You know there are some days that you cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel. That hit me hard last year at this exact time in my life. Years of caring for my daughter, Katie, had finally taken its toll. She was struggling in her school (the second school we had tried) and was outwardly expressing it to me every day. As I would pick her up from school, she would scream and yell at me. Most of the time it didn’t make any sense at all. It was just outward tirades towards me. Just for effect she would throw books at me from her backpack. Luckily, we just lived a couple of blocks from the school. As we got out of the car, Katie would go in the house and scream about doing her homework. We tried to have a little downtime before doing it, but that didn’t work. We tried to do it right after school, but that didn’t work. We tried to wait until after dinner, but that didn’t work. When she didn’t finish her work in school, the teacher would send it home with her. It added to her workload. Her fits and tantrums exhausted me. My other two kids watched with their eyes wide open as Katie would scream at me. They would never dare raise their voice at me like that – they knew that. What I couldn’t see through my exhaustion was that Katie’s behavior was affecting not only me (because it was mental abuse from my child), but my kids and my husband. I was constantly explaining Katie’s behavior to friends, so they wouldn’t think badly of her. Her friendships were few and far between and still to this day she suffers the repercussions of her behavior by not being invited to birthday parties or play dates.
Last December, God placed on my heart to call an acquaintance and talk with her about options for Katie. I don’t know why her name came up in my head, but it did. We weren’t close friends, but our sons played lacrosse together and we attended church together. After talking with Pete and crying my eyes out because of the sheer inability to function any longer, he said, “Call her.” I did. It changed my life. I cried on the phone to her about my pain and sorrow. She gave me such wonderful support because she had a similar experience in her life. We could finish each other’s sentences. Only her life had changed. Do you know why? She found a wonderful, supportive school that changed her life.
The next day, I ventured to the school. As I drove through the neighborhood, it took me aback. It was the large house-like building at the end of a street. I drove through the gate and entered the school. Mary met me at the door that day. She had just returned from shopping. Mary greeted me with a huge smile. I was so overwhelmed, that I blurted out my story to her right there in the hallway. She never batted an eye. As the tears rolled down my cheeks, she told me, “We have a place for Katie here. She will fit in, don’t worry.” We toured the school which by public school standards would be considered quite small. It felt like a home, not a school. The classroom floors and shelves were covered in hands on activities for the kids to learn. Puzzles, math beads, blocks, grammar cards and books were all over the room, but orderly in the room. There were not desks in her classroom, just floor carpets for them to work on. There was not a white board as a focal point. Yet the focal point was so obviously centered upon learning. There were no bulletin boards with stuff all over them, so there was nothing to block Katie’s attention or focus from learning. Katie’s classroom had 24 kids and 2 teachers (plus an aide). The classroom is centered on the Montessori concept of teaching. While I was unfamiliar with the Montessori way, I knew immediately this was the place for Katie. To top it all off, the school did not regularly send home homework. They tried to accomplish all their “jobs” during the school day, so they could enjoy time playing outdoors with friends and spending time with family when they went home. The next day I took Katie for a test run. She went for the entire day of school. When I went to pick her up, Mary greeted me at the door, “I told you she would fit in. She is going to be just fine.” That was when I spotted Katie. She ran over to me and (I am not kidding) hugged me. “Mommy can I come back tomorrow?” she said. Mary responded immediately, “Of course you can.” Katie did return and has attended the school for the past year.
This school changed Katie forever. I am not saying that life is perfect. She still sometimes has an outburst, she still yells at me every so often, she talks to me in tones that my other kids would never dare to, but they are way more controlled and she recognizes it is wrong. Even as I pick her up in carpool, the teachers that bring her to my car will ensure that she talks to me kindly. Mr. Sumski has been known to say, “You will be more apt to get your mom to do something that you want with kind words, Katie.” She doesn’t yell back at him, she respects him. She loves her new family at Montessori School. That is exactly what it is – her family. She learns not only through teachers, but through her classmates. They work together. For kids like Katie, being in a classroom and sitting at a desk for 8 hours just doesn’t work. She needs to feel comfortable and loved. She needed a little boost in self-esteem. She needed to see that she was wanted and accepted. All of her classmates work together to learn, to keep their room clean and to socialize kindly with each other.
I am not telling you this to feel sorry for me, but I am telling you this in hopes that someone out there will see they are not alone. God gave me Katie for a reason. Even though I doubt his choice sometimes, I know I need to learn from her. She is a gift. She showed me how to persevere through trials (even when I thought I had no more to give). She is a blessing. She is my sweet Katie.
Romans 5:3 And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance