I made the decision to short sell my place in part because of the Chicago Public Schools' elementary school assigned to my address. After all, West Rogers Park is a bit…. economically challenged. The playgrounds around me are getting no love from the city, and, well, I just never thought my son would fall into the smallest piece of the pie in the school’s ethnicity pie chart!
My son was supposed to start Kindergarten in an elementary school that looked like mine did..something like this:
The Moms were supposed to wear capri pants from Target and all look the same. I was supposed to pull my car into a semi-circle driveway to pick him up. There were supposed to be school buses. I'd have to make the trek to the suburbs to find all that.
But, today, I want to keep my kid in the city. And here’s why:
1. CPS teachers.
After the break-up, I visited several Chicago Public Schools in my search for where I might live, next. I encountered only committed, hard working teachers with a lot of light and fight in their eyes. I saw teachers working very hard to make their school a Good Place for kids. I did not see a broken system mandating that Decent Parents make a move to the suburbs if they cared at all about their kids’ educations. Most CPS teachers care deeply about their students, and are understandably frustrated by a disconnect between the schools and the administration. I also saw a lot of kids who loved their teachers and their schools, and remained blissfully impervious to the sometimes contentious battles being waged on their behalf against slimming budgets and unfair public opinion.
2. I was drawn to the city for a reason.
As far back as I remember, I was seized by the allure of “big cities.“ (City skylines at night? Fuggeddaboutit...) I’ve now lived in Chicago longer than I lived with my parents.
I must really love it. What’s not to love? Everything is here! A BOSS skyline. National tours of everything. Great theater, music, and art! Cuisine from every corner of the globe. Free concerts, free zoo, free beaches, free street festivals, free days at the museums, free spirits, free speech..
So why would I want to take my son away from the place that makes my heart swoon? Why wouldn’t I, instead, share my love of the city with him? And is it really the best thing for him if his mom rips herself away from the Mother Ship?
And if I claim to love it so much, maybe I should take the good with the bad. Maybe I should stand by CPS, and participate in the solution...
3. Such beautiful diversity on the playground.
I have a close family member in recovery. The other day, she told me that in addition to the twelve steps everyone hears about, there are also “twelve traditions:" suggestions about how the society should be run.
(I promise this swings back around to Chicago Public Schools ...)
She told me that one of the traditions reads “The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking.” This means that, from the beginning, AA made the choice to allow everyone in their society, regardless of race, sexual orientation, religion, political party, disturbing fetishes, bigoted opinions, felonies on their record, unpleasant personalities, mental illness..a person simply could not be excluded from joining the group.
From its beginnings, or at least since that tradition was written in 1946, AA chose to embrace full equality.
Meanwhile, both the US and the rest of the world are still fighting and scraping and dying and warring to attain full equality for everyone, one bloody civil rights movement at at time. AA began where the rest of the world has not yet arrived.
Like AA, G is now positioned to embrace full equality from the very beginning of his journey. He has the opportunity to begin where, perhaps, his own mother has not yet arrived. He is not seeing color right now. He is seeing “new friends.” He is not seeing saris, and hijabs, and chadors as the clothes of the “Not Me’s.” Those are just his “friends’ moms' clothes.” He is not threatened by the inability of certain kids to speak english. They are “still learning.”
My education took place mostly in predominately white schools. I went to some great schools, and had some great teachers. (Shout out to Mrs Leonard!! 3rd grade ruled..) But as I became an adult, I unexpectedly found myself with prejudices about the “Not Me’s” of the world. These prejudices had not necessarily been imposed upon me directly by my family and my peers, but from the absence of the “Not Me’s” in my life.
The only place I had received information about “the Not Me’s,” frankly, was the evening news, TV. Maybe some movies. Almost without exception, these platforms provided horribly inaccurate portraits of most every "Not Me" I can think of.
Even today, I am still a little shocked and confused at times at the small-minded messages I receive from my head when I interact with the “Not Me’s.” I’m still waging my own, personal civil rights movement in my heart, having been late for dinner at the table of True Diversity.
And now, by keeping G in this beautifully diverse, incredibly colorful school I have a golden opportunity to give my son “what I never had.” I can give him the opportunity to form his own impressions about the “Not Me’s” by way of direct experience.
4. Ultimately, the people most responsible for G's education are his parents, not CPS.
G went to the same daycare from the time he was 6 months old until about two weeks ago. It was not the best, it was not the worst. G loved his friends, there were a lot of nice people working there, the classrooms were a little overcrowded, and there was a revolving door of classroom teachers. But in those places where his daycare/preschool fell short, the X and I filled in the gap with books and flash cards and worksheets. It’s a team effort, and I will work closely with his teacher, but we are ultimately responsible for our kid’s education.
Sure. I am only two weeks in. I am not so naive to think that Chicago Public Schools are perfect, that there won't be some teeth gnashing in my journey ahead. I could even change my mind again. (Oh, that happens a LOT. Ask my X) But this is where I am, today.
But the biggest revelation: I realized I am not a Bad Mom for wanting to keep my kid in the city.
Now if you will excuse me, I have to go figure out how to save my condo...
Thanks for reading, and carry on...
Old Single Mom