You just want to be where everybody knows your name.
I thought we had launched the kids into the new school year and we were off and running. Finally, some free time to myself. After a couple months of summer, and I love summer, but it’s always great to get the kids back into school and be able to hear myself think again. To go to yoga, take the dog on a walk, hell go to the bathroom by myself is a nice starter.
So when my youngest daughter came home after 2 weeks of 6th grade at a new school and totally fell apart, I fell apart too. She seemed to be doing pretty well for the first couple of weeks. I think she was actually just holding herself together as best she could until the water just broke the dam. Sobbing and crying after school is hard for me to take. Especially the kind of sobbing where she is holding on to me and won’t let go. The kind of crying where she is actually shaking to the core and won’t stop. That look of emptiness in her eyes was frightening. She was shutting down. I knew she was tired, and hadn’t met many new friends yet, but I didn’t realize she was falling apart inside.
She wouldn’t wake up the next morning, wasn’t eating, and wouldn’t go to school. We kept her home to rest and de-stress. I needed some time to think and figure out what to do next. We talked to the school counselor, the therapist, her teachers. We met with the principal. They all had questions, none had real answers.
After a lot of debate, we had decided to move her to a new school close to our home to start Middle School. The school is supposed to be great, only 5 minutes away, and filled with our neighborhood kids. The only problem is that she did not go to the same elementary school as the neighborhood kids, so she doesn’t know anyone. No one to say hello to in class, no one to sit with in the lunchroom, no one to laugh with, or cry with in the bathroom. How could we be so clueless? I think I just flunked Middle School 1.0. Now, after the tears and the trauma, I am remembering the old Cheers theme Song “You just want to go where everybody knows your name. You want to be where people know..people aren’t all the same. You want to go where everyone knows your name. “
To make things a little more complicated, our daughter has Cerebral Palsy. To some, she is the “different kid”, the “kid with a disability” and the “new kid in the wheelchair”. And that makes it REALLY hard to make new friends. Especially in the cruel halls of Middle School. So being new is hard, and being different is hard, and the two of these together is just a disaster. The perfect storm. A true shit storm for her …and me. Now it was my job to figure out how the hell to make it better. WTF!!
Thankfully, Friday was her birthday and we had invited 6 of her closest friends to join us at the local pizza shop. I was worried that with all the girls going to a new school, they would forget about us, move on, not be there for my sweet, friendless child. Instead, all of them showed up. They showed up with smiles, with hugs, with jokes, with love. They missed her, they loved her, and they told her that. She smiled, she laughed, she beamed, she was back. Sometimes Middle School girls can be so mean. But these girls were gold. They renewed my hope for surviving the storm. And they made me think.
So at the pizza place that night, the lightbulb went off. We have to move her. 4 weeks into 6th grade, we need to change schools. She needs a re-boot, version2.0, a second draft. Who cares if the school is 30 minutes away. Who cares if it’s not the school that our neighborhood is supposed to go to. We often seem to be the family that swims upstream, walks the road less traveled. Why stop now.
The next week I arranged a visit to the new school – just to make sure things would be better. Was this really going to change things, to make it work? Middle School 1.0 had crashed and burned, would MS 2.0 be any better? We went in together and she went off to class while I went to meet with the counselor. At the end of the day I drove in to pick her up – wondering if we were making the right decision. I’ll never forget the look on her face as she rolled out of school in her hot pink wheelchair. She was back.
You can hear it, can’t you?
Sing it with me: “Sometimes you just want to go where people know…that people aren’t all the same. Sometimes you just want to go where everybody knows your name.”