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We Packed Up And Moved Because My Gut Said This School Wasn’t Right For My Child

kid doesn't like school


Parents make thousands of decisions every day.

Some small: Yes, you can wear those socks even though they are mismatched and in no way coordinate with your outfit.

Some bigger: No, you can not eat cookie dough for breakfast. Again.

Some non-negotiable: You will not use your phone at the table – ever.

Sometimes we make good decisions:, and sometimes not so much. In most cases, we don’t have time to reflect on the quality of our multiple decisions – we just plow ahead, do our best, and pray we are on the right track to raising healthy and fabulous children.

Trust me. I can regale you with a treasure trove of anecdotes featuring bad decisions that I have made as a mom. Times when I thought I was doing the right thing, and it backfired. Times when I was too tired to be thoughtful, and how long it took to clean up the literal or metaphorical mess afterwards. And yet. Sometimes I nail it.

My daughter graduated from a small, private school last spring, and the adventure of public high school loomed in her future. We live in a lovely school district, and our home address is connected to an award-winning, exemplary high school. We have enjoyed the school’s state-of-the-art facilities, attending sports camps and watching outstanding theater productions throughout the years. In fact, the high school was one of the major draws in purchasing our home twelve years ago.

And yet. At Freshmen Curriculum night, as we walked past the gleaming trophies in the hallway, something felt amiss. While the school on paper and the school in person seemed fine, my heart was unsettled.

Through my mind’s eye, I could not picture my daughter there.  She does not sport the requisite long-haired ponytail nor wear the ubiquitous black leggings of her peers; she dons athletic pants and has a pixie haircut. She is athletic and quiet. She is good in math but struggles with reading. She loves Marvel and Star Wars and (shh!) Legos.

As I looked around, I did not see where she would fit.

I was troubled. So, we crashed a neighboring school’s freshman night, which on paper, was … less. In fact, in the hierarchy of the high schools in the district, people speak of it as if it were the ugly step-sister of Cinderella.

The facilities were not as fancy; the statistics were less impressive. The sports teams rarely dominated any sport. When we walked the halls, there were fewer awards and less polish. If my daughter attended there, she would neither be in the majority race nor speak the dominant language of the student population.

And yet. This place felt right. It felt more “normal.”

As in – a student is encouraged to be in band and (gasp!) play multiple sports  – you are not pressured to specialize as a 14-year old. As in – a teenager does not have to have a club-sport resume in order to make a team. As in – joining a club to have fun is honored over joining a club to pad your college application.

The students there did not look like stereotypical suburban cookie-cutters. I felt a positive energy and pride that emanated from the staff and students that seemed an ideal fit for my child.

And yet. Was it crazy to pack up and move because of a mom’s “gut feeling?” Was I being irrational because she is my first child to go to high school? Am I just a nutty control freak?

To be honest, my daughter was ambivalent about where she went. She trusted me to make the right decision. And let’s agree that my husband’s strength is not his decision-making. He was nonchalant – neither for nor against a change. He trusted me to make the right decision. THEY TRUSTED ME.

The decision felt big. I’ll spare you the details of endless sleepless nights, parent interrogations, and staff interviews. How multiple doors slammed after I petitioned the district office for months to allow my daughter to attend another high school.

Our only avenue, we were told, was to move. And it was the end of July.

I often joke that moms know and do everything, but my word.

I woke up on July 30 and knew it was time to take the plunge. In 48 hours, I rented an apartment, changed my driver’s license, bought a village parking sticker, and legally registered my daughter in the new high school. When I imagined that one day I might have two addresses, my fantasy included a second home in Paris or Aspen or the Caribbean – not one located but  1.7 miles away from my home.

School started in August. Fast forward six months later, and I am blessed enough to know that – hallelujah! – we made the right choice. She needed a niche, and she found it in athletics. She played volleyball and basketball, and softball tryouts are next week. Her coaches have been amazing people who are not driven to win the state title, but work to develop character through athletics. Her teachers are amazing and supportive. For a daughter with the challenges of dyslexia and ADD, she is rocking a stellar GPA.

Was the other school bad? Absolutely not. Would she have found her place there? Perhaps. However, when I see her proudly wearing her spirit wear wherever we go, when I see her smile when talking about class, and when I reread her heartfelt teenage note thanking me for making her a Wildcat, I know this decision was true.

So, while we tackle the task of readying our house to sell, I take solace in knowing our choice has set her on a great path for her future. And even though on the first of every month when I pay my mortgage and rent and feel like I am taking a pile of cash and setting it on fire, I am warmed to know this investment is one of the best I will make.

You know your child – her heart, her strengths, her challenges. When your heart speaks to you, listen. Sometimes the big decision is the very one you need to make. And sometimes you nail it.


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One Comment

  1. Gloria Aguirre says:

    OMG! THANK YOU SO MUCH for this article. I am currently in the EXACT situation- my daughter is already a freshman at what i have the gut feeling of the wrong school. I have been researching our opinions and have spent countless nights hoping I make the right decision for her. I am a single parent with no input from her father. This put the burden on me even more to choose what is best for her and give her the BEST possible opportunities to succeed. Thank you, thank You!

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