I recently sent my oldest daughter out on her first day of first grade. She got dressed in her fanciest floral dress; the one that she loves because it twirls when she spins. She had me do her hair pulled into a neat side ponytail and then she topped it all off with a purple floral headband. As I looked at her, I couldn’t stop wondering where the time has gone. It seemed like just days ago she was a tiny newborn baby, small, pink, wrinkly, and super dependent on me for everything. To think that just the other day she snapped at me with a sassy, “I don’t care” after I told her how scared it made me feel to see her almost get hit by a car. I swear she had her hands on her hips and her head cocked to the side as she said it. Hello five going on fifteen!
But what really hasn’t stopped playing through my mind isn’t how fast time has flown, her almost getting hit by a car, or her big first day of school, but rather an assertion made to me by another mom, that my kids won’t be going to college because they aren’t at the right Elementary school.
We moved recently and although we are in a different school zone now, we’ve chosen to keep our daughter at the school she did kindergarten at. We love the school, the kids, the parent body, the teaching philosophy, her teacher, and the principal. Plus we wouldn’t have dreamed of taking our daughter out of a place she loves and is thriving at if we didn’t have to.
I was in my old neck of the woods when I ran into a mom I used to live by. After inquiring as to where we moved, she asked me if we were now going to change schools and put Olivia at the school in our new neighborhood (it also happens to be the school her children attend). But when I proceeded to tell her no, that we were not, and that we love our current school, in so many words she told me that my kid is not going to go to college.
Okay, okay, I exaggerate. What she actually said was that she wants her kids to go to college and that is why her kids are at XXX Elementary School. I stood there in a frozen daze listening to her go on and on about how great it is and how college is so important…blah…blah…blah.
I listened for awhile, with my discomfort growing, only to find myself saying, “Oh, yeah. I didn’t really think of that. Maybe I should talk to Brent about it”. As she wrapped up her closing remarks, she finished with “Well, I hear a lot of people like the school you are at” Which felt to me like a weak attempt at, “Well don’t worry I’m sure you’re kids will be fine”. All I needed at that point was the matching pat-pat-pat on the back to round out the condescension.
As I drove home, I was so mad at myself, I had wished I had hadn’t said, “Maybe I should talk to my husband about it” In doing so I felt like I had co-signed her BS. Instead I wish I had, nicely of course, asked her more about her implications, told her we were confident in our decisions, or just frankly told her that I thought she was dead wrong.
After-the-fact, I became so bothered by this lady’s comments, that I did what any mom of four small children has time to do, I called the registrars for the Petaluma high schools to get the statistics of the kids who went to my daughter’s school to find out the percentage of those kids who graduated and went on to college. I wanted to compare it to the other schools in Petaluma just to prove to that lady that she was wrong and then stick it to her.
Having worked as an Admissions Officer at a private high school in Santa Rosa and having admitted kids who went to my daughter’s school, I knew that I had nothing to worry about. Those kids all went on to college and were some of the top applicants our high school had seen. What was remarkable about them was the fact that they weren’t just book smart but they could look adults in the eye and carry on a conversation. They were compassionate, kind, and interesting. They were definitely the kinds of kids I would want my girls to grow up like.
But with my statistical research well underway, I received an email back from the Petaluma City School District who told me that the individual schools would have to provide me with feeder school info. They also told me the stats from last year’s graduation class. From Casa Grande, 24 percent went on to 4-year college, 40 percent went on to 2-year college, 2 percent Military, 30 percent work, and 4 percent were undecided. And at Petaluma High School, 35 percent went on to 4-year college, 55 percent 2-year, 3 percent Military, and 7 percent work or Undecided.
The Registrar at PHS, who was so busy getting ready for the start of school didn’t have time to get me her data, but she did tell me that all three of her kids graduated from my daughter’s school. One is 29 and has a degree from UC Santa Cruz (Go Slugs!) in Electrical Engineering and a Masters of Business Admin. The other just finished her 3rd year of Medical School after getting a degree in Biology/Pre-Med and a BA in German Studies. Her third child has Down syndrome and lives independently in a downtown Petaluma apartment. “So, There!” she said in her email to me referring back to the woman who made the comments.
Ultimately, I called off the dogs. I realized that statistics are nice but they wouldn’t be able to prove whether or not my daughter will go to college. Only time will tell that story. I think that Olivia has a pretty good shot having had two parents who graduated from college, one of us right out of high school and another through a longer windier route. We are educated, fortunate, open-minded, and we will support her decisions. Along the way we will make sure that education is at the forefront of our children’s lives. Because we will want them to go, hopefully, they will want to as well.
Olivia is fortunate beyond measure to attend the school she attends. It is an excellent school with an excellent track record. It may not be the right school for everyone, but for now we feel that it is the right school for us. Olivia will be challenged, she will work hard, she will learn a lot, and we will help her. Until then, our biggest problem won’t be whether or not she will go to college, it will be figuring out, with four kids, how we are going to pay for it.