About 2/3 into last school year, my son shocked us by asking to transfer to a new school. Specifically, he wanted to switch from our local district elementary school to the CREC magnet school his sisters were attending for Pre-K. We were surprised at his request because it wasn’t a response to any specific issue at the school he was attending. In fact, we all loved his school and he was well-liked and thriving there. But, when asked his reasoning for wanting to transfer, he was calm and logical: he wanted to be closer to his sisters and he wanted to attend a school with more diversity. Can’t really argue with that, can ya?
We didn’t say yes right away and instead asked that he sit with his request for a few months to make sure it wasn’t a passing desire. We would do “check-ins” every few weeks to see if his feelings changed and to talk about the pros and cons in changing schools. He was steadfast in his decision, but also very realistic about his feelings – expressing sadness about leaving his old school and nervousness about being the new kid in class. I was always so amazed at his maturity and rationality when we would have these conversations. It was clear this was something he had thought through and, even recognizing some struggles that may come, wanted to pursue.
So, we threw his name into the lottery for the upcoming school year (knowing we had a better-than-not chance with sibling preference) and waited with bated breath. I’m pretty sure my wife and I were more anxious during “the wait” than he was. You see, given his history filled with far too many hard goodbyes in his 8 years, change and transition is not something he has typically done well with. We kind of avoid it at all costs. But, the only way to teach children to make good and responsible choices is to let them. He had earned my trust and had a right to a say in his education.
June rolled around and the verdict came: he was in! Yay…?
Being who I am, we spent the summer prepping and (over)processing for the big day. The project that made the biggest impact involved a picnic dinner at his old school and burying a paper heart in the woods behind the building to represent the way in which we shape everything we touch and experiences stay with us long after they are over.
Well, I’m thrilled to report that my boy is loving his new school and feeling great about his decision. He’s got a smile on his face every day at pickup and talks non-stop about his daily adventures.
The way he has taken to his new school and rode the wave of this transition with ease is nothing short of monumental. It speaks volumes as to how far he has come and how settled he feels in his life. The smallest changes can be triggering for children with traumatic histories, but this wasn’t a small change at all! You have to feel pretty darn safe and secure to enjoy taking a leap.
I’m writing this now with tears in my eyes. Tears of pride. Tears of honor. Tears of humility. And, maybe even a few tears of sadness – the sweet little boy I met 4 short years ago is on his way to becoming a remarkable young man.