Sayonara School! We quit school

After much looking around, anticipation, excitement and fanfare of starting preschool, we officially pulled Thad out of school today. He attended a grand total of 15 days.

Earlier in the year, we visited a couple of schools in the neighbourhood before narrowing our choice to two Catholic schools 10 minutes from home. Both reputable schools. Eventually, we enrolled him in one that reminded me a little of the playschool I attended back in the day.

 

Thad was really excited about school. All his life, he has heard that his cousins are at school. He wanted to go too! All summer long, we waited with great anticipation. We talked about school, bought school uniforms, school shoes and socks. We shopped for a lunchbox.

October 5th, Wednesday, finally arrived. We got dressed, had breakfast, packed our lunchbox, and trooped to school. We were so excited! We met the teachers, played in the courtyard, and sat with friends in the classroom.

October 7th, Friday, was the second day of school. Thad was to attend it alone, from 745am to 12noon. He skipped into class, no turning back for a goodbye mommy. We were surprised and relieved. When we picked him up, his teacher told us he did not cry at all, but asked for us when he saw his classmates crying. They told him we will pick him up soon. He asked where were we.

October 10, Monday, Thad refused to let me leave his classroom. We stayed with him till break time when we managed to say “See you later”, and with much hesitation from him, we were able to leave.

October 11 was a public holiday. October 12, Thad stayed home because he was unwell.

October 13, Thursday, I brought him to his table and as he settled in, I walked out of his classroom. He ran after me, only to be intercepted by his teacher, who proceeded to lock the door. My son was a wreck at pick-up. He wasn’t crying, but his smile was upside down. He hopped into my arms and went berserk. Crying, screaming, kicking, pulling and pushing, all at the same time. I held him tight through it all. In between sobs, he talked about how the door was shut and how he wants to break it.

October 14, Friday, Thad did not want to put on his school uniform, but he did after breakfast. We went to school and he did not want us to leave. Aware of how traumatic Oct 13’s parting was for him, we stayed with him for much of the morning, only leaving at break time, when he was playing with his friends. He cried, but was all smiles at pick up.

October 17, Monday, Thad went kicking and screaming into his classroom. As I handed him over to the teachers, I hugged him, kissed him, and told him I’ll be back to pick him up as soon as he finished playing with his friends, and I left quickly. I cried.

October 18, Tuesday, Thad went kicking and screaming, and pulling his teacher’s hair. I told him I’ll be back to pick him up, and left. I cried.

October 19, Wednesday. Thad walked to class and clung on tight to me as we hugged and said our goodbyes. I walked him to his table and left. He cried.

October 20 and 21, and the week that followed went well. As we said goodbye at his desk, Thad said to me that he cried previously because he wanted to say bye to me, but I had left. So he told me “Mommy, I love you. Bye!” and I left. He was holding back tears. Anxious. Overwhelmed.

 

While to the world it appears that Thad has “gotten the idea that he has to go to school”, for me, it seems more like “I had broken my child”. He stopped crying because he realised it was no use. Mommy was going to leave him in school, and there was no point crying because mommy isn’t coming back! CRY-IT-OUT.

What helped me justify it, was seeing him smile when we went to pick him up. He must be enjoying it somehow, right? But Thad was not eating his meals at school. Thad did not want to talk about his day at school. Thad was sick all month. We had to pick him up midway through school once because he had a temperature and refused medication (BRAVO!). Another time, he had vomited in class.

October 29 and 30 saw Thad with a high fever. We kept him home the days that followed even though his fever broke and he was good as new – sans the whining and crying – and eventually the entire week because we felt it in our gut to quit school.

This morning, we asked Thad how would he like it if we taught him at home. That he no longer had to go to school. YOU SHOULD HAVE SEEN HIS FACE. He had a smile you cannot wipe off. He was instantly a different child. No more whining! No more tantrums! He was so relieved!

If tomorrow never comes

Sweet Thad comes over and very politely asks: “Mommy? Will you come play with me please?”

“Not now Thaddeus. I’m busy.”

“Please mommy. You be the dumper truck and I’ll be the digger. Would you like that?”

