The last few days have been busy ones filled with registration papers, book bag shopping and lunchbox packing. For the first time in 9 years I am the mom of a “traditional” public school student. Gracie attended a local school for kindergarten but then we took her out in 1st grade to teach her at home using a cyber school. It was a huge leap of faith at the time and I entered it with a fair amount of fear and reservations but it turned out to be one of the best parenting decisions we ever made. Molly and Rusty have only known being taught at home. Tyler came to us having attended a behavioral school for kindergarten but when he was placed with us we were told we could cyber school him as well…much to our surprise and delight. We weren’t sure what the judge would decide to do about Ozzie’s education. We suspected the court would require a traditional learning environment until his adoption was finalized and we were correct. So on Tuesday I began navigating the unfamiliar waters of enrolling a child in my local public school. The biggest challenge was tracking down all the paperwork required for enrollment and filling out papers about past history when I wasn’t part of that past history. Ozzie faced the enrollment of school with mixed emotions. He loved his old school and was devastated about having to leave the teacher and friends he loved behind but the thing he was most upset about was leaving his school orchestra where he played cello. Our local school doesn’t offer orchestra at this age. I knew he was also nervous about a new school and being the new kid. Growing up as an Army brat I could sympathize with his fears of moving into a new school. His anxiety was made worse by an accident that happened on Monday…
When Ozzie came to us the first time for a visit his two front teeth were broken. He had fallen over the handles of a scooter and chipped them at his foster home. His broken teeth were a source of teasing at school and something that he was insecure about. The second time he came to visit us he proudly showed off his newly bonded teeth that had been recently fixed. On Monday, as he was playing with the Ipad, he jerked the Ipad up as he played a game and hit himself in the mouth. Immediately he started to scream and cry as he felt his tooth and realized it was broken. He came running to me with his hand holding his mouth. “I broke my bonding,” he cried. “I can’t start my new school now. All the kids will make fun of me.” My heart broke for him. I knew it had been something he struggled with at his old school and now he was going to have to start at a new school with the same insecurities. I called his social worker, reported the accident, and was told it would probably take a couple of months to get him an appointment at the office where the work was done. There was nothing I could do except love on him and reassure him.
The next day we had an appointment to tour the school. Ozzie woke up excited. When it was time to leave we left the other kids at home in the care of Gracie. We drove to his new elementary school. It is a small country school about 5 minutes away. I think I was more nervous than he was. Unsure of how we were going to successfully navigate this public school world I wished that I could keep him home with the others. When we arrived we were greeted by name and the guidance counselor came into the office to give us a tour. As we walked around the school Ozzie was welcomed by the staff and the kids. He was impressed by the library, the music and art room and the playground. He kept saying that this was the “coolest school ever.” “It is like a mansion!” he kept exclaiming. The guidance counselor found his enthusiasm endearing. Our final stop was at his classroom where he met his teacher and classmates. He was shown where he would sit and where the cubby was to hang his coat.
The school is small. There are 300 students in grades K-5th. I was impressed. I think it will be a nice fit for Mr. Ozzie. As we were leaving the secretary told Ozzie that she looked forward to seeing him the next day.
Ozzie replied, ” I like your school a lot but I think I’ll wait until Thursday to start. I’d like to sleep in one more day.” 🙂
After touring the school we stopped at the store to pick out a backpack since he didn’t come with one. He wanted a one shoulder bag and we found one. We also picked up stuff to pack for his lunch.
The next day Ozzie did begin school but due to a 2 hour delay for cold temperatures it was a shorter day and he was able to sleep in. He was able to play in the morning and then we dressed him for school. As we were preparing to walk out the door he stopped me..”Mom you need to take my picture. It is my first day of school!” We took pictures and then I dropped him off, praying that this school would be kind to him and a blessing to our family. I came home and had a full day doing school with the other kids as I watched the clock creep closer to 3:30. When it was time, I drove over to the school and went in to drop off additional paperwork that they needed. The secretary asked if I wanted to have Ozzie paged to the office rather than wait in the pick up line. While I was waiting for him the guidance counselor walked in and asked how Ozzie’s first day was. I told her that he was excited when I dropped him off but we will see if he still feels the same way after a day of school. At that moment Ozzie burst through the office door.
“Mommy!” he yelled, ” This was the best day of my life!” 🙂
As we drove home he told me why school was so great.
“Only 1 kid made fun of me today,” he told me with great satisfaction.
Not nearly as pleased with this news as he was I asked, “What did he say?”
“He called me a name,” he informed me, “but I can’t tell you what he said because it will just upset you.”
A minute later Ozzie spoke up again, ” If you really want to know what he said I will tell you. It was very hurtful.”
I listened, expecting the very worse and already feeling the “Mama bear” feelings rising up in me.
“I was standing by the door and a boy came up to me and then he called me..”
Ozzie took a deep breath…
I tried hard not to smile as Ozzie shared his hurt.
“Why did he call you a tomato?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” he replied with a sigh, “Maybe because I was wearing a red coat.
So… other than that one traumatic moment school was a hit. The teacher was nice. He made a friend (but he doesn’t know his name), and the schoolwork was easy.
My heart feels lighter and I’m grateful for the little blessings in this little man’s life!