The phrase “packed in tighter than sardines” was in my head as Meghan and I tried to navigate the overcrowded local middle school fair tonight.
It was hot. Hotter than it should be October 9th, but exactly as hot as an overcrowded Public High School cafeteria is on your average fall day. It was stuffy, humid, and uncomfortable.
As we traveled from table to table, remarking how much easier it would be to see over the never-ending crowds if there were some signs indicating which school was where – we just tried to get a feel for the place, and for each table.
We went interested primarily in two schools, but open to read and learn about more. One school is small. It works off a lottery and opens only 150 seats a year. The other school has over 1100 students.
And as I pondered some pros and cons based on size alone, I was reminded of something a friend from work said a few months back. I may not have her exact words, but it was something to this effect,”The problem with where we live is that something becomes popular, just because a few people go there. Then it gets more popular, and more people go, but no one ever investigates the quality. It develops a reputation based on one feature, and people don’t look farther.”
There I was, one of those people. I kept saying I wanted my kid in the lottery for the school, “because its small.” I was not impressed by the people at the table. I was not impressed by the lack of information about the school. I was not impressed at all. I may still go to their open house, but it will be with a very open mind.
Then there was the other school. The one with 1100 kids and the principal himself standing in front of a well constructed information board. He answered questions, clearly, honestly and patiently. He spoke with confidence about the school. He invited parents in during the school day for tours. He looked every parent in the eye and spoke as if their child was the most important thing on his mind right then. And, even if he doesn’t remember any of them tomorrow, he proved himself to me. It’s difficult to fake the sincerity involved with shaking someone’s hand and looking them in the eye.
And we were about an hour in to this ordeal when Meghan’s knees began to give her trouble. Still pressing on – because that’s what she does – I knew time was of the essence.
I also knew it was time to have the conversation about “barrier free” schools. See, in the city of New York, most schools have multiple floors. This is fine for most kids, and for general physical fitness. But when your 10- year -old has already endured 4 knee surgeries…
There will be discussions about the IEP, about the 1:1 health paraprofessional, about the physical therapy, and about the appropriate placement for Junior High for my girl. Because wherever she goes, the Cowden’s Syndrome goes too. So we need to find a place where they are BOTH welcome.
Every which way I turned tonight I ran into old friends. There were some I haven’t seen since preK, and others we connected with at various points along the way. The kids are older now, almost young adults. I can still see them running on the lawn after PM session, or on the soccer field.
All of us looking, somewhat stunned, somewhat unsure of what the right place will be for our child.
As I drove past Lowe’s this weekend I saw a Christmas tree and almost got sick. “Wishing our lives away,” I thought to myself. Except tonight several hundred parents and children stood, on October 9, 2013 contemplating placements for September, 2014.
I find this just so ironic, considering mine is clearly not the only life that can’t plan a week in advance.
I put Meghan in a chair to rest her knees while I finished the last of my conversations with two lovely, helpful women. And as we began the trek back to the car I had a million questions racing through my head.
There is clearly a lot to do, and a lot to think about.
But, that will have to wait. Tomorrow’s appointment is in Long Island, and even when they try to fast forward my life, it reminds me that we can only travel one day at a time.