When you choose to put yourself out there in a space like this, you are bound to encounter misinterpretation and misunderstanding. You are also likely to experience disagreement and dissent. You may even earn yourself some unsolicited advice. I am not surprised when these things happen. Most of the time I attempt to learn from the experience, and usually I try again.
I come here to write for a lot of reasons. Sometimes I’m in the midst of figuring things out, and I use writing here as a way to process. Other times I come here to vent–to lighten my load and perhaps gain some perspective. And still other times a vague compulsion propels the words into this space. No matter how or why I write here, my words can miss the mark.
When I wrote Friday morning’s post I was working through some stuff I didn’t quite have a handle on yet. I was hoping that if I got a small part of it down, the rest of it would settle into place so I could reflect and hopefully write more later. The problem is, a post like that doesn’t paint a full picture, mostly because I’m not sure what the full picture is yet (or the picture is constantly changing). Posts like that provide a vague outline and let readers fill in the gaps.
Here is the thing. I don’t want to live in the suburbs. That is not some dream of mine that being married to my husband is denying me. I grew up in one of the biggest, densest cities in the world and I LOVED the independence and freedom it provided me. I am not opposed to raising my kids in the city, it’s just harder sometimes to do it than I expected it would be.
And the school stuff… well I have a lot of thoughts about that and they are complicated and varied and sometimes at complete odds with each other. I thought long and hard about whether or not to bring my daughter down to my school district, and in the end I chose not to. I don’t regret that choice. We live in the city and I want our kids to go to school near where we live. I want their friends to live in the city, not 30 minutes away on the peninsula. I want the city to feel like home. I want the city to be their home. I have lived in San Francisco for 13 years and worked on the peninsula that entire time. I absolutely believe that commuting so far away has made it difficult, if not impossible, for me to embrace San Francisco as my true home (which is most certainly part of the reason I feel torn about some of the difficulties in raising kids here). I absolutely don’t want that for my children.
I also value diversity. Immensely. I think going to school with people from different cultures and backgrounds can offer an education that is more valuable than anything a rigorous curriculum could provide. I also believe strongly in the benefits of being truly bilingual, and a Spanish language immersion education is not something my children could get in the “better” school districts nearby. There are myriad reasons why we chose to send our daughter to the nearby school, and right now I don’t regret that choice.
That doesn’t mean it’s always the easiest choice. I went to schools, and have taught in schools, that look different from the school my daughter attends. Different can be hard, especially when it’s the kind of different that isn’t celebrated. Sometimes I have doubts. Sometimes I feel trepidation. But that doesn’t mean I regret the choice we made. I also know that if we needed to change our minds, there are always other options.
I truly hope we don’t have to take advantage of those options, because I already see my daughter learning important lessons at her school, lessons she would not be getting at the “better” school in my district. I also know that just because another school might offer a more rigorous education, doesn’t mean my daughter would have a positive experience attending it. My mom has covered a couple hours in the Kindergarten classrooms my daughter would have attended in my district and she said there are already intense cliques forming and that the Kindergarten teachers report that this is the most intensely negative social situation they’ve encountered in their classes in a long time. My daughter would really struggle with cliquey girls like that, and I’m glad she’s not being exposed to it. (And at a school that small, she would be stuck with that group of girls until 8th grade).
I wrote this post to clarify all this as much for myself as for anyone else. It can be easy to focus on the ways I fantasize it could be easier if only circumstances were different, but it’s important that I remember why we made the choices we did. Friday’s post was much more about my frustration with a lack of empathy and understanding from my husband, who struggles to see things from my perspective, not an admission that I’m being forced to live somewhere I don’t want to live, and am miserable for it.
My daughter is a bright girl who speaks fluent Spanish and is learning a lot at school, whose best friends are white, African American and Hispanic, and who doesn’t think twice that one of the yard duties at her school wears a burka. She takes the bus as much as rides in a car, and walks past people from dozens of different cultures on the way to the playground. Most importantly she is happy, and that is in no small part because of where she lives and where she goes to school. That is not something I take for granted.