Dad’s Dilemma- The Private School Paradox

Sometimes the hardest part of being a father is making decisions with my head and not my heart. I look at these children of mine and I melt. Don’t suppose that it is any different from most parents. Fact is biology is probably responsible for some of these feelings because if they didn’t make you melt you’d kill them. It is the only explanation that I can come up with for my still being here. I was the boy who climbed on the stove, wandered off in stores, threw eggs and stuffed raisins up my little sister’s nose. Say, did I mention that said little sister is turning forty in a few weeks.

She doesn’t read the blog but just in case she does I need to mention again that she is turning forty. Little sister, did I tell you how hard it is to turn forty. Hee hee, she may not read this but somewhere she is rolling her eyes. A big brother never stops being a a big brother, just ask my niece and nephews. Oldest nephew has learned to his chagrin not to imitate me because his mom can’t ground me.

Been staring at spreadsheets, rolling dice and asking the Magic 8 ball for more advice. It is time to make a decision about the 2011-12 school year. Is this the year that we pull the kids out of private school and insert them into public or do I find a way to get them through another year…again.

I never intended for them to go to private school. A decade ago we moved into what was supposed to be a starter home. It was going to be a brief two year stay followed by a move into a larger home in a neighborhood with a good school. Except people plan and G-d laughs. As I have blogged about a number of times we got hit by the triumvirate of challenges: recession, 9/11 and housing prices that skyrocketed. Instead of moving we stayed and enrolled the kids in a fantastic school, albeit a private one.

The education has been outstanding. They have taken my children and done everything that I could have asked. I have been blessed to watch them grow and prosper. They have made great friends and have fallen in love with learning. But the price that we paid has been severe. I have taken a beating so that they could do this. Some of the blows couldn’t have been anticipated. No one could have predicted that the country would be in such dire economic conditions. But compassion and understanding don’t pay the bills so I have done what I had to do to make things work.

In many ways this experience reminds me of my basketball game. A number of years ago I belonged to a local gym where I played ball several times a week. Most of time I played with guys who were far more talented than I am. At first they didn’t like playing with me because they felt like I took away from the game. There was some truth to that as offensively I couldn’t play at the same level as they could. But I figured out very quickly that I could use effort, size and strength to my advantage.

I went after every rebound with unbridled ferocity. I wanted that ball in my hands because that gave me some control over my fate. I worked hard on defense to become the guy who you didn’t want guarding you because I would make you crazy. I figured out whose head I could get into. If I knew that I could aggravate you I would piss you off and talk the entire time. While you were pissed off I took advantage of your lack of focus.

The point is I used my head and tried to figure out how to make the most of the resources I had on hand. Years later I still play a similar game. I say similar because my almost 42 year-old body doesn’t give me the same effort as it did in my twenties and thirties. It is hard to accept and I am fighting it. Time and pounding take their toll. Slowly I am adjusting my game again. If I play like I used I can run one night and then I spend several days recovering. But if I adjust I can play and be effective multiple nights.

More importantly it helps to minimize the wear and tear upon my body. It is smart because adapting will allow me to play for years to come. So now when I play I work on some new moves and try to do things that provide the foundation for the future.

And that my friends brings me back to the children and school. I am looking at the future. I have a Bar Mitzvah coming in a few years and plenty of expenses to come long before that. I know that I can get them through one more year of school, but I am not sure that provides the foundation for the future that I need. Unless something changes this is going to be it.

It is going to suck to tell them that this is it, but sometimes fathers have to think with their heads and not their hearts.

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  1. Erica M March 24, 2011 at 4:50 am

    Is the nearest public school that bad?

  2. Mitchell March 23, 2011 at 5:09 pm

    We’re just starting this process with our older girl now. The amount of factors to weigh is overwhelming and we struggle with the “how’s” as much as the “why’s”. I know ultimately that their education starts and finishes with us, but the state of schools around us (and every other American) leaves us feeling as though there aren’t many options. At the end of the day, I think we will end up where you are. And I may cut this out and use your basketball analogy to keep me going in 5-10 years. Good luck, sir.

    • Jack March 23, 2011 at 11:09 pm


      The only advice I can give is of course unsolicited. Don’t ignore your heart completely- there is something to be said for balancing the two. We work with our kids regularly. They do go to a great school but not every student gets as much out of it as mine.

      Part of that is because they know how important a good education is. Anyway, I am sure that you’ll figure it out and do just fine.

  3. Fatherhood Factor March 23, 2011 at 4:05 pm

    The oldest of our three daughters is set to start school this July and we went through a good deal of agonizing over the private/public debate as well.

    In the end, we faced an additional house payment sized expense in order to have all three girls in a private school. Needless to say, my head overcame my heart and we have since found a great charter school whose curriculum and operation are comparable to a private school.

    Whatever your decision, there will undoubtedly be opportunity to have your kids take part of the decision along the way. Dare I say…a rosier picture just might lie ahead!

    • Jack March 23, 2011 at 11:07 pm

      It is a rough road this parenting thing. At times it is like the ultimate carousel, but we do the best we can with what we have. Children are resilient, more so than we are. Still, I wonder and worry…

  4. Andrea March 23, 2011 at 2:45 pm

    It’s very hard not to give everything to our kids, especially when they are excelling at something. But I think they will be ok. We have to sacrifice multiple times to juggle and make things works. Sometimes you just cant juggle one more thing and you have to let it go.

    Good luck. It’s certainly not an easy decision.

    • Jack March 23, 2011 at 11:04 pm

      I only sort of worry about the kids. I tend to believe that they will do better here than I realize. Some of this is tied into my own issues. Such is the fate of parenting.

  5. Portland Dad March 23, 2011 at 1:26 pm

    That is a tough realization to come to, but then there’s that thing about plans and G-d again. who know what tomorrow brings. Today they go to school.

    • Jack March 23, 2011 at 10:03 pm

      You are absolutely right. Today they go to school and tomorrow is a new day. What is that line about retreat so that we can live to fight another day. 😉

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