It’s nearly time to write my year-end recap for Callum. It’s been a bumpy year, for many reasons, and just because it hasn’t been all fun doesn’t mean we shouldn’t mark its passing. But what I want to write today is separate from that recap, I think. We’ve handed Callum a lot to handle this year. We’ve all had a lot to handle this year. In the early fall Neel and I made the decision that it was time for him to leave his current school and attend another next fall. In many, many ways this was a tough call to make. He’s been at this school since he was barely four years old. From the earliest of preschool right through fourth grade. And he loves it here. Callum once said that when he died he wanted to be cremated and have his ashes spread on this campus. I work here, and Neel’s on the board…the fact that this is Callum’s school is as intricately entwined in our lives as our house is to our homelife. So many wonderful things have happened here. Callum learned to read here. Callum discovered his love of writing here. Callum decided that he might like math, just a little, here. He’s come into his own on the stage and on the field while he was here, and he even learned to sing!
But things change and places change and people change too. Callum needs, we decided, a bigger world, a higher bar, space that pushed him and expanded him…a place that was both more comfortable (in some ways) and less comfortable (in others).
So this past fall, the great school search began for us. At first we were just exploring. We didn’t tell our son about our thoughts, because at the time they were no more than that…thoughts. We wanted to see what was out there, what options we had. I went to open houses and reported back to Neel. We read and read and read. We talked and talked and talked. We gravitated to one school, and I day-dreamed about a (much) shorter commute. Still small, still nurturing, but a bit bigger and different enough… we thought we’d found it. And then a friend of ours, director of the lower division at another school, took us on a tour of his school. WAY bigger. Very different. We went to mostly rule it out, and, well you can see where this is going. We came out thinking, “hmm.” Hmmmm.
Then we had a decision to make, and we hadn’t yet told Callum.
On the evening we told our son that we were looking at new schools for him in the coming year, Neel and I sat across from each other at the dinner table, making the eyebrow-wiggling equivalent of, “You say it. No, YOU say it.” I’m not sure who jumped in and started speaking first but it was probably me, because all that eyebrow-wiggling reminded me of a particularly painful moment in high school which I am certain is a story for another day. There was Callum, happily eating away when we dropped the metaphorical bomb on him. His eyes grew round, he looked from one of us to the other and then quietly stood up beside his chair. It was as if his seat couldn’t contain him, but his emotions had no voice.
So we talked. All evening we talked. It wasn’t long before he ended up on my lap at the dinner table, just liked he used to do when he was a toddler. We talked about how we still loved his school. We talked about how it was hard to even think about saying good-bye. And we talked about how it might be time to think about doing something different.
After all that talking, we put him through the ringer. Tours, interviews, a day-long visit at one school, rigorous testing at another. Sitting for the tests, spending a day with kids he didn’t know…it all took a lot of bravery, I think. Hardest for Callum was having to keep the news a secret from his friends at school. It was a long winter.
We told him that he would have input (and he had a clear
favorite), but that we would make the ultimate decision (he railed against
that, let me tell you). He’d ask regularly which way we were leaning or state
emphatically that he knew we weren’t leaning to the school of his
And it was hard. Oh my gosh, so hard to make up our minds. We weighed pros and cons and talked and talked again. It felt like all we ever talked about was school. I really wondered if we’d ever be able to choose, but first we had to wait to see if the schools chose us. And when the first one did, I realized that I’d made up my mind. The way the light of a new day gathers so slowly, one tiny drop at a time, until suddenly it’s day, I had been gathering awareness about what we should do. And then I knew.
This post is as much about me as it is about Callum, because of what I learned. I learned that it’s not about what I need or want for him. I learned that ten is plenty old enough to have a strong voice in what happens to a person. I learned that what I wanted for Callum could be different from what Callum wanted for Callum or from what Callum really needed. And that’s the most important thing. When I was able to divorce myself from my vision of Callum’s schooling to really understand what he needed from his schooling. Well, the decision became clear. Neel got it too. At first I worried that I’d need to tug him along on this because it was so different from what we initially envisioned, but he got it.
So we’re trusting ourselves, we’re trusting our boy. We went big, not small, and we think he’s ready. As parents we’ve laid a good foundation, I think. His current school has a laid a good foundation. Now he’s ready for the big time.
We’re stepping off a cliff, but I think this place will give him wings.