I finally got the letter I had been expecting in the mail today. I had actually expected it about a month ago. It was the dreaded truancy letter. My kid has missed a whopping 20 days of school. The irony of it all is that only two of them have been for illness. The rest were just because he hates school. I know there are a lot of good parents out there who make their kids go to school and get pissed off when they come home with grades lower than an A, and I applaud you people. You are raising the doctors and scientists of the world. Bravo! And maybe one day my child will walk in to school and something fabulous will happen or he will have a teacher that changes his life like Mrs. Burchard, my eighth grade teacher, who instilled a love of literature in me that I carry to this day. But thus far, that has not happened. What has happened is he has basically had a four day school week almost every week this year, it seems. I know, I know! I’m a terrible mom and I completely accept responsibility, but I feel like the system completely sucks and I don’t feel like teaching kids only the information that is going to be on the annual standardized test is what’s in his best interest always. He may have missed 20 days, hell, I actually think it’s probably closer to 25, but what they don’t see on paper is the wonderful human being he is. I don’t give a shit if he has all A’s and perfect attendance if he goes out into the real world and is a little asshole. But here’s a thing or two that will not show up on his report card or attendance record:
Every time we go out to eat, he puts our leftovers in a box and gives them to the homeless.
Every night that I am not working, which lately has been every night of the week, after I’ve cooked dinner and told him it’s ready, he comes into the living room (because we don’t have a dining room) and eats with me. Not because I force him to, because he wants to. Because he doesn’t want me eating alone. I don’t care if he eats in his room and plays video games while chatting online to his friends, but he chooses to eat with me.
He opens the door for me (and others) wherever we go. He says “please,” “thank you,” “I’m sorry,” and says “bless you” when someone sneezes.
He goes to visit his grandma without being forced.
He recently told me his brother needs to work on his credit score because he won’t be able to buy a house if his credit is only a 400.
He recycles. He knows how to compost. He helps around the house. He is considerate.
And most recently, when I took off and went to Florida for the weekend, I left him $100 because he wanted a pair of joggers (you know those super ugly, super tight sweat pants?) and maybe a pair of shoes. When I called him Saturday night to see what he bought, he told me, he went to the barber shop with three of his friends to get his hair cut and they needed haircuts too, but they didn’t have any money. So he paid for all of them, plus a tip for the barber. That was half of his money and then he bought them all food which left him with less than half of what I gave him to spend on himself. He ended up going to the local “shoe guy” who sells his old “new” shoes to people and that’s how he got his shoes. He never did get the joggers.
He’s kind to everyone. He sticks up for the special kids when the other kids want to be mean. He has a great sense of humor. He is a light in this sometimes dark world.
And guess what? He didn’t learn any of that while sitting in a classroom. I get it that school is important and if he wasn’t passing all of his classes, I might be a little more concerned, but as far as I am concerned, at this moment, there are learning opportunities all around. They don’t all have to take place in a classroom. Do I wish he loved school? Of course. It breaks my heart that I have to force him to pick up a book. And maybe I should force him to go to school when he wakes up and says he’s just not feeling it today, but if I do that, then he will do what other kids his age in this neighborhood are doing. He will be out roaming the streets all day. He might run in to the wrong crowd. He might start selling drugs or get shot or any of the other things that are happening on the news to teenagers. At least when he’s not at school, I know where he is. And when I have to go in front of a judge, which hopefully I won’t because school is almost out, I will tell him the very same thing. Plus, if my kid can miss 20 days of school and still be passing, maybe mine is not the only system that is failing. If I have to choose, I’ll take a good kind truant child over a little asshole with perfect attendance any day, because quite frankly I don’t have the energy to make both work. A lot of people have told me that they had the same middle school experience and once they hit high school, everything changed. I hope that is the case, because, even though jail is on my bucket list, I just don’t have time for that right now.