Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The First Days

I find myself facing the new school year with a bit of relief for the first time in four years. Although my daughter's former school had much to recommend it, there was a certain unrealistically hight level of expectation to which we as parents were held.

The problem may be all in my head (no doubut it was at least partly in my head). But a simple set of rules was never quite enough--the rules were rigidly, strictly enforced. And a simple call for volunteers was never enough. There was constant pressure, reminder emails, surveys, committees that needed help. And nor was a hefty tuition payment sufficient. No, there were as many phone calls and emails and hand-written letters and postcards all asking for donations. The uniforms were policed to the level where there were exactly two specific styles of shoes in the whole school: one for the girls, one for the boys. We were expected to label every pencil, every marker, every crayon in the box of school supplies. And it was rare that a nightly homework assignment came home that did not require an equal amount of active participation from the parent as well the child.

It was a lot of work. The school prides itself on the level of achievement of its pupils. No doubt. Any kid with the sheer amount of resources and energy behind them cannot help but succeed. (At least until they are set free and required to achieve their own goals using only their own energy and resources).

I don't expect parenthood to be easy. And I don't expect our new school to be lax where they need to be strict. They still have uniforms, they still need volunteers, there will still be hopeful requests for donations (though so far I have seen more information on applying for scholarships than on demands to fund them). There will still be homework that will still require our help.

But I hope there will also be some breathing room. Some expectation that we as parents have multiple responsibilities, and those responsibilities are not all focused on our children. We have jobs and other commitments too. Our money only goes so far. Our label makers only print so fast. And our children need to learn to keep track of their crayons without relying on a nametag. And to be able to choose from an appropriate set of choices when getting dressed in the morning, instead of always donning the one prescribed option.

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