By Shauna Glenn
I knew when I became a parent it wouldn’t be easy. Besides the obvious thing, you know, taking care of a teeny tiny human being (who, by the way, didn’t come with an instruction manual), there were too many decisions to make. Which was
best? Cloth or disposable diapers? Breast milk or formula? Side sleeping or back sleeping?
I worried I would make the wrong decision. Seriously, I struggled with a questionable hairstyle at the time; I had to make decisions for someone else too? It was overwhelming.
Luckily, I had my mom and my mother-in-law and a handful of friends who’d traveled this road before me, so I leaned on them a lot.
It’s pretty much how I made it through those first years.
Over the next 11 years, I would have four children. Girl, girl, girl, boy. They range from ages 18 to 6. In school terms, I have a senior, a junior, a third grader and a kindergartener. To say that I never know if I’m coming or going would be the understatement of the 21st century.
When I think back to the early days of making (what now seem like ridiculously easy) decisions for my kids’ wellbeing, oh what I wouldn’t give to go back there.
Because one thing no one tells you about raising kids is this: They won’t necessarily “fit” into the same school. In fact, you might find yourself driving to three different schools (in different parts of town) so that each of your child’s individual needs is met.
That’s where I found myself.
When my two older daughters started pre-school and then elementary (they are 17 months, or one grade, apart), it worked having them go to the same school. But after a couple of years, it became clear that they had very different ways of learning.
At the time, I had them in a Montessori school. I love the Montessori philosophy, and I know it works for so many families. I’ve seen it. I’ve lived it. It worked for one of my daughters because she seemed to thrive on a less structured approach to learning.
It was the absolute worst kind of program for my oldest daughter, who, it turned out, needed a very structured environment. Later it was discovered she had ADHD, which made learning even harder for her.
After researching our options, we ended up finding a school that fit the needs of both our older daughters, and that worked for the next several years. It wasn’t easy, but somehow we made it work.
When my older daughters were 8 and 6, I had my third daughter, and then added my son three years after that.
During that time, my oldest daughter continued to struggle with ADHD. So again I was in search of an even MORE structured learning environment.
That left me driving to two different schools. It was tough, but I had no idea just how hard it would get.
When my third daughter became school age, I found a school that I felt she and her brother could grow up and thrive in, because if I’d learned anything by now, it was this: You can’t just look at this year or next year. You have to look ahead — three, four years down the road. And ask yourself these questions: How does my child learn? Does my child need structure? Or will he or she fit in an educational setting that lets him or her work at his or her own pace?
Long story short …
I drove to three different schools for three years. I put a million miles on my car and spent most of my money on gas. Every day was like a day at the beach.
You know how most parents cringe at the very thought of their teenagers driving? I threw a citywide parade.
Now, it doesn’t matter that my kids go to three different schools. I only drive the little ones to ONE school, and I’m telling you — if my 10-year-old could see over the steering wheel, I might consider letting her drive herself and her brother the six miles every morning and afternoon.
I’m not even joking.
illustration by Charles Marsh