sometimes, reality bites

“I guess this is the depressing part of repatriation.” That is how Bill summarized Back to School night at Kaitlyn’s school.

It wasn’t because of his wife’s Marsha Brady-like fascination with signing up for every activity. (Which I didn’t do, by the way. I just entertained the idea long enough for my senses to take over again and make my hand drop the pen.)

It wasn’t the half hour spent crammed into a tiny chair at “Camp Learn-A-Lot.” That’s what Kaitlyn’s teacher is calling her class this year. Every class has a theme. I didn’t bother to check out the others on my way through the hallway.

The hallway.

That was the problem for Bill.

Hanging outside each classroom: the requisite variations on “what I did this summer” projects done by kids in the first four days of school.

Bill had gone to the first session with Kaitlyn’s teacher while she stuck with me around the sign up sheets.

When the principal announced it was time to wrap up session one and head to session two, Kaitlyn led me to her classroom. That’s where we found Bill standing in the hallway. Stunned. I mean, he looked stunned. A mixture of anger and frustration and sadness. Not realizing she was pointing to the very thing stirring up this cocktail of troubles inside her dad, Kaitlyn proudly pointed to her construction paper “sleeping bag.” Decorated on the outside with, I suppose, things she likes. I remember seeing a peace sign before she opened it up to reveal the utter nonsense written, no, scribbled inside. All the other sleeping bags were filled with neatly written sentences. That made sense. Shakespeare isn’t among her classmates. But all Bill could see was that his little girl had completely missed the mark on the assignment. Because she obviously simply couldn’t do it. “I wrote all the words I could think of!” she proudly declared. This did not help.

Bill tried to talk to me right there about his frustration, but to me that seemed like the wrong place for the discussion and I suggested we talk about it at home. So he and Kaitlyn headed off while I attended session #2 with the teacher. Little did I know that while I was stuffed into Kaitlyn’s Kaitlyn sized chair listening to the speech about second grade, Bill was home stewing over what he’d seen.

This is not to say that I wasn’t upset. Quite the contrary. I nearly burst into tears sitting there. And not because of the chair. As I walked up at the end to introduce myself to the smiling Mrs Philips, I had to take a moment to compose myself and work to keep my voice from cracking. And it may have, I don’ t really know for sure. Talking to the teacher made me feel better. But I still wanted to cry when I got to my car. It’s an incredibly difficult thing to learn that your child is struggling and is so far behind where you think she should be. (And where the education system thinks she should be, too.) It’s hard to separate the achievement from the ability. The actions from the intelligence. And it’s hard to separate what you as a parent should have done from your own feelings of self worth. And, man, that sucks.

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