Monday, August 31, 2015

Away They Fly...

I thought the next time I would feel like crying about a child leaving home would come in November, when David would begin serving in the army. Instead, it came today.

Aliza is going away to school. She'll sleep in a dorm Sunday through Wednesday nights and return most Thursday nights to spend the weekend at home. This came about for mostly the wrong reasons. While many of our friends and neighbors came to the realization that the local school didn't meet the needs of their children, we were slower in accepting this reality.

It was so convenient, a 10 minute drive away. We live in a small city. Shouldn't the local school be geared to the children who live here? I still believe it should be, that it's policy should be inclusive, rather than exclusive. But ultimately, the school chose a philosophy for itself...and the philosophy is wrong. Instead of thriving, Aliza was slowly being destroyed by educators who focused on the outside, not the inside. Teachers who cared more about schedules than how much the child learned.

Slowly over the last few years, Aliza was being pushed out and away from the school, as were most of the local girls and boys. Quick to judge, they decided she didn't belong and were anxious to throw her anywhere, push her away. Last year, they gave me a list of schools, including ones that were completely wrong for her. They didn't really understand her, nor did they want to.

She was judged, made to feel she wasn't good enough for the school. Repeatedly, they told me she was a gentle, sweet child who needed a loving, warm school - and they, quite proudly, said they focus more on grades and academic achievements than on the heart and soul of a child.

Warmth is not their style - they want big and more, they want girls who come from outside the city who will fill the dorms they were building. The vast majority of the local girls were found lacking for this local school.

At the end of 8th grade, we considered moving her; but decided to wait. Ninth grade was a year of agony for her; most of her friends had been encouraged or forced away, she and a few who remained were not treated well.

By the end of last year, we surrendered and took her to another school and almost immediately she was shocked by how warm everyone was - the other students, the head rabbi, the secretaries, teachers. She has not felt such acceptance for a long time from a school.

Days before school started, someone from her new class called her, introduced herself and asked Aliza if she wanted to be added to the class' WhatsApp group and from then on, she was welcomed. Such warm girls...amazing.

It's like coming out of a dark cave into sunshine for her. Children should be given approval and love and a school that doesn't cherish the wonder of a child because of what they wear, who their friends are, and other such minor details isn't much of a school. This morning, for the first time in years, she went to school excited, happy, anxious to begin.

And, as is the way with parents, we are left behind - happy to watch them fly, a bit sad that it happened so fast...wasn't she just learning how to crawl yesterday?

I can be angry at the school here or I can accept their failure is on them, just as when the counterpart of this school, the boy's division, failed Elie. Then, they decided that a child that had learning disabilities must, by definition, have behavioral problems. Rather then help him, they too chose to throw him away. If we are blessed, Aliza will have as wonderful an educational and growing experience as Elie did.

Elie soared in the school in Jerusalem, where in Maale Adumim, he suffered. There, they told me he was an amazing child and wondered how the school here could have been so stupid as to give him up, "he's gold," said his teacher to me. Aliza too is gold in so many ways.

Today, we loaded her suitcase and I forced her to let me take her picture. I'm going to try to look at this as the start of a new adventure, a return to a time when my husband and I had time together before the kids came along. I'm going to try not to feel empty and alone because my kids are where I want them to be, doing what I want them to do. Children are supposed to grow and fly and they should never know what that flight cost their parents.

They need to soar, not be pulled down by your sadness. Aliza will be home in four days, she reminded me whenever I mentioned something else she needed to bring.

There is a small amount of anger at the close-minded school here; there is a wealth of gratitude that the school where she will be is so different, so welcoming, so open. She loved hearing the Rabbi speak there; she loved the food. She loved the girls who ran to accept and welcome her.

Sometimes you have to be smart and brave enough to know when it is time to fly. And when your child reaches that moment when they begin to soar, as a parent, you have to let them spread their wings and fly...

Today, my youngest flew towards her tomorrows...and me...I'll remember that it's really more of an experiment than a reality, a chance to begin to understand my own tomorrows. She'll be home in four days...then back, then home, then back...and then, in a few months, she'll go back to school and David will go to the army...and then they'll come home...and then they'll go back...

And they will fly and soar in a land that promises the brightest of tomorrows for the brave and the strong.

1 comment:

Bat Aliyah said...

"...they should never know what that flight cost their parents." This is an important lesson in parenting that no one talks about. It's infinitely harder than anything I did when they were under our roof.

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