This past week I have felt like Brutus sharpening my knife for Caesar. A week and a half ago we got a call informing us that Ethan has been offered a spot at Skinner North Classical School, a CPS selective enrollment school that one has to test into for admission. I think to the general public, this call would be fantastic news for good reasons. It has unbeatable test scores. It is very diverse. There is an abundance of parent support and involvement. Being offered a spot here would usually result in immediate acceptance, end of story, pop the champagne and call it a day. When Mike sent me a text about the call, my first response was panic! I have come to love and feel so good about our neighborhood school, Prescott. That text was a direct threat to my peaceful homeostasis. There has been war waging inside my head and heart ever since.
Realizing that this is a rare opportunity, we dutifully did the drill. We researched online, toured the school, discussed with a few folks whose opinions we respect, talked with friends who have a child there already, prayed for wisdom, and agonized each day about what we should do. OK, I agonized each day. Mike’s apparent reason not to accept was not wanting to have to do more homework with Ethan. Sometimes it is really “FUN” doing homework with Ethan now especially when we interrupt a major Lego-building (or even minor nose-picking) session. Mike would rather not deal with even more “FUN” if possible.
Why the agony? It’s not just the practical reasons: commute (nothing beats a glorious 2-block walk!), having the boys in two different schools indefinitely (no sibling guarantee at selective enrollment schools), and having two different calendar schedules (track e which is semi-year round vs track r meaning different start dates and break lengths). It’s not just the emotional attachment I feel towards a school community that is small enough for us to have made really great friends with really fabulous parents. The fact that I have been agonizing each and every day is because PRESCOTT IS REALLY A GREAT PLACE TO BE! I have no doubt that my boys are receiving excellent academic instruction from wonderful teachers who are both highly skilled and incredibly caring. A great teacher is priceless and so far we have had the privilege of that invaluable truth with Ms. Brand, Ms. Tate and Ms. Phares. I know they reflect the rest of the faculty who want to challenge our children intellectually but also nurture them emotionally and socially. I know if we kept Ethan there he would be more than fine. He would learn and grow and be shaped into the person that his father and I wish him to be.
But in the end, we felt we could not pass on this opportunity for Ethan. In parenting, we all make tough decisions about so many things. Even if we differ in the choices we make, we share the desire to do what we believe to be the best for our children and families. We have values instilled in us that shape those decisions. In our differences of choices and values, we should be able to give respect and understanding while leaving no room for judging others on a differing side. This goes for anything as parents (or people for that matter) whether it be school (public or private), sleep (co-sleep or separate), breastfeeding (yes or no, how long, pose for Time magazine or not :)), discipline styles, you name it! In my opinion, there is enough harping on our differences. If we really felt secure in our choices, then why would we need to think less of those who don’t share them?
Our choosing CPS is because we value the idea that all children everywhere should be able to receive a quality education regardless of income, race, language, etc. OK, we also love that it’s FREE! We want to be supportive of our neighborhood school because we believe in its potential to provide the highest quality of education to all who live in its boundaries and beyond. It’s not just about increasing our property value or convenience of lifestyle (which are great, don’t get me wrong!). It’s also about using power and privilege to try to lessen the inequalities that exist. However if Ethan didn’t accept this spot at Skinner, the position would go to another just like him based on the tier system CPS has in place in attempts to ensure economic & racial diversity. Also, I can sacrifice myself for the greater good but cannot fully expect my child to do so until he is able to make these decisions on his own. We did consult with him as well in this dilemma to which he gave us his honest assessment: “It’s a hard decision. I want you and Daddy to decide.” His placing his absolute trust in us to make what we think to be the very best decision for his sake made me think of how God must feel when we are able to place our lives in His hands with that same child-like loving trust. We want nothing less than to deliver in abundance.
Maybe the analogy of Brutus isn’t quite accurate. We are still sending Connor to Prescott next year. We are still going to support our beloved neighborhood school to the best of our ability. We are just deciding to take this open door for Ethan and step into it. There is hope, excitement and gratitude in stepping through, but there is also grief, sadness, and yes, even a sense of betrayal in walking in it. Is this how Lebron James felt when he televised his decision for the Miami Heat? 🙂 I doubt there will be jersey-burning riots with our decision, but after days of agony, we have finally made it. It wasn’t easy. If making a choice between two great possibilities is my difficulty of the month, then life (as I’ve always known it to be) is good.