by Alina Wickham, P ’21
Hello, my name is Alina, and, last year, I had three kids in three different schools. Because I am a lunatic.
I didn’t plan for it, it just happened. I had two sons, so I sent one to an all-boy school. Then I sent the other one. Then I had a daughter.
“Bad planning,” I was actually told.
Since my daughter couldn’t go to my sons’ school, and since I’d come to the conclusion that, no matter how good the school my boys went to was, they were still missing out on a Jewish education, I sent my daughter to Rodeph Sholom School.
Kindergarten year was a challenge. While my oldest took his younger brother to school in the morning, they finished at different times in the afternoon. That meant I needed to pick up my younger son on the East Side, then rush across the park to meet my daughter’s bus on the West Side. (I even had it drop her off a stop further from our house, so I had an extra precious five minutes to get there.)
But then, things got even more complicated. My oldest graduated from the 8th Grade, and went to a public high-school in Battery Park City. At that point, the middle one started coming home from the East Side by himself, so travel logistics became less of a problem.
But now there were other issues. Three kids in three different schools meant three different Parent/Teacher Associations, three different curriculum nights, three different fundraising campaigns and, oh, yes, this is the big one: three different calendars.
Private schools, public schools, and private religious schools have different calendars. (Did I mention that, just to make things more fun, my husband teaches at a fourth independent school? And even it has a slightly different schedule.) Public Winter Break is usually shorter, while President’s Day/Week is longer. Public schools start the year earlier and end later, and their Spring Break is in a completely different month altogether from the private and religious schools. Also, public schools seem to have random days off in the middle of the year, because… reasons?
Since RSS only goes up to 8th Grade, and different kids have different needs/interests for High-School, it is possible that many other families may soon find themselves in my same boat. For you, I have some coping tips:
1) Independence Day: Kids from elementary to high-school are often capable of doing more than parents expect. If you can’t be in two (three? four?) places at the same time, take stock and see what your child can accomplish for themselves on their own. Or even how they can help you. Kids love to be useful, especially when it’s not busy work, but genuine contribution to the running of the household. (They’ll grumble, but they secretly love it. And it if they don’t – it builds character.)
2) Ask For Outside Help: Your school(s) may be able to assist you in ways you didn’t expect. The first day my oldest son took his brother to school, they arrived early, due to different grades having different starting times. My oldest left the younger one on the street while he went in. It was actually the school that reached out to me to suggest that my middle child might be happier spending those free twenty minutes in the library, helping to exercise the turtle, rather than shivering alone.
3) Punt: My husband taught me this term. It’s when you do something well enough to get it done, but no more, so you can focus on other things. So you miss a PA meeting, so you don’t volunteer the same number of hours at every school, so what? Find out what’s really important to your child. Is it that you make the play in which she has one line, or that you chaperone a field trip, or that you bring in homemade baked goods for every party? And then prioritize. You’ll be surprised to learn how much of what you kill yourself for, the kid doesn’t really care about.
And, finally, remember the advice my mother gave me, “Don’t worry, whatever you decide to do with your kids, you’ll be wrong.”
Sure takes the pressure off, doesn’t it?