Friday, March 15, 2013

Hogwarts, Here We Come!

There are times in a mother's life that her children cause her extreme joy: those first steps, the first time they say mama, that first 'A' they bring home on a paper, the day they graduate, the day they get married... and on a random Thursday in the middle of a middle school science lab during an open house. There are also times in a mother's life that her children cause her extreme pain: the fall after those first steps, that first 'F' they bring home on a paper, the first time they break curfew... and on a random Thursday in the middle of a middle school library during an open house.

A few months ago my kids both tested for the GATE program (Gifted and Talented Education). The Ginger's test scores came home accompanied by a piece of paper we had to sign to have him be taken out of class once a week for about 90 minutes to do GATE-related activities next year (he'll be in the 3rd grade). I was very proud of him, signed the paper and went to open The Girl's test result envelope. Her paperwork included a few more sheets of paper, with an application for her to attend a special middle school next year (she'll be in 6th grade). Upon thoroughly reading everything that came in this envelope, we found that The Girl scored in the top 99% of the GATE test and therefore qualified to go to a GATE middle school, where all of the students in the program were nerds like her scored within in the top 90% or above on this test.

Basically, my daughter got accepted to Hogwarts or Sky High, her special power being super-smart intelligence. And this nerdy mama was extremely proud. I signed her paperwork and marked the calendar with the middle school's open house, so we could truly see what we were getting her into.

Last night was the open house. We showed up, and as the cafeteria filled with perspective students, I looked around and became very confused. I leaned over to The Girl, who looked nervous as hell:

Me: Honey, is there anyone from your school here?
The Girl: Nope.
Me: Are you sure?
The Girl: Yes, Mom, I'm sure. I'm the only one. No one else in my grade is going to this school next year. I've asked.
Me: Do you know what that means, honey?

The Girl: Yeah, it means none of my friends will be here.
Me: Sweetheart, it means that you are the only kid in your entire school that qualified to go to this school next year... the only one.

The tears started then, but as the 6th grade orchestra started playing, I quickly brushed them away and started picturing The Girl and her violin on that stage next year, welcoming in the newbies.

We were split into groups, and we started our tour learning about the program this school is a part of that integrates art, music and dance into the regular lessons so the kids are truly absorbing the information being taught (brilliant, right?). Next we moved to the school's library, which was actually larger than the library we have here on base. During this transition from the class to the library, The Girl had tears in her eyes, too.

The Girl: I don't want to go here next year. Can we just leave, please?
Me: WHAT? What do you mean you don't want to go here? *I* want to revert back to the 6th grade and go here next year!
The Girl: I just don't, Mom. I won't know anyone and my friends aren't here.

As we approached the library, I had began a Mom Lecture about how much of an honor this was and how she didn't need to have her friends hold her back... when Hubby tapped me on the shoulder and reminded me we were in a public place and the lecture could wait, so I shut up. I watched as The Girl refused to even explore the library like the other kids, and stood in the corner by the door with her arms crossed, trying to sneak away, tears in her eyes.

My blood started to boil. We are having this huge issue in our house right now where The Girl puts her friends above everything- herself, her family, her chores and now she was trying to do it with her education. I understand she is at that age, but holy crap, there is a line somewhere that she has leaped over. She was standing there, closed-minded (and I did NOT raise closed-minded children, thank you; they grew up in a tattoo shop for crying out loud), not even giving this school a chance, because none of her friends were going to be there next year... the same friends who she will see everyday after school... the friends she does stupid things with that gets her grounded.

