Friday, August 30, 2013

The Private School Choice, Liberal Guilt, and the Truth about Gifted Children (hint: they exist)

The importance of nap time 
So, this hit Slate yesterday. Many of you have already read it. If you haven't, please do. We'll wait.

Ready? Good.

First, I'd like to point out that the writer, Allison Benedikt, does have children. Three of them.

A little research turns up the fact that just eight months ago, Mrs. Benedikt admitted to paying so much for preschool that they are unable to pay into their retirement accounts. $5000 per month seems pretty damn steep for preschool. If we want to talk about liberal guilt, maybe she should consider the fact that either of those is an option for her at all. A great many people, the very people whose children suffer when I remove my child from the public school system, according to Benedikt, can neither afford retirement savings or preschool. Perhaps she should tend her kids at home. I'm sure they'll be fine.

Please, spare us the hypocrisy.

Obviously, I'm taking this article rather personally. That's because my husband and I recently struggled with this very issue, and after years of debating it, we finally decided to live with our liberal guilt and do what's best for our child.

That doesn't make me a bad person. It makes me a good parent.

I take her article even more personally because she called out parents of gifted children in particular. And this is where I'm taking a stand.

This blog used to be about infertility, which is an elephant in the room in so many peoples' lives. But the really hard thing is speaking up about infertility. It feels too personal. It feels shameful. Which is why several years ago, I decided to break out of that and tell the world that I'm infertile! Gasp! Choke! Gag! It's part of my life, and I shouldn't have to hide it so that other people are always nice and comfortable with their own fertility.

Well guess what? The one child I managed to have is GIFTED. That's right, folks. He's straight up brilliant, the kind of scary brilliant that makes you look at the test scores and go "what the hell are we going to do?" He's the kind of gifted that the adults in his life need to be aware of in order to cope with him, and you damn sure need to be aware of it if you're going to be in charge of him, his education, and his well being for more than an hour.

I'm sick of hiding it. I'm sick of having to hide it so that other people don't feel bad. I'm sick of this attitude in our country where your needs are only legit if you are failing. I'm sick of this attitude in our country... well, as Benedikt put it
"Oh, but she’s gifted? Well, then, she’ll really be fine."
The fact is, gifted children are also special needs students. That shouldn't be reserved for those at the opposite end of the cognitive spectrum. Both ends of the spectrum actually have a lot in common in that they have unique educational and emotional needs that must be addressed in order for them to thrive. 

I agree with Benedikt on a couple things: It is the responsibility of every adult in this country to ensure that every child in this country thrives. I actually think that it's the responsibility of every adult on the planet to ensure that every child on the planet thrives. And, I agree that public education is a necessary system. I agree that it will take an enormous amount of active, public buy-in to fix the public education system. But, unlike Benedikt, my child spent years in the public education system and I finally had to do what is best for him and get him the hell out of there. Because he wasn't fine. After exhausting all other options, getting him out was the only way we could help him to be fine.

For years, we watched our child struggle in the public school system. We talked to his teachers, his principal, his counselor, and time and again were told that he was fine by pure proxy of being gifted. My son exhibited stress behaviors at school that we never saw at home. Things like eating the collars off his shirts and nervous nose picking until it became seriously infected. By the end of every weekend, he would be relaxed again, but the middle of every week those behaviors would return.

We were involved in the school. As Benedikt suggests parents should do, we put all our energy into helping the school thrive. We purchased materials for the classroom every time we went to Target. We begged his teacher to let us help in any way possible. We begged the school for resources. We begged the school district to support our school, our teacher, our son and help them help him. At every turn, we were told he'll be fine. 

Our son languished in a public school system where the teachers are so busy with children who don't get to eat except at school that the kids who are ahead and are safe are largely ignored. Our son chewed his clothes and infected his nose because he was pushed to the side and ignored every day. He was never challenged. He was never engaged. He was constantly told (by actions, not so much words) that he was fine, and he needed to stay out of the way so the rest of the class could learn.

At the height of his struggle, he told us that sometimes the teacher went days without ever speaking directly to him.

Here's the hard truth behind all this: She is a really good teacher, and it is a really good school. It's the public education system that really sucks.

And here's the flip side to the buy-in argument: By removing my child from that school, they are that much more capable to care for the children they have. By not having to worry about my son's needs, we've made room for them to better care for another child's needs.

The private school choice isn't an easy decision for every body. But I can have buy-in to the public education system even if my family doesn't participate directly. I participate by paying taxes. I participate by voting for candidates that I think/hope/pray will better fund our schools and better provide for our children. I participate through volunteering, and donating, and doing what I do for a living. Do I think I should run for school board if my child isn't in the public school system? No, I don't. I do believe that the people who make direct decisions for that system should be participating in it, and not have opted out. But I do still have a stake in the well-being of our public education system because I have a stake in the future of our country and our planet. I didn't give up my stake in the public education system just because I did the right thing for my own child. I can do the right thing for my child and still do my best for other children as well.

What Benedikt has yet to experience as a parent is the great many ways our public education system doesn't work and the great many ways a child can suffer in that system. I won't be surprised if, in five years or so, she writes another article about how sometimes parents have to swallow their liberal guilt and do what's best for their own children. I won't judge. I'll pat her on the back, pass her a drink, and welcome her to the ranks of bad people and parents doing the best for their kids with what they have.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Still in the Game!

So, it's been WEEKS and my legs still hurt a LOT. I can't run, they often hurt just when I'm sitting around. Yeah, that finish line is looking a long way off...

But, I still run as often as I can, even though there is terrible searing pain. And I aqua jog a few times a week. It does seem that my lungs and endurance are improving. So, when the time came last week to sign my re-commitment contract, I decided to go for it. I'll limp across the damn finish line and it'll take me eight whole hours, and I'll be proud as hell. Because it's been a long damn journey and I'M JUST GETTING STARTED.

LUCKY YOU! You can benefit from my pain! This week only, 10% of Kelly's Kids sales when you enter PARTY #14831 using this link: will support my Team in Training fundraiser! Obviously, this fundraiser is meant to be. Because only YOU can help your son look dapper and help usher in a new era of better-dressed men.

Don't forget, enter Party #14831 at checkout!  Thank you!