Christine - posted on 06/06/2010 ( 26 moms have responded )
I hope your weekends all went well... Ours was busy, but not that eventful, which is partially why it's taken me three days to post this! I am torn between sad and furious right now, and I'm trying to figure out which emotion is more justified.
My (step)son is almost five (August birthday) and is finishing his last year of preschool. When he was three, we sent him to a private pre-k at the church I went to youth group at. It was great -- two and a half hours, and he learned SO much. They were very pro-active about educating the children (it was a blended 3 and 4 year old class) and did all sorts of activities, field trips, family events and so on. He had some issues for sure, but as a whole, I was very happy with our experience. The only problem? Tuition. And to top it all off, they raised prices for the 2009-10 school year. We were forced to look elsewhere, much to my displeasure.
In the end, we settled on the Headstart preschool in our area. To those of you unfamiliar with it, it is free/universal preschool for low income families. Ours is a full day (9-3:30) and provides breakfast and lunch, as well as school bus transportation to and from school. Sounds like a dream, right? Though I was somewhat leery about the program, my FH and I couldn't argue with the full day because of our own work and school schedules, not to mention the fact that it was free.
The first month or two went off without many problems -- a few insulting comments here and there... The people in our program, at least (I can't speak for Headstart as a whole, just what we've noticed personally) seemed to take the attitude that since we're low income, we must be sh!t parents who either abuse or neglect our child. Okay, so I know it takes all sorts, and I'm sure it's better to err on the side of safety *just in case*. And I kept telling myself 'it's only one year, and it's free.'
Then came the times when our son would be sent home wearing other clothes than the ones he was sent to school in. Their claim was that he peed in them (understandable) or that he kept 'spilling milk' on them (not so much.) My son is a very cautious little boy -- he does everything slowly because he does not like being dirty (weird, I know.) But even then, I said to myself 'maybe he gets excited at school and eats/drinks too quickly.' This worked until he was no longer being sent home in the spare clothes we sent in for him. He would come home in pants, shirts, socks and shoes that we'd never seen before, and his own clothes that he supposedly soiled would never be seen again. The school's claim was that they were 'being washed for him', but we would never get them back.
Now, I'll have you know that I personally pay for all his clothing (my FH just has no interest in clothing... Typical man) and the clothes I buy for him aren't cheap. Not that it really matters to a kid, but I usually buy Children's Place, Baby Gap, Gymboree, etc.... Year to date, we've 'lost' three or four shirts, a sweatshirt, two pairs of pants and I haven't even bothered to count socks and underwear. Not a huge loss, but at the same time, that's about a hundred dollars worth of clothes just... Gone. And I don't see why the *school* thinks they need to wash MY son's clothing... Never once have I sent him to school in anything but freshly laundered clothing. We may not have the most money in the world, but we do have pride and standards. But maybe they thought they were being helpful since they seem to think we're too poor to do laundry. Okay, whatever. 'It's only one year, and it's free...'
We've had problems with getting information from the school as well. We have not received a breakfast, lunch or events calendar in months. (Since Oct. for breakfast/lunch, since March or April for events -- school events, days off of school, etc.) The school has cancelled or had a half day for at least one Friday every month... We usually get a note home on Wednesday or Thursday 'reminding' us of their change in schedule. How can we be 'reminded' when we were never informed in the first place? But I didn't complain because I took the semester off of work to concentrate on school, and always had Fridays free. 'It's only one year, and it's free.'
Then came the allegations from my son that he would be sick or throw up at school, and 'Miss _____' took care of him. What the hell? Sorry, but I thought it was, like, a law that the parents would be notified when a child was sick, and that child would be sent home... Apparently not for Headstart. We have called after these allegations and our concerns were more or less dismissed.
The the Headstart teachers program has shown little to no interest or respect for me, despite the fact that I am listed as 'Mother' on the application. It was spelled both in writing and in person that BM is not involved in our son's day-to-day life. They would not share information with me and treat me like some sort of outsider when I come to the school. The head of the program would call my phone and leave alarming messages if I couldn't answer: 'This is ______ from Headstart, please call me back IMMEDIATELY (click)' I would return the call only to have her tell me she couldn't get ahold of FH and needed him to call her. She would never release any information to me, and tell me she 'just needed Ryan to call her.' Okay, whatever. She has also called and said things like 'D_____ is not in school today and we were wondering why' when either he WAS dropped off (talk about a heart attack -- we thought BM abducted him...) or FH had called hours earlier to say our son was sick or had a doc's appt. Okay, so I guess everyone has an off day, or doesn't always pay attention. 'One year and it's free.'
So here we are, three weeks from the end of the year, and I have bit my tongue so hard it's bled with these people, but now I am just about ready to snap. I have done all the 'family' homework with my son (which is very obv because my handwriting is ridiculously fem) and always made sure I came with FH for any conference or meeting, but apparently this has been all for naught (in the school's eyes.) My son told me on Friday that they refer to me as 'Christine' to him, not 'Mommy' like we told them he calls me. (They were told back in September that he calls BM by her first name and me 'Mommy'.) He says the school calls FH 'Daddy' and if he, my son, mentions something about 'Mommy' they make him clarify 'Christine-Mommy' or 'Mary-Mommy.' When I heard this, I was livid. I just don't feel that it's their place AT ALL to ask him to make a distinction between BM and I since they were told who he refers to as 'Mommy'. He calls me 'Mom' because he wants to -- he was told he can call me 'Tyger' (my nickname) or 'Mommy' since he was old enough to understand. By his own volition, he chose to call ME Mommy, and he also chosen NOT to call BM that. We have NEVER had a problem with any other school, daycare, extra-curricular, etc. with respecting this choice until now.
I guess the point is... What do I do? What would YOU do? Do I say something to the school or let it go since the year is almost over? There is SO much I've wanted to say to these people, but haven't. They told my son that it's 'bad' to kiss until you're married... FH and I won't be married until this October. When our son heard this, he was depressed for about three days until he could tell us why, and when he did he was almost crying because he thought his father and I were being very bad every time we kissed. Since when is it the damn school's place to tell a child how their parents should act? But we let it go. Should I let this go? Would you? Would you stand by and let a school trivialize your role in your (step)children's lives?
NEVER does he call me by my first name -- since he was two and a half, I have been 'Mommy'. I have been a part of his life since he was six months old (I was his godmother before FH and BM split) and have been raising him since then. When he was learning to talk, he thought I was 'Momma'... And that was when BM was still part of the picture! THEN we corrected him, of course, but now? I refuse to feel bad for letting him call me 'Mom', because I am the woman who does everything for him. I know many of you do the same for your (step)kids. I just don't know what to do, and morning is quickly coming. Do I say something or write a note or just grit my teeth (again) I know to some degree I'm just being sensitive, but I guess it's a compilation of the entire year that's gotten me to this state. I would LOVE someone to break through the warring emotions and help me find some clarity.