“No Thaddeus. Can’t you see I’m doing something?”

“Please mommy. Will you come play with me for one minute?”

“Ugh. Thaddeus! I have to get this done! Ugh. Ok give me two minutes. Let me finish this and I’ll go to you. Go, go play on your own.”

Deflated, my sweet son walks away and plays on his own.

Sadly, this happens almost on the daily. And every night mommy guilt kicks in.

Mommy guilt is real 

How can I be too busy to be with my children? What could be more important and urgent than making memories with the person(s) who genuinely want my company?

Why do I take my frustration out on my child? Coworkers sure don’t give a damn if I don’t take my entitled break! But it would make my baby’s day if I sat with him for 10 minutes. 

What really bugs me though, is that I know all this. I know I should stop and drop and be with my children. But I don’t. I don’t want to wait till it is too late. I don’t want to wait till an accident hits too close to home. I don’t want to learn from pain and regret.

Actually, it has already hit too close to home. 

A grieving mother 

Today I heard the story from a grieving mother who lost her baby at summer camp (summer daycare) a year ago. Death by negligence, and the camp owner was sentenced to 6 months jail and a 100,000 Lebanese pounds (US$66.67) fine. (So many things wrong with this; but a rant for another time.)

Yesterday, another child was lost at a local summer camp here. Fingers are pointing everywhere, even at the parents. 

Check your judgement at the door

It is so easy for us to judge others. It is so easy for one parent to feel superior to the other. Breastfeeding moms against formula moms. Working mothers vs stay-at-home mothers. Helicopter parent and laid back parent. The list goes on. 

I am guilty of judging the other. I am usually very aggressive at advocating for breast is best. I judge mothers who choose to bottle feed and take “the easy way out”. I judge parents who let their children cry it out. I don’t understand why people choose to become parents and expect their lifestyle to remain the same. 

Maybe age has mellowed me. My priority of advocating for the children is still the same, but my approach to the parents has changed. These days, I’m not so quick to jump down their throats. Instead, I approach gently and try to understand the reason behind their choice. Then slowly unveil the beauty of the other side to them. 

Upon hearing the news of the incident, I didn’t care whose fault it was. My heart broke. I cried. For the mother. For the father. For the siblings. For his loved ones left to mourn him. 

Becoming a mom has soften me. My heart and head goes immediately to being in their position. 

Seize every moment

So today, I make a public pledge. I pledge to always hold my children. Immediately. For however long they want me to. My arms will ache. My back will hurt. Meals will be delayed. But my children, my children will be held. 

Being out in the heat annoys me. Getting dirty irritates me. But I will sit in the sun and play in the sand with my children. I’ll crawl and jump with them despite my own discomforts. Because I love them. I want to seize every opportunity to be with them.

They will know my life is for them. 

My life in Lebanon

I’ve been in Lebanon for almost 4.5 years. By choice, I have not learnt to speak Arabic. I still get frustrated with the system or lack thereof. I’m still not convinced this is where I want my children to grow up. 

Every one we meet asks us: “What are you doing here? So many want to leave. You can leave but you don’t?! You left, and you came back?!”

People who have left, cite the same reasons I want to go.

At the same time, I must admit that my life here is a peach! I honestly don’t think I can have the same lifestyle I have here if I were to live anywhere else in the world right at this juncture in our lives.

I am sure it helps that I am one to make the best of every situation we are in. To be happy wherever we are. 

Life is too short to be complaining about the country. Life is too precious to be spent wishing for greener grass. 

The reality is, I’ve been handed a good lot. A wonderful one. I’ve a loving husband with whom I’ve two beautiful children. We have a house and a car, both fully paid for. We don’t go hungry. We have clothes for all season and occasions. We have no debt. 

Every morning I drink my coffee while sitting on our furnished deck overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. My children buzz around me; Thad running his cars and trucks on the grass, while Elisabeth tries her darnest to sneak into the pool. 

As it starts to get hot outside, we head into our air conditioned home and potter around the house. 

Every afternoon, we’re back outside. The children jumping in and out of the pool while I lie on my back in the pool with my gigantic sunhat covering my face. 

My life really is pretty sweet.