Today was the dreaded parent-teacher conference at Palmer’s school. I wasn’t dreading it because he’s been doing so poorly. I was dreading it because I would have to tell her what is really going on with our son.
I went in early to see if I could catch the Principal or Guidance Counselor, but since neither were available, I went and sat outside the classroom, twenty minutes early. Within just a few minutes, the teacher came out, saw me sitting there and asked if we could start early.
Um, yes. I think that would be a good idea.
Once I was signed in, she began to gush about Palmer.
“Palmer is doing AWESOME!” she exclaimed. She started to continue on, but I needed to get it off my chest.
“Um, that’s because he’s not five,” I explained. He’s actually eight.
I know the feeling.
I explained that our kids had been told to lie and why and that we had only confirmed it two weeks ago, but that we were getting a letter from Vanderbilt Childrens’ Hospital today that reflected what we believe to be a more accurate representation of their real ages.
“If all goes according to what the pediatrician wants, we will be moving Palmer to first grade shortly. We still have a few hoops to jump through.”
“Oh, I’m going to miss him. He’s been such a good student and a hard worker.”
“The good news is that even though you’re losing our son, you’re gaining our daughter!”
“Wonderful!” she exclaimed.
And then I had to explain that though she is six, she has an unspecified developmental delay that we are still investigating with chromosomal studies and other assessments. I relayed that while she will be a very delightful and happy student, she will not have the academic prowess that our older child has. We may be setting her up for failure, but we do have to give her a chance to be in a challenging academic environment. After all, she may surprise us and her delay may be more limited to just her motor skills.
We bounced ideas back and forth for the next hour. Palmer has completed nearly all the goals for Kindergarten after only being in school for a month. Though he’ll have a tough time in first grade, to be sure, he will still be in an English learner’s classroom. With his academic ability and interest, we both have high hopes for him.
We also hope that once Addie is placed with five and six-year olds, she’ll start behaving more like a five or six-year-old rather than the three-year olds she has been in class with. As much as we have loved the preschool where she has been and would recommend it to anyone without hesitation, she needs to be in an age-appropriate classroom.
After the hour-long conversation, I went to hunt down the Guidance Counselor and/or Principal. The Principal wasn’t available, but I talked with the Guidance Counselor for twenty minutes about both of our kids. She knows Palmer, but Addie is new to her. She agreed that moving Palmer to the first grade would be a good step, even though a big one, to get him closer to his age group, but she couldn’t give us permission. It has to come from the Principal. There was even some talk of moving him to the second grade, but the Guidance Counselor and his teacher and I all agreed that for a child that speaks almost no English but is already enjoying academic success, it may be too much. I’ll have to call and schedule an appointment with the Principal.
In the midst of my conversation with the Guidance Counselor, she stopped me and said, “How are you doing? This is a lot!” I told her the truth — that beyond just the issues with our kids, my boss was diagnosed with a brain tumor a week ago, suddenly retired, and we have our four-year accreditation in 3 weeks. I have pretty much returned to work full-time, even though I’m still carting Addie to the doctor every other day. I just have to work into late into the evenings.
I am tired.
Back to reality.
On arriving home, I called the Lead Coordinator at the English Learners Office to update him and he confirmed that indeed there was precedence for allowing medical documentation to trump birth certificates (since we can’t legally change our kids’ certificates because of anti-terrorism laws). He also has already contacted the student services offices about testing a non-English speaking child for special needs. One step closer.
Our final step will be getting the Principal’s permission, but it looks like Palmer will be headed to first grade, and Addie to Kindergarten shortly. Very shortly.
I received the letters from our adoption physician officially declaring our childrens’ new ages. It’s now done. The lie has been abolished and we live in a new reality.
And THEN, I went to work.