Tuesday, September 9, 2014

“I just want to be left alone.”

Some mornings being a mom is exhausting. Not all mornings, although it may seem that way. Most mornings go smoothly, actually, but then there are mornings like these. I went through them with my older daughter, and now I am having them with my younger daughter. The challenges aren’t exactly the same because the two girls aren’t exactly the same. Their personalities are as different as their appearances. But here I am again, facing a little girl who doesn’t want to go to school because of a classmate.

I feel pretty lucky. I feel as though I entered parenthood with a pretty heavily stocked arsenal. Not only do I have my own experiences growing up to draw from, I also have a mother who writes and lectures about teaching kids resilience and peacemaking. I have a father who is an exceptional educator. I have a sister who is also an incredible teacher as well as countless teacher friends who are always willing to listen to me and answer all my questions about my elementary age children. (I majored in secondary education. These younger people are a whole different kettle of fish!)

Thanks to all that, this particular fish today got out of her egg chair and then out the door pretty smoothly by drawing on two carefully preset points we have been working on:

  • Teachers are partners. We have always stressed this and have always been sure to let the girls know which of our family members and friends are teachers. We want them to know that teachers are human beings, people that care about them, and people they can talk to. So far, all their teachers have reinforced this lesson (BIG relief!). Last year when my daughter was wanting to drop out of first grade (totally different reason), we met with her teacher who very patiently and attentively listened to all my daughter’s concerns and worked out a plan with her to make things better. The number of teachers I have met who are NOT willing to do that can only be counted on one hand, and the number of teachers I know . . . well, I’ve lost count.
  • Ignoring problems makes them worse. This is when cats and kitty litter are really useful. Smell that? What would happen if I ignored the kitty litter for a day? What if I went back to bed and ignored it for a week? Would the smell just go away? If I want the smell of cat poop to get better, I have to deal with it. I have to face the kitty litter. We have to face our problems. It sucks, but ignoring problems just makes them suck more later.

The problem was that there is girl who sits next to her who talks to her too much and keeps asking her, “are you a boy?” Everyday. My daughter says she has tried telling the girl to be quiet and leave her alone and has repeatedly explained that she IS a girl, but the other girl keeps talking. We wrote on a post-it note her primary concern – “too much talking” – and she went out the door prepared to ask her teacher if they could talk when she got to school (they have free time in the classroom with their teacher before class starts instead of morning recess). If that doesn’t work and she isn’t able to meet with her teacher informally today, we will email her teacher to schedule an appointment. Again, I don’t know many teachers who turn down appointments with students.

This is something we will be working on constantly - learning how to interact with classmates, coworkers, people around us - but I want my daughters to know that they are not alone as they figure things out. I can’t be there with them to see how they are talking to people or how the people are reacting, but their teachers are and their teachers do want them to be successful. Yes, at some point this is all on the kids, and I do encourage the girls to speak up for themselves first, but when that doesn’t work – as in this case – going to their teachers for assistance and advice is a good next step and sure beats dropping out of school to hide in an egg chair.

We’ll know this afternoon how it went and what the next step will be. To be continued . . .

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