Monday, 2 March 2009

How to ruin a milestone

Normally on this date I write something mushy and sentimental about the most wonderful event that has occurred in my short life.

I started it not so beautifully, being sick, but the enthusiasm of one very tall and very beautiful 5 year old was pretty infectious. She loved her presents which she opened with an excitement that was palpable while I finished icing her cupcakes. As I was still feeling pretty under the weather I decided to take the day off to recuperate and looked forward to being able to drop my Elfling off at school at her classroom with a box of iced pink cupcakes (because there is no other colour).

The Elfling was already hyped, but me being there was making her fairly radiate joyfulness in her new strawberry hair clips and perfect pigtails as she bounded up to her teacher to tell her "it's my birthday! And my Mummy's here!" to which she was told tersely to stand in line. I was a little bit stung for her, but being told to stand in line didn't dampen her in the slightest as her friends buzzed excitedly around her as she mentioned the magic words of "birthday" and "cupcakes". I gave her a kiss and watched her skip off barely managing to keep inside her skin while I had whimsical flashbacks to a tiny little baby in my arms.

Managing not to vomit on the way to the shops I did some grocery shopping as well as to buy some desperately needed mylanta before heading home and instead of going to bed (which I really should have) I set about making a Dolly Varden cake. All pink icing with rosewater essence to make it as princessy as I could. Pink sparkle candles at the ready, and at 2:30pm on the dot I went to pick her up again.

I loved birthdays as a child and I was determined to make them as special for my baby girl who puts up with so much and is so sweet and lovely. When she saw me outside her classroom her already luminescent skin brightened and she hopped up and down excitedly on her bottom as she waited to be allowed to leave the classroom to see me and tell me about her special day. Realising that the caketins were still in her classroom I went back in to pick them up and was greeted by her teacher - a young and enthusiastic looking new grad. Expecting to be told what a lovely birthday she had had, I was surprised when she looked away from me to the Elfling and asked her to go sit down. She then turned to me and started a discussion about "behavioural issues". All my "picking up my fairy and enjoying a special afternoon together" thoughts became muddled as I tried to listen to what the teacher was telling me.

"blah blah blah defiant blah blah blah disobedient blah blah blah long days blah blah blah time out on her birthday blah blah blah mothers working long hours "

At this stage I was blinking back tears. My Elfling on her birthday, I was not being told one positive thing, but instead reams of stories of her being cheeky and defiant. She giggles with her friends during group time, she needs to be told more than once to clean up after herself, she doesn't seem to listen, children with parents who work long hours often have issues... I couldn't understand. She has been in formal kindergarten for 2 years and I have had regular meetings with her teachers who have fallen over themselves to tell me how bright and giving she is. I have never before had a teacher have an issue with her behaviour, except for being tardy at tidy up time.

I was dismissed with a directive to talk to her about it tonight. Tonight. Her Birthday. I managed to get to the car before I brought it up shakily with the Elfling, hating myself for spoiling this rare time with just the two of us. She was confused too, but was telling me about how she loves school and her friends and tries to be good. About how everyone runs around but that she is the one that gets sent to Time Out with me explaining that it doesn't matter what everyone else does (and trying to squash the urge to get upset with her) but that she has to listen to her teacher.

By the time I got home, between being sick, being tired, being hormonal and being blindsided I was a tearful mess which had her in tears too (yay for great parenting moments). I tried to talk it through with her but still can't see anything major in her behaviour that warranted this. So I sought outside help. I talked to the wonderful Shannon on
msn, knowing that she both knows the Elfling and that she has experienced the politics of school and let her give me some words of advice.

Then later I called Mum and Dad, who I may have mentioned before are teachers. Beyond that they are also trained specifically as early childhood teachers (further diploma) and so are well versed in the new Prep curriculum, and having actually had the Elfling stay with them before I knew they could give me their professional opinion. I started talking to Mum and she was immediately as surprised as I was, letting me describe the conversation and not really interrupting much. When I got to the bit about working mothers there was suddenly an outburst at the other end as my Dad (who had been listening on the other line) exploded in disbelief and went on a bit of a rant.

