I promise to publish the next “Inside the Guide” post this afternoon, but I really need to get this off my chest first.
As my long-time readers know, I really struggled with the decision to put Bee in public school (see Decision 2008). So far, Bee seems to enjoy school, but our experience hasn’t been entirely positive.
In my post about my husband’s school safety experiment, I discussed our concerns about the lack of security at the school. On Monday night, I attended an informational meeting, and brought our concerns before the school board. To their credit, they seemed very interested in making positive changes, and offered to establish a parent safety committee, which my husband and I hope to serve on. This is a step in the right direction.
Unfortunately, there are other negative aspects of public school that I have no control over.
Last night was Bee’s Christmas concert. I was sitting on the floor of the gym, videotaping the kindergarten performance, and I noticed that Bee wasn’t really singing. Sometimes she would start to sing, and then stop. This struck me as odd, because she loves to sing, and she was excited about performing at the concert. This morning, we noticed that Bee just wasn’t herself. She didn’t want to get dressed for school, and I had to really push to keep her moving. At breakfast time, she got her study Bible off the bookshelf and asked me to help her find Exodus 7, where God saves the Israelites from slavery (I know…she’s not your average 6-year-old). While she ate her cereal, she read from her Bible, and said almost nothing, which is very out of character for her.
On the way to school, I asked her why she didn’t sing much at the concert, and that’s when I learned the reason for her mood. Apparently, during math yesterday, two children in her class told her that they didn’t like her singing voice, and she should only mouth the words during the concert, so she wouldn’t ruin their song.
When I heard this, I think my heart broke a little bit.
I had to hold back tears when I told Bee that she has a beautiful singing voice, and she has just as much right to sing as anyone else, and she should just ignore kids who say mean things like that. You know, all the usual platitudes that parents offer their children.
What I really wanted to do is march into that classroom and rattle those kids’ cages.
Bee is a very sensitive child, and she is always concerned for the feelings of others. She would never say something hurtful like that to another child, and comments like that hurt her deeply.
They hurt me even more.
I remember all too well the cruelty of children. I was picked on relentlessly as a child because I was skinny, weak and sickly. I remember being teased and tormented about everything…my full lips (which are in vogue now, so HA!), my long fingers, my lack of athletic ability, my clothes, my hair, my shoes. Everything. I know that today, at age almost-35, I’m still hurt by some of those things.
If I home-schooled Bee, I could protect her from being hurt, but am I really doing her a favor by insulating her from the outside world? I don’t think so. I think that she needs to learn to be assertive, to stick up for herself, to relate to people with different personalities, ideals and beliefs. However, I also know that this is only the beginning. Over the years, if she’s teased enough, her personality will start to change. She’ll become depressed, cynical, and defensive. She may act out in negative ways in an attempt to fit in, and she may falter in her faith. She may no longer be the sweet little girl who reads her Bible at the breakfast table.
As her mother, I want so much to shield her from the cruelty of her classmates. I wish that I could wrap her in a protective bubble and not allow them to harm her, but I know that’s not realistic.
It’s going to be a long 12 years.