocked. Maybe my expectations are way too high, but I find it really strange that she did not see fit to ask why we had decided to take Ross out of the school. I had really thought she may have said something like “has there been a problem that we might not have been aware of?” Unfortunately this was not the case. The call had ended, and the principal of the school saw no need to extend her time on the phone with me to establish why we were choosing to take Ross out the school!

We know that the move to this new school will open new horizons for Ross. A formal Jewish education is a wonderful gift to be able to give him. We are also confident that this move will open new horizons for us as much as it will for him.

If this is what living the American dream is all about, I guess we had better just dream on!

 
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