Kind of Like Junior High

I was talking with my sister yesterday about my sense of social awkwardness with regards to the other parents at Selam’s new school.  J made a good point.  Up until now, Selam (and I) have been surrounded by families like ours: families where all the parents work.  Elementary school is our first foray into the world where a lot of families have a parent who stays home,  or who works part time on a flexible schedule.  Consequently, Selam is the only child in her class to go to after-school care.  I’m not guessing this. I know this, because the bus schedule is posted in the room. Four children take the bus home, where there must be somebody waiting for them because kids in K-1 must be received by an adult over 18, no matter how old their siblings are on the bus.  And for after school care: just Selam.  I’m sure some kids are picked up by nannies or babysitters.  There’s one grandmother that I can see. But she’s the only kid headed to the JCC.

Now, don’t mishear me, I don’t think this is a bad thing–going to the JCC after school.  She is getting tons of exercise and will be taking swimming two times a week and ballet once a week, beginning soon.  She is surrounded by other kids who have two working parents, or only one parent who works. They are good at values-based guidance.  There is no television to be found.

But it does make her feel different.  Most of the children in her class live in the wide streets that surround the school, in big historic homes with towering trees shading their summers.  When we park on these streets so that I can walk her into class, she is vocally jealous of her peers who are riding their bikes to school, or tucked on the back of a parent’s bike.  She has asked me, three times already, if we can live next to the school soon.  Um, no.

And I feel out of place, too.  The mommy-daddy scene is very neighborhood based. The friendships run deep and long.  PTA committees meet at 10 a.m. I have worked out flex time to pick her up from school two days a week. On those days, I walk into the playground to wait for school to get out. There’s a large crowd of parents there already, with strollers bellying up to the front of the door.  I walk up to groups and conversation slows. It’s like Junior High.

I have such mixed feelings about this whole thing.  It’s a really good school, but we don’t really belong there, socially.  Part of me is the little junior high girl who just wants everybody to like me and my kid.

And part of me is fine with it.  I never want her to feel isolated, but I think it’s okay to feel different.  I think it’s okay to know the awkwardness of newness, of not quite fitting in.  I think or hope that if we can keep it in check, she’ll be a more compassionate kid for it.

On Wednesday, I picked her up at the JCC. She was playing a game with a blond boy whose eyes were still quite swollen.  “I have to go now,” she said. “But I’ll be back another day.  It can be really fun here. I will be your friend.” She gave him a hug, and then hugged me.

“It’s his first day,” the counselor said. “Selam has been a very good buddy to him.”

That’s my girl.


9 thoughts on “Kind of Like Junior High

  1. Wow. Well done! And may I point out that three of my beautiful, wise girls were involved. The other three are cheering you on (as well as the two token males).

  2. It all takes time but the hurts are so difficult. You are so wise in looking to the things that really matter. Selam is a wonderful child with a wonderful mother (not to mention her Aunt Juliena).

  3. I can totally relate to your experience. My daughter, Bereket just started kindergarten, and as a single, working Mom in a suburb of Boston there are many stay-at-home parents with other kids in the school. I’ve been to a couple meetings and feel rather out of place, but am forging ahead. I volunteered to be a room parent (I don’t have to actually be at the school. It involves organizing and calling from home after work) so I can get known and get to know the other parents. I’m of course also much older than the other parents… Bereket is doing great though (better than me). She’s also one of two kids from her class at the after school, but she’s playing with the older kids. Hang in there… I had similar experience with her pre-school and still became friendly with some parents. 🙂

  4. Our daughter went to a private Kindergarten, for the main reason that it was all day kindergarten instead of the normal 3 hours and then after school care was at the school itself. It was only $100 more per month to send her to all day K (lunch included) with after school care than it would have been to send her to the after school care at a 3 hour Kindergarten. That was a no brainer for us.
    Since then, she started first grade (and now second) and i lost my job-after 14 years there, so I am a forced SAHM. I would love to be working again, but hubby’s schedule changes ever 3 months, leaving him open to working any shift from 5am to 8pm Monday thru Sunday…ugh! I can’t even find work at Taco Bell without them expecting me to have a flexible schedule for the business, and not for my family. It sucks (to be very blunt about it).
    So, I suppose, what Im saying is, in this economy, many of those SAHMs might be forced into it, because of situations much like our own. I have to admit, I love being able to pick her up after school, and spend time doing things for her that I couldnt even imagine how I juggled it all in before…but if I could get another job to help pay for things, I would. And BTW, my daughter also feels like the odd kid out, but because she does NOT go to the after school care provided for children in her school…lol Guess the grass starts being greener at a very young age.

  5. I understand that, and please, I’m not trying to disparage SAHMs. It’s just a totally different culture when that is the norm (and at least one of Selam’s classmates has a SAHD and one other has two parents working half time so sometimes it’s dad and sometimes mom doing pick up.) I also fully suspect that there are at least a few in the crowd who are working from home or working part-time. The neighborhood surrounding the school, though, is VERY pricey (it was actually used in a sermon today as an example of wealth), so I highly suspect that most of these SAHMs are doing so on purpose. (Perhaps also because one of these mothers said, “we didn’t pay someone else to raise our children….” in response to a question about day care or pre-school. Nice.

  6. As a single working parent, I almost always felt a bit out of the mainstream–in my case it was more the single part than the working part that made us different, and the lack of a dad on the scene was really challenging when it came to things like Little League and Cub Scouts. But now that my kids are grown, I can tell you that the things that they remember are not the things that I worried about being difficult for them at the time, and I think that they did benefit from some of the experiences that made them different from the majority of their peers.

  7. This makes me want to tell the story of when we brought the sugar-laden cupcakes to the Woodside Picnic. Everyone else brought veggies and dip. They literally had 15 plates of veggies and dip. Jan hadn’t got the memo that THESE parents don’t bring STORE BOUGHT CUPCAKES with SUGAR (gasp) to the picnic. I dumpted them on a table and ran…. Almost no one talked to us. We didn’t go this year. Hold your beak up. It’ll get better. Before you know it a parent will sidle up to you and admit that they feel out of place too. That’s how the best friendships are born!

  8. I can really relate. My daughter started kindergarten this year and is the only kid from her class who goes to before care or after care. I was honestly completely surprised by this as it is the local public school in a pretty middle income/working class town. My daughter begs to be “a walker” and it does get to me, but I have no choice – I need to work and I also enjoy having a career. I have tried to explain both of those points to my daughter, but some days it just is what it is no matter how I try to spin it to her.
    Good luck to you and Selam.

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