Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Feeling Like a Bad Mom

I don't want for Brian to go the Charter school next year, and I want for him to go to the Charter school. Yeah, contradictory beliefs are a problem, but contradictory desires are just a fact of life.

So here's the long, rambling recording of my internal debates about what to do with Brian next year.

Our Town High:
1,700 students in grades 9-12. That is not of course evenly distributed as there is a significant, though not record-breaking, drop-out rate. Good marching band, jazz band, and drama programs. Pretty good AP classes. Takes seriously the drug and gang problem, which means that it doesn't go away, but they are pretty good at keeping it off campus. Pretty much. Andrew, in his band and college prep schedule barely noticed it. David heard about gang activity from other kids all the time, "This last weekend my cousin..." Evan reports that drug deals may be negotiated on campus but never actually transacted there. Possibly important fact: there are two middle schools which feed in to the high school.

Charter School for the Arts:
K-12, smaller. I'm not certain how much smaller, but I can't imagine that there are more than 200-300 high school students. Possibly less. Schedule allows student to take more arts, but programs are not better, probably they are worse. In drama class, for instance, you don't just have kids who want to take drama. The class is required and many of the students are musicians who don't want to be there. Also there are quite a few kids there who are not particularly interested in the arts; their parents just want them out of the big schools. Sometimes I think it should be called "The Magnet School for the Anxious and Depressed." Even though our motivation for sending Brian there was his anxiety, he understands himself to be one of the students who actually cares about the arts.

If he goes to the Charter school he can take MORE art classes, but if he goes to the local high school he can take BETTER music or drama classes. He won't be able to be in Marching Band, Jazz Band, and Drama, but he could do two of them. Doing two would mean starting school at 7:00am.

I've been encouraging him to go to the Charter school for freshman year at least, hoping that he might stay for the entire time. He is willing to go at least one semester and see what high school there is like, and what the new building will be like. He seems to be thinking though that he will probably switch to the Our Town High eventually. However, if he is going to switch back, it might make sense to do it at the beginning of the freshman year (i.e. next year). Everybody will be new to the school, and half the kids won't know the other half.

He has been better this year. His anxiety has been a lot lower. He still calls me every other week, though not every other day, to complain about some injury or symptom. I have been good about telling him to stick it out and he does. He also just seems more mature. He is making friends. Of course all those friends are in the next town and he doesn't get to see them outside of school. And one of the kids in the car pool has been Brian's friend since they were babies. This friend though is increasingly a bad influence. I swear he is going to be the first to experiment with alcohol. He is a charismatic type and, though I don't think it is malicious, he sort of takes over all of Brian's friends. From his point of view he is probably welcoming them into his circle. Still, it means that Brian remains one of the satelites around the Kid-most-likely-to-become-a-bad-influence. All the worst things Brian has done in his life he has done at this kid's instigation. Brian defends him. Even when he was four he defended him, "Well, he put the idea in my head, but once it was there, I wanted to do it too." This kid's mother (M2) really wants to keep him out of the big high school because she wants to keep him away from the gangs and drugs. Given that I think her son is the sort likely to experiment with whatever come his way, it is probably a good idea for him.

But Brian has been better.

And the $64,000 question is: did the school make him better really or is his "betterness" dependent on the smaller school? If he goes to Our Small Town High, will he take this new ability to cope with stress and make friends, or will he revert? And here is an upsetting thought: is he better because there are no foster kids in the house? I have never thought that was the problem. It was always school that made him anxious and he was always fine at home. But still, it is one of the things that has changed. I don't want that to be it, but I have to consider it. I do know that increased separation anxiety, often manifesting as more sick days in older kids, is a factor among fostering children.

If he leaves the Charter School, he can't go back. So probably he should stay for a while, except that he would miss the freshman year experience when the teachers are actually trying to help the kids adjust and all the kids are making friends with each other.

And then there is the car pool. Oh dear lord, I hate the car pool.

There are three families. In the other two families, both parents do some of the driving. Roland can't drive hardly at all. He just can't. One of the families can only do three shifts a week, which means that I alternate between three and four shifts a week.

And one of the mothers (M3) is a pain. Of course she is the mom who has two kids in the car pool and yet can only take three shifts a week. M3 won't support the kids riding the bus. M3 doesn't want Andrew to drive. She sends me nasty emails if I tell her kids to stop insulting my kid. Okay, that was an exceptional case, but she has made it very clear that I am not to correct her kids, I should just tattle on them so she can punish them. (That is so not my parenting style. I verbally correct kids when they are doing something. A sort of "Stop! Think! What should you be doing?" I almost never punish.)

M2 is giving the pitch for the charter school. She tells me how absolutely horrible Our Small Town High is, apparently forgetting or not caring that I have had four boys attend there and might know something about its strengths and weaknesses. She also keeps pointing out that when the Charter school moves to the new location they will be right by the freeway and that will make the commute so much easier. So far I have NOT pointed out that only she and I live near the freeway. The commute will not take less time if we still have to drive to the south end of town to pick up the bitch's M3's kids. M2 has been carpooling with M3 before I came along, and most certainly would not ditch her, even if I was the sort who could do a "pick her or me" thing. Previously I thought the public, inter-county bus was going to be more convenient for the kids at the new location. It looks like I was wrong. They won't be able to get there on time. Catching the bus will mean walking three blocks very quickly and crossing a 4-lane road. Actually, in order to cross the road at a safe point they will have cover 5 blocks in less than 15 minutes. So...that probably won't work.

