First of all, I wanted to expose them to a spiritual life. It was apparently time for an introduction to theology when my daughter was asked what faith we were. Smiling bright as a sunbeam, she belted out in a revival voice, “Pedestrian.”
Actually, we weren’t Presbyterian…We were recovering Lutherans…which simply meant that I did not subject them to Sunday potlucks praying over folding tables boasting Jell-O salads and tater tot casseroles.
Secondly, I went to public school and I don’t recall a bloody thing about it. No teacher who inspired…or assignment that stood out…NOTHING.
Well, that’s not entirely true. One year…I believe it was 6th grade, my best friend who had just gotten braces was hit in the mouth with a baseball bat during recess. I could feel little chunks of enamel and pulp slapping my cheek, prison breaking free from orthodontal incarceration. Other than that, the whole education thing was a blur.
It would be safe to say that I fell through the cracks at my public school, but with the passing of time I now realize there were lessons to learn… and I was right where I was supposed to be.
But a Catholic school brings it’s own set of challenges…particularly when you’re not Catholic. There were rogue ninja nuns who duct taped kids to the their seats, wielding rulers doubling as knuckle wackers. (say that 5 times really fast)
More than once I told the kids to go wash their dirty foreheads only to have them inform me it was Ash Wednesday. Then there was Mass…and the trauma of not being able to taste a Communion wafer like the other kids.
I remember walking my little girl into school on the first day of kindergarten. At the front door we met the principal welcoming students with a pat on the head. I thought my daughter was taking the experience quite well until we stepped into the foyer, and there on the wall was a gigantic statue of the Crucifiction. Her jaw dropped and lower lip trembled as she screamed, “Mom, what did HE do?”
Luckily she made it through kindergarten with flying colors. Then came first grade and the stakes got higher. Her teacher asked the class to describe how they would change the world. A tall order for a six-year old, but who am I to judge?
All their little raised hands flapped frantically. Feed the homeless! Hug the trees! Save the whales! Stop hunger! Keep mommies and daddies together! The requests were pouring in. One little girl thought we should print more money. (God love her!)
Then it was my daughter’s turn, and with the teacher’s permission to speak she belted, “NO MORE DRUNKS!”
Okay, in all fairness, the entire school had just completed a week long study of substance abuse. The principal dedicated a morning assembly to the responsibility of all students to watch parent’s intake…and rat on them. “If you see your parents pouring something from a bottle into a coffee cup, or sleeping during the day cuddling a brown bag, please alert the main office.”
I took offense to this stool pigeon patrol. I’m sure there are parents who overtrain, but those who hoist a glass in the evening after daily responsibilities are met… should not have children shouting in their faces, “I’m going to tell Sister Mary Catherine!”
The final straw occurred when I drove the kids to school and there were plastic owls hanging from tree limbs in the schoolyard. From their beaks hung signs asking, “WHOOOO saw mommy and daddy drinking?”
Well, that did it. I moved them to a different school. I know it was a lot of change for kids… but damn it, owls in the trees! What would you do?
The long and short of it is that I appreciate the great education my kids got in parochial school. They remember a lot of things…and along the way I picked up a few pointers too. I no longer suggest people wash their faces on Ash Wednesday…and I’m a devout believer in fish stick Fridays.