By Danielle Silverstein of Where the Eff is My Handbook?
Every year I face the same challenge as a mom. How do I balance school with everything else that is happening in my child’s life? How do I balance them being intrinsically tired, growing, and emotionally-complicated beings, with the pressures, long hours, and nonstop efforts involved with being a student?
I have three really good but definitely complicated, challenging kids, and it’s a never-ending struggle to satisfy the needs of each individual child. I often feel like a circus performer constantly figuring out how to walk a tightrope, juggle fiery sticks that are going to either drop or burn me at any moment, and learn how to embrace the freak show act that oftentimes feels like my life.
So, when I receive the same letter from the school board every year stating that my child has missed too many days of school and I could face court if he/she has any more unexcused absences, I would love nothing other than to have the opportunity to tell them why a letter like this feels like such a betrayal to parents who are just trying to lead and conduct the literal, real-life version of the greatest show on earth: that of raising kids the best way we know how.
The people who send these letters are just audience members watching and thinking they understand what goes on. But they have absolutely no clue the blood, sweat, and tears that take place behind the scenes. We don’t need to be scolded by you, school board.
Where’s the letter asking if we need assistance? Where’s the letter listing resources out there if our kids need extra help in school, or guidance counselors the kids could talk to, or anything to show that you actually care WHY our kids are missing days?
They don’t know (and seemingly don’t care) that there are solid reasons for my kids missing school.
They don’t know that my husband works a retail job and during certain months of the year our kids do not see him at all due to the long hours involved and the fact that he has to be at the store all weekend. So, when he actually has some down time, we allow them to miss a few days so we can be together as a family. Time together as a family is crucial to the well-being of our sons and daughter. They will be more confident knowing they have a strong base of supporters at home. Where’s the praise for making family a priority?
They don’t know that my daughter is an introvert who, while being a lover of people, can only handle being in social situations for so long. I worry what would happen if I forced her to go to school when she was feeling like she absolutely could not handle a day of being around hundreds of loud and energetic beings. Yes, I understand that someday she will have a job and won’t have the option to miss due to personal needs. But right now she is a 12-year-old who is still developing a sense of trust and tolerance. She will be a better student and social being if we work on building up her ability to interact rather than just throwing her into uncomfortable situations because that’s the “rule.” While she’s home, I work with her on catching up on work and not falling behind.
They don’t know when my son has had a nightmare and is up all night long, and therefore will be a mess if he goes to school the next day.
They don’t know about when we had to put our dog to sleep and my kids could barely open their eyes for three days because they had been crying so much.
So they can sit there and pretend that missing 10, 12, or 14 days of school seems unnecessary and will hinder the development of a child. But they don’t know that oftentimes those days are missed to achieve just the opposite: to concentrate on the child’s mental health and make him or her a more whole, complete human being. When they’re ready to send a letter of correspondence wanting to understand the bigger picture and actually help with the situation at hand, I’ll be happy to respond and fill them in on the effort taking place on my end.
Until then, I’m calling bullshit on these letters that are intended to look like they come from a place of concern, when really all they do is make parents feel judged and more pressured. For now I’ll keep running my circus the best way I know how. It might be a freak show, but it’s my freak show, and no letter from a group of people who sit around pretending to understand is going to keep me from doing my job the best way I know.
This post was originally posted on Where the Eff is My Handbook?
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