I keep thinking that car pool shouldn't be that bad, but it isn't just the time. I end up with two or three afternoon shifts, and I have to leave work at 2:15 to do them. On one hand, I don't have classes or even official office hours on the afternoons that I leave, but it is still uncool. In previous years was slightly defensive about leaving at 3:30 every day when there were new kids in the house. I reminded people that I get here at 7:00am and spent as much time in the office as they did. Still, I was always the first person out. 2:15 is ... well... it is 2:15. Even in Academia that is an early to be cutting out.

I did have the fantasy of telling the other parents that I was just going to be out of afternoon car pool. I would take a turn in the morning, but my kid was riding the bus in the afternoon, but that was before I took a really good look at the map and the schedule.

Am a terrible person for wanting Brian to go to Our Small Town High so that I don't have to carpool? Shouldn't Brian's needs come first?

But what are Brian's needs? If I send him back to Our Small Town High and he starts calling me four times a week with nausea and anxiety begging to come home I will kick myself. It is not unimportant that he does want to go the larger high school. He seems willing to go back to the Charter school because we want him to, but he wants into the large high school's band and drama programs.

Can anyone look into the future for me? If Brian goes to Our Town High, will he be happy to be involved with a great drama department that puts on really good plays (for high school). Will he make friends? Are the improvements he has made really part of him? Will they stick?
Should I keep car pooling?

Should I send him back to Our Town High but not take any more children in until I see how he does? A year ago I would have insisted, did insist, that the fostering was not part of the problem. Brian's counselors and doctors agreed. But what if it is?

It would be so much easier to do the right thing if I knew what the right thing was.

Maybe sending him to the local big school and taking a year off from care is the smart thing to do. The foster care system isn't going to go away. There is even something attractive about giving myself time off from waiting by saying "don't call."


That sound you hear, is a small, sad sigh.


  1. Is it worth it to maybe HIRE a college student to do your shifts? Would that relieve some of your carpool headache? Because if you resent having to carpool, brian is definitely going to sense that.

  2. Can you make Andrew being a part of the car pool a condition of your continuing in the car pool? Your needs are as important as the other parents' in the pool. So stand up and say "I cannot do afternoons. Andrew can. If you want to car pool with us, Andrew will be driving our 3 shifts." Of course, this assumes you can actually do this w/o being in the carpool if M3 says absolutely not. Or are there other people you can carpool with? Maybe the school would help fix you up with other families.

    Can the kids take earlier and later buses? (How often does the bus run?) I can't believe that no other children attending the school don't take the city bus. Perhaps they've already made an allowance for children to arrive late because of the bus schedule? It's too bad they don't allow for it in their start/end times.

  3. Once the weather gets better I am going to give Andrew one or two shifts. M3 can have her kids sit and wait an hour for their dad or she can get over it. I am ready to do that. That won't work next year as Andrew plans to be away for college.

    As for the bus, well, most of the kids live in that city and ride the school bus system. It is just those of us who coming in from out of district who have this problem. When I pick up the kids I don't notice anyone else who seems to be carpooling, which surprises me.

    Anyway, the public bus that goes from where I live to near the school just doesn't run early enough for them to get to school on time. After that they run every hour. Right now the bus comes about 20 minutes after school lets out. There is no shelter, not even a building nearby, so even I haven't been wanting them to wait for the bus in the winter. Next year like I said they would probably not be able to make the bus that comes by soon, and the next bus is not for an hour.

    Yeah...no good options next year. Looking for someone else to car pool is an option, I suppose. There don't seem to be many people coming from this part of the county though.

    The only other option I can think of is making arrangements for the all the kids to stay late and wait for the dad who gets off work an hour later. I suppose we could ask for them to do homework in the detention room, or maybe volunteer with the elementary-age kids who get out an hour later. Somehow I don't see the other parents or kids going along with that. There has been a lot of resistance to every idea I have proposed.

  4. Why can't he go back to the charter school if the public one doesn't work out?

    I know that part of your decision is being based on wanting him to start school when he will not be the only new kid, but IMO being the only new kid can be a huge advantage. "Only" new kids can get the attention they need to acclimate.

  5. When you find that crystal ball can I borrow it? Please?

  6. You're not a Bad Mom.

    You are more of a Mom to me than my own is or ever will be and I am very confident in saying that.

    As for the charter school debacle, I haven't seen Brian as happy and as stress free as I think he can be while going to that school...with my limited exposure of course, but I think he could not handle the social structure of Our Little Towns high school.

    Its rough, and I did Ok - minus the things I went through normal high school worked for me, but I don't see Brian doing wonderfully in a standard school if not harsh High School experience. Its not fun for anyone but I don't know if anything positive would come from him switching.


    Back to my Five Page Essay of DOOM...

    And well - you know how I feel about you stopping care!


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