Have you ever just had a week where all the Things To Be Mad about just pile up? But pretty much you can manage your stress okay because none of it directly affects you or someone close to you?
But then, BAM, something happens to tip the scale.
Yeah, that happened to me today. Luckily, it was in the context of a very delightful conversation overall.
I was talking with a mom on the phone and she shared with me three stories she had personally witnessed/heard about first hand:
1) A little girl was rolling around playfully on the floor at school – we’re talking kindergartener – and a little boy, again, kindergarten, politely asks her to put her legs down because he can see her underwear.
Well, this little boy got in trouble for saying “underwear.” I’m gobsmacked. Apparently, at this particular school, children aren’t allowed to say “underwear.” They need to use the word “undergarment” or “unmentionables.”
This is a child taking action to protect and care for a friend.
This is the kindergarten version of “You’re drunk, let me make sure you get home safe.”
This is what we should be supporting and encouraging, not getting bogged down by semantics.
2) A little girl was required to wear a sweatshirt because she wore a tank-top dress to school, which had straps narrower than the “adult three fingers width” rule. Last time I checked, a dress made for a six or seven year old has narrower straps than that, because a wider strap would just be out of proportion for a tank top…these are little kids, and little bodies! To drive it home, the mother of this child inadvertently “did an experiment” because she had sent her son to school in a tank top and shorts. And there was no mention of his clothing appropriateness, even though – and she measured – the width of the tank top straps were the same.
This rule is – I’m assuming – to prevent…what? I’m actually not clear, but I think to prevent distraction from too much skin showing? These are LITTLE KIDS.
3) Apparently at this particular school, children are not allowed to RUN ON THE BLACKTOP. That’s right, during recess, if they are on the paved area, they are not allowed to run. Presumably to prevent injury.
Here’s the thing.
These rules are meant to avoid harm or injury in one way or another. But they are based out of fear of “what might happen.” And in so doing, they are creating exactly what they are intending to avoid. I’m sure the school officials, or whoever made the rules are desperately trying to avoid litigation that results from any type of harm these days.
These rules are having the opposite effect.
In a long, slow, burn and by avoiding short term harm to the school, long term harm is happening.
Because it is very difficult to allow children to just be kids when we are filled with fear for what might happen.
But by making a little boy feel shame and fear because he was polite and caring to a classmate, he may decide next time to not speak up, or protect someone, in fear of being shamed or getting in trouble. This is perpetuating bullying and rape culture, when the bystander has been shown to be the MOST influential person in the dynamic of harm. When we need to be raising boys to think with respect and consent, without fear of “doing it wrong” or hesitating.
By telling a girl, and not a boy, or telling any child that their skin showing, innocently and completely appropriately, is not okay, we are bringing attention to their bodies in ways that are inappropriate and unhealthy. We are perpetuating shame, particularly for girl’s bodies.
By not allowing children to play freely, by being so afraid of injury that we need to limit the natural movement of children, we foster an environment that grows mental health disorders, which leads to issues with confidence, leadership, respect for authority, joy in learning, and lowered self-esteem.
WHAT IS GOING ON HERE? <—-yes, I’m yelling.
This is not okay.
I have some ideas on how to correct this, but first I’m interested in what you think.
What are the rules at your child’s school? Do you know what they are?
I am available and eager to come to schools and speak on these topics. If you are interested in that, please post below or contact me through my contact page.