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The first Monday in September is Labour Day in Canada—the day before school and routines start.
The day before, I have to start thinking about making lunches, driving and drop-offs, pickups, and girl drama.
My 13-year-old daughter starts grade eight tomorrow, which is the first year of high school here. This school will be her seventh. We’ve tried homeschooling, unschooling, French immersion, traditional English public schools, a private school with small class sizes, and a unique equestrian program.
She excelled at the equestrian program, but it was so far away that I had to rent a suite out there half the week for the two of us, which was challenging financially, and it took its toll on the rest of the family.
School is hard. For tricky kids like mine, kids with learning issues, behavioral issues, or whatnot, school can be torture.
The day I found my nine-year-old in the dog kennel with “I Hate School” written in my black eyeliner backward on her forehead was the day I knew something had to change. It was toward the end of grade three, and I thought, “F*ck it.” I’ll just do it myself.
I homeschooled her in grade four, and the shift in her attitude and mood was like night and day. As if someone had turned on a light switch.
In grade six, she started riding four days a week. We could only facilitate that by taking her out of private school because we couldn’t afford to do both. So I suggested she try the elementary school in our catchment (the same school her sister went to a decade prior).
My daughter loved her elementary school years, but the demographic in that neighborhood has drastically changed in the last few years—homes that used to go for 500,000 now start at three million. Most mothers and kids wear designer clothes (Gucci, Prada, and Balenciaga sweats are not uncommon). These kids live in mansions and have summer homes in wine country and winter homes in Whistler.
At the beginning of that school year, she brought a girl home for lunch. “Do you own or rent this small house?” She asked as I prepared their pasta. I could feel my daughter’s discomfort.
“We rent it,” I answered quickly.
“You mean you can’t afford to buy a house?” This 11-year-old asked incredulously.
Although I managed to embed myself with a small group of left-leaning creative mothers at that school, my daughter didn’t manage to fit in. I saw it myself. She came home every day for lunch because she had no one to hang out with. Girls crossed the street when they saw her approach.
Even though most of my friends thought I was insane, I took her out in December and started homeschooling her again, and then COVID-19 hit three months later, which thankfully leveled the playing field.
I swear, if someone told me they had the secret to the fountain of youth, but I had to redo my high school years, I would pass.
It was of her own volition that my daughter suggested trying the public secondary school in our new neighborhood (we moved here this past June). I pray for her and for myself that this school works out. I want to see her happy. I want her to make friends.
She’s always had a hard time in the friend front, but she’s taken to Snap and Chats over the last few months and gone out and met up with kids she met online. Dropping my daughter off at some school field or Starbucks to meet a boy or girl she had been chatting with online but never met in person was strange at first. But then I thought about it. Covid has driven people apart. Socializing is no longer organic for these kids. I also talk about Molly’s and Kate’s and Alexis’s and Waylon’s as if they are my friends. Because, although one or two or three degrees removed, they are.
I set ground rules. Those kids had to be friends of friends at least. I needed these kids’ phone numbers. I preferred it when they came to our place so I could keep an eye on the situation.
It’s gone quite well. My daughter now has three friends, two girls, and a boy (although a grade above her) that she has had sleepovers with and will be going to the same school. But you never know. Especially in high school, friends and alliances change swiftly. Frenemies abound.
Here’s to hoping she’ll find someone like her, someone a little offside, a little weird. Maybe someone who also lives in a rental house.