I ended up defending her teacher as they both went on a bit of a warpath and asked immediately if she was a new teacher because she evidently had no clue. By this time I was choking out words and sobbing out others which obviously was also upsetting my parents because as far as they are concerned I do. not. cry. To the point that Dad was threatening to call the school himself to speak to the teacher and ascertain exactly what the problem was. A thought I appreciated, but that didn't stop me blubbering away into my simmering risotto.

I have a desperate fear of being one of "those" parents, one that believes that no-one understands their truly heinous child while everyone else rolls their eyes. I've obviously been brought up to respect teachers and as much as I adore them I am not blind to my children's faults. I know that the Elfling is vague and scatterbrained and that when excited she is like the Energizer Bunny and cannot. sit. still. But she only turned 5 today, and when I have read through the curriculum for Prep, I never believed that she would have an issue. I would certainly not have described her as having a "behavioural problem" and aside from the occasional moments of tired self pity, I have never before seen or been able to find a negative impact on my baby of having a mother who works.

But today that was shattered and I can't stop crying. Every single person I have talked to, those that are invested and those that are not cannot understand the problem and tell me I'm not deluding myself that I have a sweet and lovely well behaved child. But I still can't shake the depression and the conviction that I have severely fucked it up. That I am "that" parent. That in spite of all her friends and how well she seems to be coping that she is "that child".

Today is traditionally the anniversary of the proudest day of my life. And yet, today it feels like the smallest.

11 comments:

Lex said...

GAH! I feel so angry reading this. So bloody angry. Our babies are only five years old. FIVE. And it was her birthday. Of course she is excited.

I say; to hell with thoughts of being "one of those mothers" - I would complain. I would seek calculated advice from your parents in how best to negotiate this.

I'm seething with anger and I'm not the mother, I can only imagine how you must feel about it.

Even if your gorgeous little girl did have some type of issues; is it really appropriate to broach the subject in the context of her bloody birthday!!

I'm so angry - I could keep ranting, but this is your blog - not mine xx take care Jenn xx and happy birthday to your oldest girl. Five is a magical age.

Jen said...

You are not one of 'those parents', she is one of THOSE teachers. ONe that certainly shouldn't be in the early years as she obviously has no clue as to the make up of children (how dare the elfling be excited on her birthday and not be able to contain it *rolls eyes* ) . How can the teacher possibly think that her behaviour today was at all appropriate!

For one I would say that timing out a child due to them being a little more excited than normal, on their birthday, in their first year of school, and on a day where she could show off her mother to everyone who she sounds to be incredibly proud of..is just harsh beyond compare.

The things that she said to you maybe valid concerns in her classroom but the part I believe that her whole conversation with you became discredited was when she mentioned that children of long working mothers are often this way.

How dare she make a judgement on you and your family based on your working situation! How dare she push her prejudices on you! She obviously has an issue with this subject that I suspect has nothing at all to do with you or the elfling and all to do with her own grievances.

I would make an appointment with her and her supervisor immediately. Bring up the conversation, the things that she has told you that were of concern with the elfling and ask her what SHE is going to do to resolve these issues in the classroom, as obviously constant time out is not appropriate (and she should be accountable for coming up with more effective classroom management techniques!). Make sure that you bring up the comment she made about you as a working mother! It was completely unprofessional and out of line. She seriously needs to be pulled up.

I'm sorry, this has made me so angry. Please don't let this teacher ruin your special day with your girl. You are a wonderful mother and have done all the right things, unfortunately the teacher has not.

Please excuse my spelling mistakes as I have to type this in the dark so my baby boy doesn't wake up. I have been a teacher for 10 years and an early years teacher that whole time. I truly believe that she was completely and totally out of line today! I hope that the elfling had a great 5th birthday :D (she shares my friends little man's birthday, it's easy even for a scatterbrain like me to remember being 2.3.04 :) )

Kisses said...

Who knows maybe the Elfings teacher is up late reconsidering her actions hey? Feeling really mean about giving a little girl time-out on her birthday - it'd keep me awake at night.

But really I'm a bit of a novice and I know I don't make all the right decisions in the classroom all of the time (not even close) and I'd hate to think I was being this crucified just for wanting to talk to a parent about a students behaviour while I had the chance.

Kylie said...

