Thursday, July 31, 2008

Surviving Big School

Another old article

We made a really big move this school year. We decided to send Abby (or Noelle to her new classmates) to a bigger school where almost everything became a first for us.

Why? As Catholics, my husband Nonoy and I decided that it was time for Abby to start getting a Catholic-based education.

Having came from a smaller school where I, as a parent, have grown very comfortable in, with teachers who knew and loved Abby since she was a toddler, and with a population that was small enough we were always assured that our children were well-looked after, moving Abby almost felt like throwing her into an open sea where she’d become fair game to whatever that bigger world could throw at her.

Contemplating that big move, I could not help but imagine my baby thrashing about as she struggles for breath amidst tossing waves, barely staying afloat in a world that’s alien from the sheltered one she had been the last four years of her life.

But steeled my resolve I did … I told myself that she either had to learn to swim or sink in the process. For wasn’t our intention also to introduce her to the world beyond what we consider to be safe and secure? Nonoy and I decided that we’ve sheltered her long enough during her first seven years. Time to start letting go … a little.

As it turned out, I worried too much over nothing. All that imagined thrashing amid turbulent seas should have been reserved for me alone. I was the one who barely survived big school … Abby never had to. My girl breezed through her first days and proceeded to take in all her new experiences in a stride. Her leap from a class of 6 to 36? No big deal! Before long, I started seeing her hanging out with friends from grade 1 or grade 4 or even from high school with equal ease.
Thus it came to be that despite almost five years of prior schooling, it wasn’t until my daughter reached Grade 2 that I truly got to experience the horror stories other moms have been talking about for centuries: school exams!

My friend Jobie once told me how her voice got hoarse from all the yelling she had to do at her two boys as she hovered over them during study time or as they prepared for their exams.

I had the nerve then to assume that I’d do better. Before I had Abby, I was very judgmental on mothers I’d observe snapping or just being generally impatient with their brood. More particularly so with those I’d see spanking their youngsters. I used to tell myself (with absolute certainty) that I’d be different, that I’d never get impatient, angry, yell, or spank … that I’d only have to speak calmly ONCE and my perfectly-behaved and ever-so-obedient child would immediately obey …

I also had this mental image of myself as the incarnation of infinite grace and patience, holding out a book in front of a well-behaved and cooperative angelic-looking Abby as she poured over her lessons with nary a complaint night after school night …

Prrrrrrt!!! Enough with fantasy! Let’s get back to reality, shall we? As it turned out, motherhood in real life is never picture perfect! I never had to worry about studying at home before. But in our new school, come examination period (or almost every night at that), and it’s nothing but dried-up patience, BP raised to ceiling heights, broken rulers, hoarse voices, tempers serious enough to tempt one to start wringing one cute little neck, palms stinging from hitting table surfaces, pencils, papers or smuggled toys flying off to all directions … and what else? Oh yeah … upturned teary eyes and quivering lips seemingly wanting to ask … “what’s happening to you Mama?”

Yeah, what’s happening to Mama? To the entire barangay listening to me vocalize when I start blowing my top, it must have been bad, bad, Olga indeed! A friend of mine once attempted to lecture about being patient and calm … I cut her off by saying, try having a brat like mine first, then we’ll talk again!

All you moms out there … did that seem familiar? If not, lucky, lucky you!

I was told that this was partly the reason why it is best to hire tutors for our kids. They tend to act up less when they are with other people, particularly when the tutor happens to be their teacher as well.

But with moms, believe me, the complaints I’ve been hearing are so similar they seem to come from the same script! Mind you, we don't get mad when our kids don't get their lessons. But what really gets the full solo concert going is the amount of interest they are willing to devote to the lesson at hand, which is considerably less than what they would otherwise give to the lizard stalking its meal at the ceiling, for instance. Yeah! That’s it! Everything else is interesting except …

Can you imagine explaining something to a restless figure who seemed to have assumed every conceivable position there is over the desk only to settle down slumped over it, albeit with the assurance: “I’m listening, I’m listening!!” … only to be answered with “huh??” once you’d start asking questions? Grrrrr!

And how about all that fidgeting with the hands? Even doodling can be very distracting, so you order them to “stop!” and away goes the pencil … for 3 seconds! So you’d say again, “I said stop that!” … and it goes on and on until you’d have to say, “one more time and I’ll throw that pencil away!” In the end, you’ll discover that it saves more time and energy to just get that pesky pencil without a word and throw it to some hard-to-reach area. Believe me, that alternative is much better that giving in to your desire to throw away the child itself!

So who did I say survived big school? Let me check … heart still working, only one or two additional wrinkles, more white hairs though, BP still normal, can still speak, no burst capillaries … yeah! I survived big school! Rejoice!!

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