The Worst Thing I Have Ever Done to My Kids. (Will They Forgive Me?)

changing schools picture of Prabs in black and white looking pensive

A few weeks ago, I was going to write about how May 2nd marked 21 years since one of the hardest and most significant events of my life: the day I moved back to London from Paris. Unfortunately, I never got round to writing the article because this May, another life-changing incident happened that has pretty much preoccupied my every thought and dominated most of my days.  My husband and I reached a decision which (like the one to leave Paris) is for good reasons…but is nonetheless heart breaking and involves the hardest goodbye. 

For some people reading this – especially those suffering intense trauma and hardship – my ‘sad life-altering’ event is just a precious first world problem… It’s probably one of those things you have to be a parent to understand too.

 

After 11 years at the same school, we are changing schools.

Yes I know! Nobody has died.  We haven’t lost the roof over our heads due to war or financial crisis. Nobody (touch wood) is suffering an awful illness. We haven’t had our lives devastated by a natural disaster or a terror attack.

Yet in the years that have passed since that fateful day in 1997, few things have impacted me or caused me as much heartache as the thought of my children (and er…me!) leaving the only school we’ve ever known and all that changing schools entails (even if, as I said, we feel we are making the right decision). We started in 2007 with a then three year old Musical M who is leaving (aged 14) as one of the ‘longest attending’ pupils. 11 years of school socials, plays, concerts, class presentations etc. We were almost a part of the furniture!

So I won’t pretend the last few weeks have been easy.

Realising ‘we’re really doing this’ –  looking at other schools and obtaining application forms (something I’ve not had to do since my 14 year old was 19 months old!) – sent my nervous system into shock.

As did this: Visiting a school that I just sobbed walking around, dealing with an archaic obstructive mentality that exists in certain school administrations, learning that certain schools teach specific subjects only in Maltese (a non starter for my kids), discovering that many schools (from both the government and the private system) set a COLOSSAL ten to twelve compulsory Matsec (Malta’s GCSE) exams in addition to the optional subjects, realising that some schools don’t offer art or design or music or drama at Matsec level and one school doesn’t teach geography or history at all!

The tears, they did flow.

Schools exist in all sorts of shapes, sizes, facilities, curriculum, teaching style and philosophy. State…private…grammar…international…a high scoring school that everyone’s desperate to get their kids into…or a jungle you wouldn’t send your worst enemy to…

changing schools Prabs looking to the side

Whatever the options available, there is no such thing as the perfect school. What you might see as a school’s best points might be my very reasons not to choose that school.

Were there things about our school I didn’t much like, that may possibly not be an issue after changing schools? Yep…

A preoccupation with encouraging Valentine’s Day and Prom celebrations in place of honouring World Book Day or culturally significant days, an inadequate language programme, increasingly expensive school events, modest facilities, a rather ‘relaxed’ health and safety approach in certain scenarios, a seemingly non-existent approach re teaching manners/enforcing a respect for authority and an inability/refusal to deal with bullying behaviour, which you may recall from that viral post I published last year.

 

But of course there were things I just loved. Things that made it so so very special. Things that I will sorely miss….

The cosy inviting feeling of the converted buildings and their wonderful historical significance.
The family/community spirit.
The nurturing, collaborative educational methods (at primary level).
The theme-based curriculum.
The EXCELLENT art programme and art festivals that used to leave me speechless with admiration.
The relaxed understanding attitude regarding absences and vacation time.
And the class sizes of 17 or so.
The list goes on.

My kids have been blissfully happy there for the most part.

changing schools picture of kids looking happy

So the more I researched alternative schools and
– heard stories of physical bullying
– spoke to friends who told me about teachers who simply don’t show up
– managed my children’s reactions and feelings
– got told by friends that changing schools will have a damaging effect on the eldest
– and discovered that two friends were pulling their kids out of the very school for which I’d applied only to be told by that school that we’re not in the right catchment area anyway (!),
I was a tad drained.

 

By the time I went to inform the Head of our current school of our decision, I thought I’d at least be able to get through the conversation in one piece, with no tears.

Wrong. Seriously, how were my tear ducts not exhausted?

Then there was this week’s Grade 8 drama show. The last time I’ll see my eldest sing at this lovely school. Once again she simply blew us all away with her strong moving solo. (No I’m not a stage mum. She’s got a great voice. Simple.)

As Musical M belted out the lyrics of This is Me, a song about self-empowerment and rising up against tormentors who try to drag you down, there were more tears. (I thank God for my enormous black Ralph Lauren’s without which my blubbing would have been totally exposed to everyone.)

The painful irony of M singing these lyrics, standing next to the very mean girls who’ve made her life a misery the last few years, was not lost on those people who know the situation.

How have the kids taken it?

M is very emotional about the move. And quite frankly terrified. Dreamy D (now 11) said “Mummy, it’s really hit me how I don’t want to leave my school”. M told me that Cheeky K (8yrs) burst into tears the other day about it all too.

Will I cry my eyes as we walk out the gates for the last time? No need for me to reply.

Will I lose sleep the night before they start at their new school, whereever that may be? No need for a reply.

Will I spend the long (even longer than we had in this current school) Maltese summer holidays staying strong for my kids? No reply needed.

