Okay, so this little elementary school student in Toronto brings home a report card with all “Cs”. The parents are livid and complain to the school. Then the kid enters a spelling bee and DOES NOT win! Now the parents totally freak out! They start writing nasty notes and letters to the school about the school’s alleged discrimination against their son. The school tries to explain the situation as best they can in this face of total lunacy, but their reasonableness cuts no mustard with the parents.
So then the crazy parents enlist the aid of a couple of friends and the four of them start an all-out campaign of harassment against the school and all the people they think are responsible in the school for their son’s less-than-stellar academic achievements. They send death threats. They print up and distribute posters threatening to blow up the school. They threaten to shoot three of its staff. As a warning, they shoot out the school’s windows with pellet guns.
The school hires extra security, transfers the threatened staff members to another school, installs a security camera and has police patrols on the school grounds. Eventually charges were laid against three of the four idiots.
I thought this was an interesting article because lately I’ve read several blog posts by parents who are upset about something that’s happened to their child in school or camp or daycare. (Not that I’m equating these way OTT people with normal parents who are just looking out for their kids)
I’ve been in situations many, many times over the last 16 years where I’ve felt like marching into a school or into a day camp or over to some other kid’s house and giving them some hell.
Because, dammit, these are our precious kids who we’d love to wrap in cotton wool and who we want to protect from any unfairness or harsh words or sadness or hurt or disappointment. Our hearts break when they come home all weepy and tell us that everyone hates them. Or that they didn’t get picked to be Student-of-the-Week…again. And we’re as furious when our baby worked really, really hard on a project and is so damned proud of herself and ends up getting only a “B” and other kids, whose parents obviously did the project for them, get an “A”. Or when some puffed-up summer day camp counselor won’t let your 6-year-old go to the bathroom for an entire afternoon because it isn’t “convenient” for her.
We don’t want our kids to learn the “life sometimes sucks” lesson because we can’t bear the helplessness of not to be able to make everything perfect for them. We desperately want to fight all their battles for them. But we can’t.
Of course there are times when we have to step in – when our child is in physical or emotional danger. But the rest of the time, I, personally have found it best to let my kid decide.
She comes home and tells me whatever horrible thing happened. I ask lots of questions (Because most of the time there is a lot more to the story than the initial headline). I commiserate with her and make sure she knows I’m on her side. Then we figure out what to do about it.
In cases like the camp counselor bitch, this is a good time to reinforce the “standing up/speaking up for yourself” credo. If you have to pee, by god, you tell her you have to pee and then you just go. If there are consequences, send the bitch to me.
In other cases, after we’d finished talking about things I’d ask my daughter what she would like me to do. Should I send a letter? Should I go talk to someone? Make a phone call? I’d explain what I would say or write and what I’d hope to accomplish and 99% of the time my daughter would then say, no, it’s not important. Or she would decide she’d go and talk to the teacher or kid or whoever herself. As long as she knew I had her back, she felt pretty good about fighting her own battles.
In 16 years I think I only stepped in maybe 3 or 4 times and those were almost always times when someone else’s parents had already stepped in and my kid was outnumbered.
So, although there’s a hell of lot of stuff kids have to deal with these days that we never did; in some ways they also have it a lot softer than we did. We failed classes and even entire grades (gasp). We got detentions and lines and were made to stand in corners and some of us even remember The Strap. Other kids could bully, tease and harass us mercilessly and we’d have to suck it up. Other kid’ parents, the neighbours, shop keepers, teachers, prettty much anyone older than us was allowed to give us hell and even a good smack sometimes. Our playgrounds were made of steel and concrete. We had no helmets for anything. We wandered around alone until the street lights came on. We never had “play dates” and would have gotten beat up if we’d suggested such a thing. We had to do our projects with a pencil using the dusty, out-of-date Encyclopedia Britannica.
And when any adult gave us heck or did something to us we thought was unfair or mean and we were silly enough to come home and complain about it, we’d get another dose of heck from our parents and then we’d be forced to go and apologize to the other adult.