Good morning everyone!
I wanted to share a post by a blogger and child educator, Amy Murray, that was written in 2014 and I hold it so near and dear to my heart.
I originally saw this post 3 years ago when my son was in preschool. We had just transferred to his new school halfway through the year after being asked not to return to TWO other schools within one month (I’ll share this story in a later post) and had been at this new school for just a couple of weeks. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Shutterfly’s share site, but it’s pretty much a website that allows teachers and parents to communicate, share photos, post about upcoming special events, etc. When we enrolled Mason in his new preschool, we joined our classroom’s share site and got email notifications anytime something was updated to the site by the teacher or any parent. It was such a gift to get a little sneak peek into Mason’s classroom and see photos of him and his new friends uploaded by class moms while I was at work.
It was great until one day it really wasn’t. On this particular day, only a few weeks into our new school, I got an email notification that one of the other moms in the class had posted on the Shutterfly page. “The New Kid” – her post was titled. My heart started to pound fast and I could feel blood rushing to my face as soon as I saw the title. It was the same feeling I got every single time a teacher asked me to stay for a minute to chat after class once all of the other kids got picked up. This happened just about every day so I was pretty sure this wasn’t going to be an email raving about how wonderful “the new kid” was.
“Today Mason hit little ____ in the eye. Her face was red for hours after school today. I THINK THERE NEEDS TO BE A MAJOR DISCUSSION AS TO IF THIS BOY STAYS IN THE CLASS. I don’t want him anywhere near my kid.
It felt like I had just been hit in the stomach by a ton of bricks. I was absolutely heartbroken. I was angry. I was mortified that this had been shared with the entire classroom! Did this woman really just make an attempt to rally the whole class against MY SON?? I instantly broke down in tears in my husband’s arms. We had already been kicked out of two preschools in less than two months and we were so impressed with the way the director of this school had been handling all of our issues, we thought we had found his permanent school. I couldn’t believe this woman was vilifying Mason and starting a discussion about having him removed from the class.
I was at the end of my emotional limits and somehow that night, I stumbled upon the post, THAT kid. YES. This was EVERYTHING. The words from this post spoke to me so deeply and they fell on me at exactly the moment I needed to hear them. Just to know that I wasn’t the only one, and that someone else truly understands there is so much more than meets the eye.
The teacher narrating this piece reminded me so much of the school’s director, Karen James. She had been such an advocate for Mason from the very first day we started there and would joke with us that there was virtually nothing this little 4 year old boy could do that would have him removed from her school. She thought it was absolutely ridiculous that other schools had asked us not to return and assured us time and time again that although he handled things differently than the other kids, he was just a little boy who was going to be alright. She explained to us that she was an advocate for ALL students, not just the ones that fit inside a perfect little box. She knew he had been raised by a single mom from the time he was just 6 months old until I met my husband. She knew his biological father would come in and out of his life as he pleased, and that there were several different live-in girlfriends who would appear and then disappear just as quickly from my son’s life. She knew that my son had heard just about every swear word under the sun (one of the joys of joint custody) & there was nothing I could do to erase them from his memory or stop them from flying out of his mouth at any given time. She knew we had seen several psycologists to try and help with the aggressive impulses. That we had tried elimination diets to even out his temperament. That we took him to church on Sundays and that there were countless positive influences trying to speak peace into him. She knew that we were talking with a pediatrician about the possibility of medicating, even though my husband and I hated the idea of having to dull his bright and lively personality. She knew so much of the backstory that made up this crazy, strong-willed little boy and she worked with us every day to see that he got a proper education just like every other student in her school. THIS is the heart I believe all educators should have.
Thankfully, there was a lot of good that came after the sting of the mom trying to rile up the class against my son. One mom responded, expressing how her eldest child (also with ADHD) was rough when he first started school and gave her support to my son. Another mom chimed in quickly to state that this was not the forum to discuss another child’s behavior and that these kinds of matters should be taken directly to the teacher or school director, not put on blast for every parent to see. I was so thankful for these strong women who came to my family’s defense even though they didn’t know us personally. I think that the EASY thing to do in this situation is to agree that the kid who hits another child is ‘bad’ and should be removed from the class. But the RIGHT thing to do is realize that you don’t know that child’s story. You don’t know how hard the parents try every single day. You don’t know anything about what the teachers are doing to help them. And quite frankly, that kid deserves love and the right to an education just as much as any other kid. My son is THAT kid and I am eternally grateful for the few beautiful people who have shown understanding, compassion, and encouragement that not all children are cut from the same cloth.
So I share this sweet post that comforted me during a time where I felt like we just didn’t belong anywhere in hopes that if helps even one other desperate parent. If you are going through a time where you have to have meetings weekly, even daily with your child’s teacher or principal, or where everyone else seems to be making playdates without your child, or you can’t help but notice the judgmental looks other parents shoot you, know that you are not alone. Know that there are so, so many other parents who are going through what you are and that your baby is going to be just fine. It will take a lot of trial and error to figure out ways to help your child make the best choices, but you will do it. You don’t need to explain yourself or your little to anyone else, just stay strong and persist with your parenting. You’re doing great!