We all need to feel like we belong.
Well, it actually happened. We signed our second child up for private school on Monday. We had known this might be a possibility for a while, but when something like this finally comes to fruition, it’s hard to take it all in. Let me first tell you the background story because I am sure there are others who can relate.
Last year we built a new home in a completely different part of town. We LOVE our new home, but with it meant that our kids would be rezoned to a new school. (Heck, even if we stayed in our old house we would have had to change schools.) I could never say enough amazing things about the school we were previously at. We absolutely loved the school, the teachers, the administrators, the principal – pretty much everything about it. When the start of the 2018-2019 school year was getting close, we went to register Emerson and Ahna at the new school. Ahna, who was going into 1st grade, was extremely upset that she would be changing schools as she had gotten the hang of her first school and now had to learn a whole new system. Emerson kept reassuring her that she needed to have a good attitude and that it was going to be good; she just had to make the best of it and everything would work out. It’s crazy when I think back to those words of encouragement he spoke to her on that walk up the sidewalk and into the school that day. It turned out that she ended up really liking her new friends while Emerson struggled big time.
It’s hard to watch your child, who you have seen flourish throughout his 9-10 years, all of a sudden wilt before your eyes. How he can be the friendliest kid and yet suddenly struggle so much with making friends. He is the kid who wants EVERYONE to be happy and accepted. He is the kid who rarely fights back because he doesn’t want anyone to get hurt. But at this new school he simply could NOT connect with anyone and it began to show in everything he did. Watching him play basketball is such a joy, not because he is the best, but because he gives 100% all the time. Except this year… As the year went on we could see his confidence dwindle, his scrappiness fade and, all of a sudden, he started crossing his arms behind his back, something he does when he is unsure of his place, his spot, his role. He started to HATE going to school, would have stomach aches and become difficult to wake up. We started getting calls about remarks he had made that were NOT in his nature. He had more blow ups than ever before and the fighting with his siblings was escalating every day. It all stemmed from the stress he was experiencing at school, his inability to make friends and, if I can be honest, his constant STRIVING to make friends.
This was NOT the school for him, but we kept telling him to power through. Three more months! Two more months! Only ONE MORE MONTH!! This year, when we did not get the transfer that we requested, we knew there was no choice but to make a change. When we mentioned it to friends, OH BOY, did we get some backlash!! How on earth could we send him to that other school?! To any of you who have said that to someone else, let me ask you this – How could we not? How could we continue to let our child be miserable? How could we let his confidence fade, and how on earth could we let this amazing, fun-loving, sweet boy change into this hardened person before our eyes? I don’t think there is a parent out there who could continue to tell their child to “suck it up” and “it’ll get better” knowing full well it wouldn’t.
So, this week while we were on vacation, we filled out registration and transfer forms and bought uniforms and different school supplies when we got back. We went to a different open house at a different school and got a tour that made his face light up!!! And when he saw that he ALREADY had 6 FRIENDS in his class?!?! Are you kidding me??? He was beyond excited about what this new school had to offer. He is excited for school basketball where he gets to have travel games. He is excited to sit by a dear friend and have other baseball teammates already in his room. He is excited that he gets to go to mass in school and, believe it or not, he was actually excited about the uniform shirt he gets to wear!! More than all of this, you could see him come ALIVE again! We could see the spark in his eyes again and his confidence start to come back. Who knows what the year has in store for him! I am sure there will be lots of challenges, but I also, without a doubt, know that there will be successes as well.
As a parent there are so many tough decisions to make, and even though this was one of them, I know that it will be a blessing! And to all those who sent us text messages welcoming us to this new school family for Emerson – thank you! Whether it’s public school, private school, or homeschool, we all want our children to feel accepted and have a sense of belonging.