One of the reasons I fell in love with blogging way back in the day when I first moved to Haiti was that it was an easy way to catch all of our friends and family up on life stuff, and to share about some of the things that were going on for us. It was much easier than sending the same email 10 times. Somewhere along the line I stepped away from that. I know a big part of it was during a period when we were going through some really hard things with some of the situations that were going on for us, and it felt emotionally unsafe to share in any depth. Some of that was because we didn’t know who was reading and were worried that certain information would compromise situations we were dealing with, and some of it was because people we were living and working directly with in some really difficult situations would just know too much about how we were processing and feeling. It just wasn’t prudent.
So I went quiet. And I moved away from talking about things that were hard and that mattered. Then life just kept rolling. Our kids have gotten older and I’ve thought a lot about how much to share about life with them out of respect for their privacy as they get older, but more and more I’m also keenly aware of what a treasure it is to have a journal of our life here for them to look back on. I feel sad that there’s this gap here where many things haven’t been documented in the way they were when Olivia was smaller. I haven’t written letters to them the way I used to. I haven’t shared things I want them to know about who they and our family are during these early years, or the struggles involved in doing family life overseas in a place where none of us fit in. Or the joys of doing this thing here.
Today I want to share. I feel ready. It’s been so long and I feel like our families, for the most part, are getting a bit further away and not knowing the stuff of life here like they used to, and that makes me sad. So here it is.
Yesterday was hard. We got a call that Olivia had been caught cheating in school. The kids work in their workbooks and are responsible for checking their own work, which can leave room for cheating, but her teachers have been cracking down on it, and she had never participated before – that anyone is aware of. Yesterday she got caught. We’ve been struggling with some attitude issues at home and were wondering if it was just at home, but yesterday it was confirmed that it wasn’t. We are so thankful for the leadership at the kids school and there desire to build character in the kids. We fully, 100% support both of our kids teachers in the decisions that they need to make when stuff comes up – all the time. We know that the dynamics of the school have our kids standing out. They are the only kids of foreigners there, and all of the teachers are our friends, so we know we have to be very cautious about our kids not getting special treatment because it will cause other issues at the school.
The decision made by Olivia’s teachers was that she needed to be suspended for a couple of days, which we were all on board with. If that’s what happens with other kids, then that’s what happens with her. We talked right after getting off the phone to decide on appropriate punishment for when she got home, and decided that it would have a bigger impact if one of us picked her up early from school so she had to do the “walk of shame” in front of everyone. I left to go get her.
I would love to say that it was a case of going to get her and heading home, but it wasn’t. When I arrived my phone rang and it turned out it was Alex’s teacher calling from the other side of the school yard. Before I even went to deal with Olivia I ended up in Alex’s classroom talking to his teacher about some of the struggles he’s been having. We have really good communication, so much of it wasn’t new, but rather a “we’re still struggling with this”. Yesterday he decided to pick up a piece of gum off the ground during break, and smear it all over the inside of his cubicle, among other things.
It would be easy to say “boys will be boys” but that would be a cop out. The dynamics in his class are hard too. There are 8 kids, doing grade 1 work, and they range in age from 5 to 10 or 11. Alex is the youngest. It’s not abnormal for Haitian kids to be all ages in the same grade because kids have started school late or gone sporadically. The school our kids go to is mostly made up of kids from the on-site children’s home, but there are about 20 kids from the surrounding communities that go as well. They’re well on the way to regulating the ages a bit more, but it’s a very long process that needs to take place over a matter of years as they bring new kids into the preschool level and move them up. The principal is a friend of ours, and in the 7+ years that she’s been there she’s done amazing work at getting kids caught up.
The biggest issue is that Alex struggles with change and the kid is a deep thinker. Chris just came from talking to his teacher again this morning and on the way to school had a chat with Alex that had something to do with Alex expressing fears about having to go to college. He’s 5. Chris had to remind him that college is a long way off and that maybe he should focus on getting through grade 1. Alex’s class has moved from working together on learning to read and doing a lot of activities together, to starting their workbook work that they do on their own. I think that change has been hard for him, so we’re going to be working with him at home after school to get caught up to most of the other kids in his class. He needs his confidence boosted and to feel like he’s able to do it, and he thrives with one on one attention.
After dealing with Alex’s issues I moved to the task at hand and went to deal with Olivia’s issues. Like I said, we’re so thankful for her teachers. The three of us talked together, with each of them taking time to talk to her about what had happened, her attitude, and encouraging her to take the next two days while she’s suspended to think about who she wants to be as a person and make some changes. Aside from being suspended there are a couple of other things that will be going on for her once she gets back that are normal in a situation like this, and at home she’s grounded for a month (which is a big deal for her) and will be doing a lot of writing about cheating, honesty, integrity, etc. She’s also scheduled to fly to the US with her Daddy at the end of February to visit Grandma and Grandpa for two weeks at their treat, and she knows that the trip might be cancelled for her if she doesn’t show marked improvements in her attitude and school work.
The conclusion of this story is that parenting is hard. But, I think you already know that. Rest assured, it’s hard here just like it’s hard there. In our situation we also have to factor other things in, like the fact that the peer pressure is different because our kids are the only kids in the school with white parents, and the kids all know that. There’s often a push to see if our kids will do the same things or get treated the same. They will always stand out, especially Alex because he’s literally the only white kid in the school. Extra challenges!