 

BUT all three totally understand our reasons for and benefits of changing schools.

There hasn’t been one outburst or flash of anger or even plea to stay. Their reaction has filled me with pride.

I am convinced it will also do them good in so many ways.

They have spent years saying goodbye to at least two classmates at the end of each academic year. It’s the nature of the international school; students come and go all the time. It takes its toll. M has been heartbroken every single time a friend has left the island. This is their chance to make and hang on to more long term friends. And to be honest, 11 years for M and 8 for D is more than most students stay at this school! There are worse things in life.

As I finish this post in the small hours, before our last morning at this school, I feel strangely numb. There will continue to be many times when my heart is heavy but I also know there are several more reasons to have faith in our decision.

There are always reasons to be positive!

The earlier schoolday start and finish times sure as hell aren’t one of them though.

Fancy giving my kids a lift…?

 

Comments

Comments

11 Comments on The Worst Thing I Have Ever Done to My Kids. (Will They Forgive Me?)

  1. Liz Deacle
    June 15, 2018 at 6:26 pm (1 month ago)

    Hey Prabs,
    you know me and change. I’m the queen of it. Try explaining to your 16 year old son that he’s leaving his friends for a year while his mother drags him around the world on a midlife crisis.
    6 months later and he doesn’t want to go home. Ever.
    I know it seems devastating now but believe me, 6 weeks in and they’ll be saying ‘I much prefer it here’. Trust yourself Prabs. You know what’s best xx

    Reply
    • prabs
      June 17, 2018 at 6:55 pm (1 month ago)

      Ah that’s sweet of you. I definitely know it won’t be better as the alternative system here is dramatically different but we simply can’t justify paying what we were paying without receiving (what we felt was) enough in return.

      Reply
  2. Tubbs
    June 21, 2018 at 11:54 am (4 weeks ago)

    It’s so hard to know what to do for the best in these situations but given the background, a new school and a fresh start sounds like an excellent plan. They can keep in touch with friends from their old school on social and at the weekends. Sending hugs as these things are never easy

    Reply
    • prabs
      June 21, 2018 at 4:43 pm (4 weeks ago)

      Ah thank you. I pray that we can find time to see old friends in between the hectic nature of life.

      Reply
  3. MMT
    June 21, 2018 at 7:54 pm (4 weeks ago)

    Oh prabs, I feel your pain through this read! I know how much I agonised (don’t laugh) over moving my three year old to a different nursery in September! This must be agonising. I honestly think as parents, making decisions for your kids is the hardest thing that crops up again and again…we are currently trying to fathom whether Tigs should have eye surgery…in 7 days…send help please?!?!
    Lots of love, you’ve made this decision with their best intrests at heart xx
    Thanks for sharing with #coolmumclub

    Reply
    • prabs
      June 21, 2018 at 9:30 pm (4 weeks ago)

      Thanks for your lovely words my friend. But Tigs…blimey. Hugs xx

      Reply
  4. Sophie
    June 21, 2018 at 7:59 pm (4 weeks ago)

    Change is always tricky for everyone but I think kids deal with it the best to be honest. As long as they feel safe and loved at home and that is constant, they can deal with other changes in their lives. My daughter has just finished school FOREVER and that is freaking me out! I’m not old enough to have an adult daughter and i’ll miss her being at school!ngood luck with all the changes. #coolmumclub

    Reply
    • prabs
      June 21, 2018 at 9:30 pm (4 weeks ago)

      Oh heavens that is major!! As teenagers, we had no idea how our parents probably felt!

      Reply
  5. Emma T
    June 24, 2018 at 6:15 pm (4 weeks ago)

    Hope the change goes as well as possible for all of you. Big step, but children adapt pretty well. #coolmumclub

    Reply
  6. Sandra
    June 25, 2018 at 9:04 pm (4 weeks ago)

    Good evening…today I saw you at a particular school … we had our son’s graduation so I happened to see you when we dropped him off and when the graduation was over. I remember you when our children used to attend nursery together….somehow I know that you do not remember me at all … but you had told me about your blog and I happened to read this particular one and then this morning I saw you and I kind of made my maths 🙂 anyway I am writing to tell you that we also have 3 children and 2 attend the school you were in this morning ( our third is a baby ). On the island there are other schools that may be better and whose fees are higher but I feel that this school scores at a higher average when condidering everything. The world book day was indeed celebrated, and when you get the health policy forms most probably you will think that it is a tad excessive 🙂

    Anyway I felt the need to write to inform you that through experience and as a mum myself, I believe that you made a good choice for your children. In the eventuality that this will not work out as you hope and wish form you can always do the same without taking such length of time to reach a decision always in the best interest of our loved children.

    Reply
    • prabs
      June 25, 2018 at 9:56 pm (4 weeks ago)

      Thank you so much for your lovely helpful comment. I’m wondering if you are the lady who walked through the door while I was sitting at the entrance with two of my kids around 11.30 as I saw a lady I recognised but didn’t know where from! Yes, my conclusion from visiting it is fantastic family atmosphere, incredibly happy friendly kids but a lack of decent facilities compared to what we’re used to (and believe me, that wasn’t amazing either!) and a very limited choice of subjects age 13 upwards for Matsec exams. If you see us again, please do say hello!

      Reply

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