Kindergarten, or, God Help Us All
So I’m finally facing the fact that my child will be going to public school in the fall. We originally planned on homeschooling, but we’re realizing that I don’t have the patience or, with the new baby, the time and effort resources, to do that. The fall-back plan was Catholic school (despite the fact that I’m a Jew and my husband is agnostic bordering on atheist—if you instruct your kids to take the Jesus stuff with a grain of salt and completely ignore the bits about Hell, it’s a damn good education) but it’s turned out to be too expensive. Oooh, you get a thousand-dollar discount if you tithe to the parish! That’s a damn good deal! Maybe if you work at McDonald’s . . .
Public school it is, then. Please excuse me while I go vomit and breathe into a paper bag for a while.
My own experiences with public school were horrible, bordering on hellish. It left me suicidal at the age of 11, homicidal by 14. For the most part, I hated the teachers (with a few notable exceptions, one of whom I just found on FaceBook, OMG!), I hated the administration, was bored to tantrums by the curriculum, and hated with passion unrivaled the other kids.
And this is what’s causing my current panic attack. My child’s future peers.
May I regress to my former profanity-laced, hyperbolic, and knee-jerk blogging style for a moment? Most kids are worthless little shits. I love children, in theory, but in practice . . . Jesus tits. They’re whining, ungrateful, unmannered, and in some cases, psychopathic miniature thugs. They have no manners. They have limited grammar skills. Their hygiene is atrocious. They are so unworthy of my shining perfect child’s company that my fantasies of retreat to a desert isle are growing more grandiose by the day.
Okay, so my child isn’t perfect. She can be an utter brat sometimes. But at least she says “Please” and “Thank you,” doesn’t deliberately hurt other children, cleans up after herself with a minimum of attitude when asked, and is intrinsically kind and cheerful, helpful and sensitive.
I don’t want her to be soiled by other asshats’ accidental loinspawn.
I am a snob when it comes to the children I allow her to interact with. My recent experiences with the neighbors’ psychopathic brats hasn’t helped my attitude on this, I’ll admit. (Update—turns out their father, aside from being a probable drug dealer, had beaten up and raped a sixteen-year-old girl while his wife was pregnant with their second of five children. I don’t know which of those parents I think is the bigger criminal—he, for committing the act, or she, for taking that stupid Tammy Wynette song too much to heart.)
She gets to play with her cousins, with the children of friends whom I’ve vetted (although not always successfully), with the terribly young hipster neighbors who race her across the fence while clutching cans of PBR (hey, at least they’re polite). She has the occasional interaction with other children at the park, where she instinctively gravitates towards the 10-year-old boys roughhousing and then gets hurt feelings when they won’t let her play with them because she’s a little girl (joke’s on them—she could dislocate their shoulder if they’d grapple with her). But for the most part, I keep her away from other children because, frankly, I don’t like them, don’t like their parents, don’t like how said parents are raising said children.
Yes, I sound like an asshole. But this is my genetic immortality we’re talking about. This is my little girl, and the thought of her being tainted by kids whose parents didn’t even want them in the first damn place, who have raised them with that lurking in the background, who let them do whatever the hell they want regardless of the consequences, who don’t enforce artificial consequences for bad behavior, who don’t care what the fuck they do as long as it doesn’t interfere with the episode of “John and Kate” they’re trying to watch . . . . AARRRRGGGHH!!!!!!!!! I might have to go back to punching walls.
Yes, I realize that not all of the children she’ll be going to school with will be like this. I realize that many of them will be “wanted” children, will have been coddled and nurtured and generally spoiled by good intentions. This scares me almost as much as the “bastard” hooligans. (Again, I’m being hyperbolic. Y’all should be used to this by now. Many of you love me for it, dammit.)
I have very specific, and very unpopular, views on child-rearing. Most of them come from observing my friends and peers—I know a lot of people who got the shit beat out of them as children, and I know a lot of people who were treated like Faberge eggs made out of spun sugar, and the former set generally turned out less fucked-up, in the long run. I don’t beat my child, but I don’t hesitate to discipline her, either. I tell her about ten times a day that she’s awesome, that she and her sister are the most wonderful thing to ever happen to me, but I also tell her when she’s screwed up, and punish her (yes, sometimes physically) for awful behavior.
And I observe the way that other parents deal with their children, on those occasions when I have the strength and the stocked flask to be around them. I watch them “tsk tsk” their kids’ atrocious behavior, I hear them murmur “Jackie, that’s not nice,” when their oldest knocks their youngest to the bottom of the jungle gym and bloodies his nose. I hold my tongue while they bribe their kids with Happy Meals to please come with Mommy, when you’re done with that, if it’s okay with you, okay, just one more go-round, then that’s it, I’m going to start getting angry.
And I wonder how the hell a public school teacher with 40 other students, to whom she can’t so much as say “boo” without legal recrimination, is going to keep that child from hurting mine. I wonder more about the lessons regarding action vs. reaction that she’ll bring away from those encounters. Bruises heal, I’m not nearly so worried about those as I am the real-world lesson that you can fuck other people over without recrimination from the world at large, represented in this case by authority. God forbid she turn out a bullied child, but God help us all if she turn out a freaking anarchist or some such bullshit.
I had much less anxiety when contemplating her in a classroom with an ovarily-frustrated nun wielding a knuckle-bound ruler, to tell you the truth. I’d much rather my child get whacked a few times for insubordination that learn from her peers and authority figures that it’s not only okay, but cool, to talk back, to disrespect, to feel like she’s the center of everybody’s universe and that nothing she does will ever have consequences. I fear for her well-being much more when thinking about her being in a classroom full of “snowflakes” than I ever would thinking about her in a classroom with Sister Mary Ignatius Explaining It All To Her.
I know that the upbringing she gets at home will be much more influential, in the long run, than the influences she gets, or doesn’t get, in her school setting. But God dammit, I don’t want to watch my child suffer. Anything. Ever. And even more than that, I don’t want to have to correct those other, horrible influences. I’m too old, too tired, and too lazy. I’ll do it if I have to, but I can’t help but be pissed off at the thought.
Anybody have an island for sale, preferably packaged with a Mary Poppins who’s willing to work for booze and free tailoring? I’m willing to barter . . .