Worms in your Applesauce


I just finished Sandra Tsing Loh’s Mother on Fire, and was entirely amused. She has a rapid-fire way of writing that makes you feel as though you are absorbing every synapse of her mind. There were many moments that made me laugh out loud, and I am not much of a laugh out louder. It’s apropos for my life at the moment, as I am looking at schools for both of my kids next year. Olivia will be entering high school. It seems so impossible. As her private middle school concludes in 8th grade, we can select from what is reputed to be a great local public high school or continue with a new private school. Loh, in her book goes through all the twists and turns in making the public vs private decision, albeit, hers was for kindergarten. There are various considerations: school size, location, diversity, testing, college prep, athletics. I realize that this decision, will be one of the first school decisions that I will not be making alone. Olivia herself, now blossoming with confidence, will have a big say. And I am fine with that. I think my job will be to monitor the decision, to make sure it continues, over time to be the right one. I am all for kids having a say in their own lives.
I love that Sandra Tsing Loh, has given me permission to feel OK about public school, not that I ever felt bad about it. Arron was determined that his kids would go to public school, so I have kind of run against him since moving to Seattle. 3 years ago, private seemed the only way to go, what with the only really good public schools in Seattle seemingly impossible to gain acceptance to, even if you lived in the area. The Seattle public schools are a patchwork of great and terrible. Loh ultimately came to the conclusion that public school was “good enough.” I wonder when we lost that “good enough” attitude. A friend, the other night blamed the “yuppies” in the 80s. But who knows. Life is different now, and I think we have all woken up in the past few months to realize what a sham “having a great job and making lots of money” has turned out to be. We spend so much time trying to get our kids to be uber kids, that something has gotten lost. Kids should be learning independence, knowing disappointment, competition, all those things that in my experience thus far, private schools seem determined to shield my kids from. It is such a loss, and not conducive to living real life. My kids already know real life, and so I think they see through the fakery. I am the type of parent that believes that germs are a good thing, that (as my grandmother would point out every time she placed her homemade applesauce in front of us), a little worm in your applesauce is a good thing.
My gut keeps telling me that public school is fine, not the pit of guns and drugs and sex, as the media would have us believe, or a place where Olivia will become lost in the miasma of academia, where she might struggle to keep up, or be allowed to slack off. If she goes on the public school tour, and likes it, and isn’t placed on the waiting list, then I am all for it.
Arron’s values will remain upheld. That what-was-good-enough-for-him-will-be-good-enough-for-his-kids… His was the hard knock school of life that suited him well. Those hard knocks are what make us who we are.

3 Comments

  1. anniegirl1138 October 20, 2008 at 8:53 pm

    I taught public school for twenty years, it is more “good enough” than bad. Bad usually means the commitment level of the kids and families is lacking and the discipline from admin and staff is as well. Even the poorest schools will succeed if every is on the same page.

    I got your book today. Arrived in the post. It is still odd to have books arrive in such a seeminly magical way.

    I read the first 40 some pages waiting for my daughter at ballet tonight. I was struck by similarities and the disparities too. The woman from Victims Aid for instance her gave you a check for the mortgage. No one cared if I got bills paid or not. But the minister who didn’t call you back, that reminded me of the priest who refused to come to ICU because my late husband wasn’t Catholic or the parish priest who didn’t stop by the wake because I was a tithing member.

    I am always struck by the differences between long and slow vs. instant widowhood. Would you believe that I still envy people who don’t have to watch?

    I may write a bit about the book on my blog before the actual review. It plus the fact that my father is dying right now have triggered the need to put thoughts down. Writing is the best thing for grief I ever stumbled across.

  2. Abigail October 20, 2008 at 9:46 pm

    Thanks for your comment Annie. Its funny how we make such a big to do about schools, but I also understand how apathy in a school can be its death nell. There never seems to be a perfect solution. You just do your best in the end.
    I will be interested to hear your point of view about my book, coming from a very different situation as you did. I am hoping that it resonates more than not, but the 9/11 factor definitely throws a wrench in the normal grieving process. It was one of my bigger struggles. I totally understand the slow vs quick envy. I often wonder how I would’ve handled that kind of loss.
    I am sorry about your father. That is so much to go through for you, especially after what you went through with your husband. I fully agree that writing is the best therapy. Cheaper too!

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