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10:46 a.m. - 2010-09-02
School For The Uncool.

Today is the first day of school. Funny to see my husband and my son both sloping off with glum faces muttering about not liking school. He had gone in yesterday for a staff meeting, but today is the first day for students so Mick's school year officially begins today too. Of the two Wolf was definitely the more bummed. Mick likes 90% of his job, but the 10% that sucks is pretty bad, mostly having to do with the weather. Much of his workday is spent outdoors and the heat, rain or extreme cold are wearisome. Today promises to be bloody hot and humid as an armpit. Mick was not a happy camper.

Wolf, on the other hand, has already decided this entire year will blow smelly chunks and is refusing to give any quarter to the idea that things might not be as bad as he thinks. I've turned a sanguine face to him when he complains, patiently explaining 8th grade pretty much sucks no matter where you go to school so all his fervid imaginings about how swell life would be if only he were attending district school this year instead of waiting until high school to switch back is just plain silly. Pointing out that putting up with 4 or 5 buttheads in each class is cake compared to the larger public school where there'd be as many as 25 hostile classmates and zero guarantee of friends makes no dent in his gloom. I've agreed he's made enormous progress with his issues and behavior, this is why he's on track to leave the alternative school and attend the regular high school, but not everything about his behavior and social understanding is strong enough to cope with the hormone hell and status-conscious pecking order nightmare that is middle school. Especially not in a place like Podunkville Middle School where silver spoons are firmly lodged in most mouths and the groupthink is firmly skewed toward worshipping the almighty dollar and the toys and non-morals of the idle rich. It's a predominantly white school district where, like at Ivy League universities, minorities are tolerated only for their athletic abilities but are never, ever allowed to be team captain, let alone student body president. Even at 13 most of those kids have perfected the casual sneer and chillingly cruel social death of "Not our kind, dear." Wolf is known and accepted and even somewhat popular at his current school. Better to leave well enough alone. At least until he's past the rocky shoals of 8th grade and its horrors.

A lot of Wolf's problem is he feels the sting of being 'other' so keenly. I can't make him believe that being in a school where everyone is an 'other' is actually an advantage. If everyone is different then no one is. If he were to go back to public school this year his 'other-ness' would be a million times worse. Middle school social hierarchy has no room for the 'off', the 'odd' and the 'other'. High school won't be any Paradise of acceptance either, but his chances of being able to slide in amongst the hubbub of a new school for everybody and the influx of parochial school kids and more than a few homeschoolers wanting to try the real world, well, he won't be the sore thumb he'd be if he tried to make a place for himself this year in a school where they've already spent the last 2 years honing their status and everybody knows exactly who is 'in', who is 'out' and who are the anointed doomed ones marked for a year of torment, mockery and pain. My kid would be immediately put with those last ones and I will NOT subject him to that.

My little Wolf with his handsome face and Old Navy wardrobe. Wolf with his propeller hat and lack of protective covering over his naked emotions. Wolf with his good heart but utter lack of social nuance. The same forthright honesty and blunt affection that makes him the darling with my friends is exactly what would get him trouble at the public school with his peers. He's still too open, too easily provoked, his mouth and his temper would land him in all sorts of trouble before he'd been there a week. He hates his school now? Imagine if he had to go slinking back there, licking his wounds and now proven to be unfit to be schooled with the 'regular' kids! Nope. Not happening.

He can resent me, but like making him eat his veggies and mind his manners and do his homework and all the rest of the 'for your own good' stuff I foist upon him I know I'm making the correct call here by keeping him at the alternative school. Parenting isn't a popularity contest. It's about doing the best you can for your kid, even if he hates you for it for a while.

Mark Twain is said to have advised that when a child turns 13 his parents should put him in a barrel, close the lid, and feed him through a hole in the side. Then, when he turns 16, plug up the hole.

Heh, if it were only that easy. ~LA

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