Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Our Principal Is Awesome

Yesterday I posted about some comments my on has gotten at school about not believing in a god, or, more specifically, for not believing in the Christian God.

I also emailed his teacher. I cc'd the principal and the guidance counselor. My greatest concern was that the child told him, "...and I've told everyone else in our class you don't believe in God!"

This child had no malicious intent, but now that the knowledge has spread wide and fast, I fear that another might. Accordingly, I did not name names in the email, but explained that I just wanted the relevant school personnel to be aware of the situation, so that if it came up, they were forearmed.

I expected that this morning I would have a response to the effect of  "Thank you for letting us know. Of course we always strive to protect all of our students."

Instead, only a few hours later, at 8pm, I received a phone call. It was our awesome principal, calling to discuss the matter. She said that maybe this is a sign that the school is due for a refresher in tolerance. The counselor regularly goes around to give instruction in each classroom anyway, and the principal has talked to her about making an upcoming session be about tolerance. She won't do it in a way to out my son- she'll make it 'treating everyone equally regardless of their skin color, or income level, or beliefs, or any other difference', and throw in a bit about the importance of thinking before speaking, since a comment like the one made to my son certainly could have hurt feelings, even though it wasn't intended to do so.

I won't go into, here and now, my pet peeve about the word 'tolerance'. I know what she means by it, and that's what counts here. Yes, our principal is awesome.

Monday, February 20, 2012

You're Gonna Go Down There

Today, my son, my eight-year-old son, had a classmate inform him that he is going to hell. The child didn't use the word 'hell'; he said 'down there', but the implication is pretty obvious, assuming that there were no conversations going on at the time about trips to Australia or a cellar.

I'm not really shocked by this or anything. It's not the first time, and won't be the last. It's not even the worst thing the kids have been told. And I'm not angry at the kid. He was only repeating what the adults in his life have told him.

Here are the things that really get to me in this, though:

#1. Some parent apparently thinks it is okay to threaten their child with stories of eternal torment, so that the child, in turn, thinks it's okay to do the same to others. Think about it. "I'm going to burn you after school." Detention and counseling. "My big brother is going to burn you this weekend." Detention and police involvement. "My God is going to burn you one day." Amen, good Christian child, good job absorbing the teachings of our religion. Jesus is proud.

Hell (pun intended) yes it's a threat.

#2. I've imagined a conversation about this with the teacher, or principal, or the kid's parent, or even my own parent, and I know the answers I'd hear. I have had it before, and I know where the first layer of double standard is going to come up. I'm going to be asked why my son talks about it. He's not supposed to. I have to hope the other kid started the conversation. Because, you see, if this other kid started with "Why don't you love God?" then there is no fault, but if my kid stared with "I don't believe in God," it was a cruel assault on the other child's beliefs. Wrong and stupid. My kid has as much right to discuss what he believes as anyone.

However, in awareness of this double standard, we have rules that cover this. My children are not allowed to bring up religion at school (or in any place that is associated with school, such as the bus, field trips, or basketball games.) They may respond if someone else brings it up but may not bring it up themselves. I think this rule is unfair and inequal, but I recognize the need for it in our society, to protect them.

#3, the fact that this isn't the first and won't be the last time. Last time, the same kid was told that when our house burned down, God burned it down intentionally because we don't believe in Him, and meant to kill us.

And #4, that fact that I feel the need to justify, here, and let you, the reader, know that my kid *wasn't* the one who brought it up, and defend him before someone asks how the kid knew he didn't believe in God. The fact that I feel like I should tell you- my older son told someone last year that *he* didn't believe in God, told one person, and that person spread it, and that since then, kids have asked both of my boys. That neither of them takes it upon himself to volunteer the information, anymore, but that they're always asked.That I think I owe that as defense, when I don't. If my son had said, "Hey, classmate, I don't believe in God!", "You're going [to hell]" would still not have been an appropriate response.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Boundaries: Or Why My Politeness Enables Your Rudeness

This started in response to a blog post that's going around, in which the author is upset at the 'oh, honey, he just picks on you because he likes you' excuse given to young girls for the bad behavior of young boys.

I'm not going to link to that, both because I'm lazy and because it's not really what this is about.

From that, I sort of got into ranting about how the problem isn't these behaviors in kids, but how they are excused and enabled, thus allowing them to continue into adulthood, where they continue to be excused and enabled.

That's what I'm going to talk about here: the behaviors in adults, and how we not only enable them, but are expected to.

