Years ago, I was attempting to get my daughter into private school. I had just become a Catholic and was trying to do all the things that Catholics do, like put their children into Catholic school. I can remember taking her to testing and being so excited to follow up. I knew this was going to be a big development forward! Becoming Catholic and then marrying education and Jesus seemed so beautiful to me. I know ministry begins in the home, but when they leave and go to school, there is no ministry. There is just school. No God. So an education that included God just felt so right…
And then, the twist.
She was low. I mean LOW. Her scores at the time were two grades below her then-grade level. When I met with the principal of the Catholic school, she told me that putting her in private school would not be helpful because she needed extra attention in a lot of areas where they couldn’t provide it.
Man, that beat me up. I recall speaking to a mom in the waiting area as she doted on her children who scored off the charts. I smiled and nodded and congratulated her on her exceptional children, all the while dying inside as I waited for the director of events to speak with me. At this point, it was all a formality to get the heck out of there because obviously she wouldn’t be attending this school.
I also needed to consider that the school she was in currently was not a good fit either. My head was a mess. On the outside, I was a big ball of Catholic sunshine. Inside, the forces of Good and Evil were in an epic battle for my soul. And that sounds dramatic…because it is!
I sat still, nodding to Mrs. My Kids Are Awesome, when I heard my name called. I looked up, and there stood the events director, beckoning me with a welcoming gesture. As we walked to her office, she was telling me about her function and why I was speaking with her. I didn’t catch her name, job description, or the color of her hair, for that matter! My head was absolutely spinning and my chest was tightening. Only minutes prior, I had been told my daughter was about to enter fourth grade at a second grade level. Where had I gone wrong? She had good grades and she was so smart! Then Ms. Event Director asked an ordinary question as she sat down at her desk: “Good morning, Mrs. Gonzalez, how are you?”
Wow, random person, good question. You sure you want the answer? Short answer, not good! The long answer was twirling like a destructive cyclone in my head just laying waste to any proper brain function. I wanted to speak, but couldn’t. There was this ball in my throat. I began to make that weird clearing your throat noise. Then all of a sudden, I broke down in tears.
I’m not talking cute cry here, as if that’s ever a possibility for someone with rosacea. I was full on sup-sup crying like I just found out I’d lost a close family member, missed their funeral, and my whole family was disowning me. I mean, talk about an ugly cry, and in front of Ms. I Don’t Know Your Name who literally had just met me for the first time. She must have thought so many things, but mostly, she must have wondered how asking me how I was led to this sobbing and bumbling. I’m not exaggerating here, though I wish I was. I couldn’t even speak.
We had to stop the entire meeting and sit in silence, watching me try and get my life together. I was overwhelmed, and not in a good way! It was one of the most embarrassing moments of my life. Rest assured, my daughter never ended up going to that school.
But here is what happened: God has this funny little way of shining a light. Someone told me the other day that “God is a comedian!” True to that statement was this disaster of an experience. But to me, if you can’t find purpose in each messy moment in life, then you’ll probably be pretty miserable.
Yes, it was embarrassing that I ugly cried like I’d been broken up with after 10 years. No, I was not going to be able to put my daughter in private school. Yes, I looked like the Hot Mess Express. But. A light had been shone on a deeper issue. My daughter was falling very behind in school. She wasn’t just behind, she was way in the back. I needed to get myself together, get out of this panic attack office, and figure out how in the world my daughter had made it so far in school with such poorly acquired knowledge.
After that day, I was a lady on a mission. I went to the school and I spoke to teachers who told me she was an A/B student, only to find out that this school was pushing children through to create a narrative that acclaimed them as a great school. Her test scores were atrocious and well below average. I sat in with the principal and vice principal who, like me, were stunned to see her just shimmied through the system. They apologized from floor to ceiling about the lack of…well, everything. She fell through the cracks, and no one could figure out who to blame. She left that school at the end of the year. We began intensely tutoring her to the tune of thousands of dollars. She would go to school all day and then tutor for hours at a learning center or with the teachers at her new, amazing school!
So, how’s she doing now? She’s amazing! Good grades, great attitude, and a much more involved mama.
It’s amazing how one question could change someone’s entire life, as well their child’s life. I walked into a school I was sure would accept me and my family with open arms, just to be told, “Can’t sit here, seat’s taken.” It destroyed me. For a long time, I thought it was the rejection that made me have no tears left to cry. In the end, I figured out that when she asked me how I was doing, I had honestly thought about it and realized that I was not good.
There was a lot more than just my daughter’s failing grades bringing me down. It was a pile of crappy crap that was tipping slowly in the back of my life. It continued to pile and pile and pile until one day, through no fault of her own, some stranger asked me how I was and I tipped the heck over! All over this poor woman’s desk and tissue box. At that moment, I also realized that I had been lying. My life stack just fell over in the form of a light anxiety attack. I’d been pretending that everything was just hunky-dory, but it wasn’t. Things didn’t get easier until I acknowledged that I wasn’t doing okay.
Just like that, a simple question changed my trajectory.
How are you doing?
Be safe. Be great. Be YOU!
Reality Changing Observations:
1. For real, mental health check in, how are you doing?
2. Is there anyone in your life who could use a mental health check in? Check in with them today.
3. What are some ways you call yourself to court so as to be accountable for the direction of your path in life?