Friday, April 19, 2013

Q is for knowing when to Quit (by Dorothy O'Donnell)

For this year's A-Z Challenge, I am organising my writing group's participation for the first time. So I am posting each entry here as well as on the website, Write On, Mamas! who are a writing group based in the San Francisco North Bay area. We will have 25 Mamas and one Papa writing on a different letter of the alphabet during the A-Z Blog Challenge. Comments are always so appreciated here or it would also be lovely if you would comment on the Write On, Mamas! blog. Thanks and look forward to reading your blog.

Photography by Mary Allison Tierney
As I watched my 10-year-old skip down the Victorian-lined street in San Francisco, I blinked back tears. She’d just spent the day visiting a small school for kids with learning differences. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d seen her come out of school happy.

If you asked me a year ago if I’d ever send my child to a private school, I would have laughed. We weren’t private school kind of people. I equated them with snooty over-achievers, blah uniforms and hefty price tags.

Besides, we lived in a community known for its great public schools. The one my daughter had attended since kindergarten was among the best. I’ll always be grateful to the staff there for helping me recognize that her behavior and attention problems weren’t normal.

I wanted to believe that with their support and a tutor, she could make it in public school. And until this year, she was—barely. Within weeks, the increased workload, large class size and organizational demands of fifth grade left her floundering and depressed.

At first, the idea of calling it quits with her old school in the middle of fifth grade seemed insane. But as we headed across the Golden Gate back to Marin that afternoon, my doubts started to evaporate like the wisps of fog floating over the bay. My daughter bubbled with tales of the new friend she’d made, the small classes where teachers had time to help her, the kids who didn’t bat an eye when someone laughed too loud and long at a silly joke.

By the time we pulled into our driveway, I knew in my gut that my daughter belonged in that little school in the city. And that it would be crazy to let her struggle a second longer.

Dorothy O’Donnell is a freelance writer from Marin, California. She used to think training for marathons and triathlons was hard. Then she became a mom in her forties. Although she’s written about travel, health and business, these days her main focus is writing essays and a memoir inspired by her toughest, and most rewarding, endurance event--motherhood. Her work has been featured in the Marin Independent Journal, Mothering and on KQED radio.


  1. Sounds like she sure had fun and was the right place to embrace.

  2. Isn't it wonderful when you find solutions that work for your child?

  3. Thanks Pat and Bridget--I haven't regretted making the change for a minute. More importantly, neither has my daughter.