Meeting the Needs of the "Easier" Child
Towards the end of the summer, my daughter got exponentially more ready to go back to school with each day that passed. She began a countdown, started laying out her clothes, talking about who might be her teacher and what classmates she hoped to have. The day finally came where we could stop by the school and check the class lists, so we did a quick drive by. She was disappointed to find out that she was split up from pretty much all her friends, but we decided it would be fine and that she could use this as an opportunity to grow and make new friends.
School began and things were okay. She, as usual, did what she was asked, completed her work, and got along with her peers. But I began to notice that she never talked about school, and that is extremely unusual for her. She was droopy and reserved when I picked up every day. When I asked her what was going on, she didn’t have much to say about it, just that she wasn’t happy with the class she was in. There were several reasons for this, and there was no issue with her teacher, but at the end of the day, a kid who is connected, engaged and excited about school was rapidly losing her joie de vie.
I began giving some thought to asking for a class change. I contacted a teacher friend, my mother in law (a retired teacher) and another friend who had gone through something similar with her child and basically came to the conclusion that Cecilia’s base level happiness at school didn’t need to have some earth-shattering and dramatic reason to warrant being protected. She has been a model student since kindergarten, has made excellent grades, is a leader in the classroom and well liked by her peers. Fifth grade to her was the pinnacle of awesome and basically her perspective of it had been completely deflated.
So we contacted the principal and asked for a class change. I was nervous and felt a little weird pushing for something just because my child was not thrilled, but my position was this: There is no reason for a kid who loves school to fall out of love with school over something as minor as going into the class across the hall. For those of you who do not know, we have moved mountains for our son over the past few years and have gone to his aid more times than I can count. Currently, that effort is paying off as he is doing wonderfully this year, and I could not be any happier about that.
When thinking over all of this, it occurred to me that just because my daughter hasn’t had the same challenges and needs, doesn’t mean that her experience is any less deserving of the same dogged pushing that we did for Will. As a parent, it is instinctual to advocate for your child when they are struggling -- there was never a moment where I didn’t want to do a full court press for Will. Sure, it got to be exhausting, stressful, gut-wrenching and more, but that was okay. And I’m extremely proud of all of that and what was accomplished.
But my daughter needed us too, just not in such dramatic fashion. She could have remained in the same classroom throughout the year and been fine, I’m sure. She would have done her work, gotten along with her peers, been a good kid etc, but that’s not enough for us. I think we would be remiss in not having advocated for her as well, just because her issues weren’t as challenging. As parents, it’s hard not to let the “easier” kid just rock along; Cecilia has basically been grown since birth, so we’re used to her being pretty low maintenance. Will on the other hand, has had us hopping since he could walk. Neither is right or wrong, but both deserve equitable consideration.
Cecilia began in the new class this past Monday and is right back to her old self -- happy, skipping around, being silly and chattering away about school when she gets in the car every day. And I am again reminded to trust my instincts, and to keep vigilant watch over the emotional health of both children, especially when the needs of one are subtle in comparison to the needs of the other. And so it is with great hope as well as great caution that I say that this may be the best school year ever.
Photo Credit: knittymarie.