Let me tell you a story about a person who couldn't respect boundaries. I'm going to rename him, though, and call him Bob. Because, you know, it's rude to identify people and actually connect them to their bad behavior.

Last year, my kids played baseball and basketball, and Bob was one of the parent volunteers who coached these sports. Bob was great with the kids, and a good coach.

Bob could not refrain from making sexual comments to me, though. He would say, "Hey, you got on your badonkadonk shorts today!"  Well, I was raised to be polite. If you don't like something someone says, 'polite' means smiling and not responding, or else responding politely. So I would do what for me was a great rebellion against this teaching- I would frown, and turn away from him. And he would say something like, "Why you frowning? What you got to be sad about?" and entirely fail to even connect my reaction to his own action.

I want to say here, "Finally, one day I'd had enough, and I said, Look, Bob, I don't like these comments. Can't you tell when I suddenly stop talking to you and look away that your crude comments aren't making me happy with you? Stop!" I want to say that I said something like, And if it wasn't bad enough that you continue to make these unwanted advances, let me ask you, does it not bother you that you do so with your wife and my husband both within fifteen feet of us?

But I didn't. I kept looking away and keeping quiet.

Finally, after I'd ranted about it several times to my husband, *he* approached the guy and said something. Told him that I was not comfortable with the comments, and didn't want them to continue. The guy came over and apologized, and told me something like, "I didn't mean nothing by it."

That isn't even the story here though. You know what the story is? The story is that my husband overheard two women who had overheard his conversation talking about it, and saying how I had gotten upset over nothing. And the story is that last week, my mom sat in the gym with me, at my kids' basketball practice, and discussed me with another mom, talking about how silly and reactionary I was, to get so upset because a fellow talked to me.

That's the story here. It's that people find his actions acceptable and normal, and mine in being upset at it, as well as my husband's in speaking up, rude, silly, wrong. I'm being picky. I'm a prude. I'm just funny like that.

Here, let me tell you another one. This guy who we'll call Dave, because, gee, wouldn't want to call him out on his actions by name, is the employer of one of my family members. I mustn't 'be ugly' to him. He also has kids in the same school with my kids, and in sports with them. My five-year-old daughter came to me and told me he was 'bugging' her. He apparently eats lunch with his child frequently, and when he sees my child in the hall by the cafeteria, he calls out her name in a singsong way. This bothers her, #1, because she just doesn't like the way he says her name, and #2, because she can't even respond, because she's not allowed to talk in the halls.

I approached him at a game the other day, the same one mentioned above, in fact, and said, "You've been upsetting my daughter. She says you always talk to her in the hall, and she's bothered because she can't respond. I told her I'd explain it to you for her- I told her you'd understand." He responds, "She'll get used to it."

I was too shocked to reply further. Why didn't I say, "No she won't. If you don't leave her alone, now that you've been asked, I'll take it further- to the school staff, and if I have to, to the police for harassment," or "Excuse me? How very rude and low, to blow off a child's feelings that way," or something? Because I'd already crossed the line. I had already said more to him than was polite. Him? He was fine. His actions are okay. But I was being rude.

The conversation my mother and this other woman were having about me, that I mentioned earlier? The whole reason that conversation came up is because my 5yo daughter was 'rude' to this woman- dared to say "I don't like for people to mess with my hair." Rude. It's not rude to walk up to someone and touch their hair or their pregnant belly or their infant, but it's rude to say don't.

And the woman who came up to me in the restaurant a few weeks ago and told me that she thought I had enough kids? That's socially acceptable, but it was rude of my husband to say, "Uh, I think we'll decide that." And the guy who asked me if I liked babies or 'just what makes 'em'? Would've been rude to tell him to fuck off. And the creep who asked for my phone number, and when I said "No, I'm married," kept suggesting further contact? It would've been rude to walk away. When he walked up and talked to me again, another day, and said "You still haven't friended me on facebook," it would've been rude to say, "No, and I don't intend to. You're a creep," or "Please stay away from me," or anything of the sort. And if I was to say to my brother's spaced-out drughead ex-friend, who can't seem to resist approaching me and trying to talk about my brother, every time I see him, even though I consistently tell him, "I don't keep up with what he's doing," and nothing more, to walk away and leave me alone, that would be rude.

That's what I was taught rude means. I'm not supposed to ever speak up, or correct any of that sort of crap, because it's rude. Speaking up for yourself when others walk over you is rude.

I'm resolving, today, to ditch that definition of rude. From now on, I'm making a greater effort to speak up.