Thursday, May 03, 2007

two side to every story/practice makes perfect

I was just in the principals office. I went on my own initiative. Last night we were at the playground and Moses smilingly said, "You know what happened at school today? Mrs L (the substitute) took my shirt off in front of the whole class!" I asked why she would do such a thing. "My shirt was on inside out and backwards." And off he ran.

Now, anyone who knows Moses or has seen him from one day to the next knows that something is always on inside out and or backwards: pants with the fly in back, shirts with the pocket logo on his shoulder bade, whathaveyou. Sometimes I point this out before he leaves for school and my comment is met with a shrug or an "I know." Sometimes teachers have told me that they pointed it out to Moses and got the same reaction. He just doesn't give a rip. Fine by me.

I thought taking a child's shirt off in class seemed a bit much, but Moses said it like it was a funny and exciting story so I said nothing. But I found myself thinking about it...thinking, "at least it was Moses and not some other kid." Which is totally unfair to Mo. He shouldn't get the lion's share of weird treatment because he's well-adjusted. And later I thought that a teacher would never do that to a girl in class. And how hard would it have been to say, "go to the bathroom and turn your shirt around"? And why, with 25 six year olds to teach did she care about the state of Mo's shirt? But these were all fleeting thoughts which disappeared instantly into a game of tag.

This morning at 7:05 the phone rang. For a split second I was 100% sure it was the Missouri Highway Patrol calling to tell me Paul was dead. But it was another kindergarten mom calling to make sure I had heard about the shirt-taking-off-incident. Now, this woman is a friend of mine. Her kids and my kids spend a lot of time together. There are load of things I love about her--however--she is a bit of a drama queen and gets really worked up about things that don't ruffle my feathers at all. She said her daughter felt so bad for Moses because all the kids laughed and his faced turned red. And it all just seemed "not right" to her.

I said Moses mention it in pasing: that he didn't seem upset; but, that it did seem strange to me. I thanked her for her concern, because, frankly, though I'd thought about it a little last night, I had totally forgotten about it.

But then I was in a quandary. It hadn't stuck out in my mind as worth pursuing. Was I going to be manipulated into creating drama where there is none by my friend? This is something I have to be deliberate about or I find myself sucked in. Or am I going to ignore a situation I should really look into in an over-zealous fit of anti-manipulation?

I asked Moses about it again. I asked how it felt when Mrs. L took his shirt off. he said it was kind of funny. I said if it was only kind of funny, what else was it? Embarrassing. Did it seem like an okay thing to do or a not-okay thing. With a thoughtful nod he said "not okay."

Then I wondered if my questions were leading (though I tried to be neutral) and he was saying what he thought I thought he should say. This is the very thing I complain about my friend doing, saying to her perfectly content and confident child, "Don't be afraid of that big dog, honey. Don't think that big dog is going to come over here and bite your face off. If you want to cry because your so scared of that big dog, it's okay..mommy will take care of you." And then, voila, the child is crying and terrified.

As you already know, I went to talk to the principal. I really like this principal. She's the daughter of a LCMS pastor in our circuit. When her dad was ill recently, Paul visited the family regularly and got to know her outside of the principals office. Inside the principals office she does a fantastic job. I couldn't be more pleased with her.

I had gone over in my head how to present the story. I just told her the straight story. "Moses is in Mrs.P's class. Yesterday he had his shirt on inside out and backwards and Mrs L stripped him bare chested and put it on right in front of the class." She immediately said, "Oh, my. That doesn't sound good. Was Mo upset about it?" I told her how he had told me and how he had answered when I asked him. We talked about it for a few minutes and she said she would talk to the classroom teacher and Mrs. L about it. "Or," she said as a women entered the outer office, "we could ask Mrs. L about it right now."

And there was Mrs. L and my very first fleeting instinct was to say "NO! I want to be passive aggressive and complain to you and YOU deal with it." But I said, "We may as well ask her, since she's right here. Then it will be clear that I'm not freaking out about and we'll know what the story is."

Here is the story: A classmate made a teasing comment about Mo's shirt being on wrong. Moses asked Mrs. L to fix his shirt. She thought about taking him out in the hall--but there were 24 other kids to supervise. So she said, "close your eyes, everybody!" And fixed Mo's shirt and Mo seemed pleased to have it fixed. And that was the end of it.


That sounded very plausible. And I could tell by her face and voice that she was slightly horrified, realizing how the story could have sounded to me, but wanting to sound unruffled and not-guilty. It was the same way I was balancing between making sure my kid was okay and not wanting to sound like a lunatic drama queen. She said she wouldn't have given Mo's shirt the time of day, but she heard what the other kid said, and Mo asked her to fix it, displeased with it being pointed out. I said he clearly wasn't traumatized by it, I just wanted to make sure it was all appropriate and above-board.

So, did I underreact? Should I have called for the resignation of Mrs L? Did I get sucked into the drama? Would I have followed through at all if my friend hadn't called? Did I overreact? I don't think so. A mama bear's gotta do what a mama bear's gotta do. Though I momentarily wanted to bail, I'm so glad I got to talk to Mrs L right there. It would have turned into a much bigger deal if it was a three-way conversation between the teachers and principals and then I was called back with the results. Instead, I asked the question. I got my answer. All is well.

And, like most things in life, I view it as practice. I have practiced what to do when something seems suspicious at school. I sharpened my tools for having a non-confrontation discussion with pricnipal and teacher about the treatment of my child. The lines of communication are open and that can only be a good thing. And maybe Moses will put his shirt on right...but, frankly, that would make me a little sad.


Anonymous said...

ahahaha! i HEARD this story, straight from your mouth to my ears, just a couple of weeks ago, in person, and now here it is on your blog... i hope moses decides to wear his clothes right-side out at the wedding in october, but even if he doesn't, i think we'll refrain from straightening him out at the church... ha!

good story, em,

library tim

emdunbar said...

I will do my best to ensure Mo is properly dressed for his role in your nuptuals, but I can make no guarantees.