When I started this blog, I decided that I wanted to keep things light here, and humorous, as much as possible. Partly because I knew how difficult our move was going to be, and I wanted to highlight the fun stuff, the quirky things, the new experiences. I knew our adjustment would be full of peaks and valleys.
And I can sum up the last few weeks as: mostly valleys.
We hit rock bottom a few weeks ago (at least we hope we did). A number of things came crashing together, like a) our daughter’s secondary school placement offer letter came through, and she was offered a school we didn’t look at, didn’t apply for, didn’t want. When my husband told me, I thought he was joking. Charlotte burst into tears, and I nearly did too. Furious doesn’t quite begin to describe how I felt. Or still feel. I’m ready to sue the government over intellectual discrimination which, as my husband pointed out, means that I assume there’s a bill of rights here. I’d like for my daughter not to have been assessed, in her first six weeks of school, (when she was trying to remember people’s names, learn how to use a fountain pen, adjust to new accents, remember where the bathroom is, and oh, who had just moved 3,500 miles and left her whole life behind), as not “smart enough” for grammar school. I’d like to see less worry about Ofsted, the governmental organization in charge of assessing how well schools are doing, less worry about the school’s reputation and more concern with the child.
So I have spent the past two weeks writing one (of three) appeal letters to our local government council’s school appeals board to try to get Charlotte into a different school. Six pages, in the end, plus letters of support from her head teacher and the tutor we hired to help her get adjusted to the British academic system. This was a painful exercise involving a lot of research, tears, and more than a few rants to my husband. Two more letters to complete by next week, and then we can only cross our fingers and wait for our appeal hearing, where we get to make a personal appearance and plead our case.
We’re still waiting to hear where James will be going to school in the fall; we’ve applied (again) for the three schools closer to us and will know next week. I’ve vowed to raise holy hell if he doesn’t get into the school we want–and don’t mess with this angry American mother!
And then we need to move at the end of June. The people who own the house we’re in are coming back in July, so I went off to the real estate agent in the village last week to ask about looking at rentals. Only to be told I’m looking much too early, to come back in May, I should only allow four weeks (FOUR WEEKS!) to find a place. Because there is such a shortage of housing here. Four weeks is not enough time, considering that I need to pack everything we own up (at least what isn’t already in a box), buy a sofa, some chairs, trash cans, appliances, a mattress….. my husband thinks this is no problem, but he’ll be off at work all day while I do everything else. And of course we’ve looked at our budget to see what we can afford, which is not quite enough for someplace decent.
SO WHY DID WE MOVE??? I’ve been thinking far too much about the negatives (we earn less money, have less money, my kids are lonely and struggling with friend issues, I’m lonely, we have a perfectly lovely house in Ohio that we still own, along with perfectly nice friends and two cats we miss). So…
Why did we move?
Because we wanted our children to experience life in another country. Because we wanted them to get to know Simon’s side of the family better. Because we wanted to get away from the American emphasis on “stuff” and have more life experiences. Because there were no jobs for Simon where we were living and we were looking at moving anyway. (Though I thought Boston would be nice.)
And I try to look at the positives: Charlotte went to France for the day with her school class yesterday, Simon went to Wales overnight for work (and he’s got a great job and works with good people), and we’re going to Paris in a few weeks time (a 20-minute drive to the Eurostar train station from our house, then 2 hours by train to Paris from our house). The weather this week has been beautiful, sun and flowers and birds singing. But my exhausted-from-going-to-France Charlotte came to say goodnight to me yesterday and cried because kids were asking her about America and it made her very homesick.
I know parenting is full of choices, doubts, worries: when my kid hurts, I hurt. I hope one day I can say that this move was worth it, that we don’t miss “home” so much, that we have friends and are happy. The jury will be out on that for quite a while, we are still far too unsettled. I hope my kids don’t hate us forever, and that one day I’ll stop second guessing if we’ve done the right thing. I hope one day England is home, for all of us.