Hubby saw how frustrated I was, hugged me, and we continued the tour to the science lab. The Girl and The Ginger were ushered off into a separate lab with a bunch of the existing GATE students so just the parents could talk. The teachers ran through a quick slideshow about how this part of the school only deals with the top 10% of kids in Tucson, how most of the kids go on to attend University High School (never heard of it, but I'm thinking 1- It's pretty prestigious and 2- It really is Sky High where my daughter will learn to hone her super powers), and how they are the only school to boast a 100% teacher participation rate in the PTA because their teachers actually care. That's when the water works started for me. Thank goodness they turned off the lights to show us this powerpoint presentation, because I was a balling baby bitch in the back of that room. The more they talked about the electives students had to chose from (orchestra, band, economics, drama, computer sciences and more- in the 6th grade), how the teachers in the different subjects collaborate on projects so the kids are learning 2 subjects at the same time, and how they don't weigh the kids down with homework because they encourage sports or extracurricular activities, the more I cried. My daughter had an amazing opportunity in front of her, something I wish I'd had as a kid, and all she could concentrate on was how her friends wouldn't be attending the same school. She couldn't even see that she'd make new friends at this school... friends that were just like her.

When we left the open house, there was pretty much no talking to The Girl. She cried, begged to attend the school all of her friends were attending, and couldn't find one good thing about the school we had just visited.  In the end, we told her that it was not a democracy, that she would be going to this school, end of story. I understand the possible consequences of forcing a child to do something that she is so heavily against, but as parents, our job is to do what's best for our children. If that means making her go to a school she doesn't want to attend, then sobeit. I can't for the life of me figure out how a child of mine could be so blinded by something like her friends to where she couldn't even see how much of an honor it was to have been accepted to this school; to see how she was the only child in her school that got accepted; to understand that this was her future, and she was trying to compromise it for people that she may not even be friends with next week or next year or 5 years from now. I have to say that I was having a seriously proud moment as the mom of a brilliant child who just got accepted to an elite school at the age of 11, but was disappointed in myself for wherever I went wrong in raising her that she couldn't pride in this accomplishment of hers.

This is what parenting is all about, isn't it? Having your child make you cry tears of joy one second, then do something that makes you want to ground them for the rest of their lives the next second? Good grief, this roller coaster sucks some days. My kid got accepted to Hogwarts a prestigious middle school, for crying out loud, she's a freaking genius, and all she can concentrate on is how her friends won't be there as she figures out her superpowers learns new things. Nevermind that apparently she's destined for more. Nevermind that she'll make new friends who have superpowers scored just like her on the test. Nevermind that this made her mama the most proud mother EVER in the history of proud mothers. Nope. None of that matters to her.

Once she did calm down, she told us that she didn't want to play the violin in the orchestra, that she wanted to play the saxophone in the jazz band (the 4th and final stop on our school tour). So, she was starting to see the positive in this school. She has until August to become one with the idea of attending this school. Fingers crossed she gets it.

And Hubby and I are going to try and figure out how to Billy Madison this thing and go to this school ourselves. As we were entering the band room last night, we seemed to be on the same page:

Me: Holy crap, this school is awesome. If I had a program like this when I was going to school, I might have actually finished my college degree when I attended.
Hubby: If I had been in a program like this, I might have actually gone to college.

Apparently we said it a little loud, because the guy behind us shook his head, smiled and started snickering. I couldn't quite tell if he was laughing at us, with us, or if he could totally relate.

Yeah, you can't take us anywhere... especially when I'm walking around this middle school with its academic trophies on display and its oil paintings done by students, and I'm having nerdgasms every 3 seconds.

That's right... nerdgasms...

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  1. First of all many Congrats to you and your family!! That's a huge accomplishment. And I really think you are doing the right thing in forcing the change. Years from now she will thank you (although maybe not verbally) for giving her a chance to prove her awesomeness to THE WHOLE FLIPPING WORLD!! You should be so proud Mama!!

    1. Thank ya, ma'am! I need to push her now so she can take care of me in the future, lol! ;)

  2. Congratulations to both of your kids. They will have amazing opportunities ahead of them. Your daughter will come around. It's hard for girls at this age - I have an eleven year old and she still grumbles sometimes about the fact that we took her out of her old school to put her in one that was more academically challenging. But, she never complains about being bored, and she has made great friends. One day she'll thank us. I think.

  3. You didn't fail as a parent, there are going to be things about The Girl that she figures out on her own. She decided on her own that her friends were more important than this opportunity. I did, and am still doing the same thing. Whether she is right or wrong is for you to explain to her. Usually though she will need to figure that out on her own especially when it's something she came up with.