I'm a frequent reader of your blog, but have never commented before. I'm also a mother of an excitable child and a primary school teacher. What the teacher said and did today was out of line! If there has been a problem with Elfings behaviour, the time to discuss it with you was NOT at the classroom door, at the end of the day, on her birthday. Make an appointment, insist on having an executive teacher there and ask her to explain clearly what the problem is, how long it's been going on and why this is the first you've heard of it. The working mother comment is completely out of line - complain about it and make sure they know how inappropriate it is. I'd even go so far as to asking if she has children herself. (and if all else fails, throw up on her!)
You are a good parent, Elfing is a wonderfully, normal, happy, well adjusted five year old. Don't let one inexperienced, insensitive teacher get away with spoiling your day or your child's.

Kisses said...

More importantly "HAPPY BIRTHDAY Little Darling!!"

hissychick said...

Happy Birthday Elfling!!

This teacher must be the daughter of the one who kept me in at lunchtime to lecture me about ruining the education of the other kids in my class. All for simply requesting that my friend give me back my book of work that she was blatantly copying.

I digress.

Seems to me the teacher in question is a novice who does not know how to pick the right time and place to discuss some expected behavior due to the excitement of the day.

However the comment about working parents is way out of line so if (her) issues persist, make a formal appointment.

Take care and enjoy the rest ofthis special day.

Averil said...

I don't understand - surely by primary school MOST children have working mothers? So why is the Elfing being singled out for having a working mother in this way?

I would question whether it's a personality clash. And I would CERTAINLY take it further - ask for a formal sit down discussion/interview with the teacher and certainly express your displeasure at how she handled it. On her birthday is just over the top and thoughtless!! Was it the only chance she'd ever had to talk to you?? Why on earth did she choose that moment - reeks of her actually wanting to put a dampener on a very joyful little girl's bursting enthusiasm.

Jenn, I am so sorry that this wonderful day ended the way it did.

xx Ave

Devi said...

I just can't think of the perfect expletive. Might need to invent one.

You OK? I don't surf through your blog that often, but wondered how you were doing with it all. Contact me if there's anything I can do. I would be raising your school concerns with JRMG ASAP.

There's nothing that quite matches the brutal and personal whipping for being a WOHM, by someone who has no clue.

Shel said...

Sounds like she's a little green around the gills if she thinks the elfling has issues!!

Jenn, I often wonder that too with C. His "spirit" (and I'm sure Lex will agree) can swing so hard both ways; but at the end of hte day, I am convinced I'm not one of 'those' parents.

You know your children inside and out. It's not something you fluff about and seek accolades for. They are important to you (duh) and YOU know them far better than some green gilled teacher.

If she'd have said something like that to me, I'd have wondered, seriously wondered, just how many 'disobedient' children who just slip off the page of the textbook she's really had.

Don't even worry about it. And happy birthday to the Elfling. And to you - you should be very proud.

Donna said...

Jenn, there is nothing I can say that will stop you from thinking you are one of 'those' Mothers but I am hoping by reading the comments here and taking on board the words of your very wise parents, you will at least start to doubt your fears.

I actually had to go away and sleep on this before I replied. I read this entry last night and I was literally seething. I have had two children complete their schooling and have come across a teacher or two like Elfling's in my time.

I got my children to the end of their schooling years and now I KNOW without a doubt, it was not ME, it was THEM. I was not a bad parent, I did nothing wrong. Every other teacher was wonderful and encouraging and embraced my second son's character (who by the way sounds very much like your gorgeous little Elfling) and helped him to flourish exactly as he was yet still be able to cope with the demands of schooling.

This is where this teacher is failing. She cannot find a chapter in her text book that tells her how to work with spritely children so instead she tries to stifle and squash what is natural to the child so she can fit in the mould. It's wrong. It's the teacher who needs to learn how to teach a spritely child, not to squash her and push her into conformity.

My son had some beautiful teachers in his schooling years who loved him for the character he was. They were able to teach him without stifling him. One or two along the way tried to 'pin it on the parents' but it was not us.

I could keep going (anger does that to me lol) but I will leave it there. I just hope you are feeling a little better now.

Donna said...

Jenn, there is nothing I can say that will stop you from thinking you are one of 'those' Mothers but I am hoping by reading the comments here and taking on board the words of your very wise parents, you will at least start to doubt your fears.

I actually had to go away and sleep on this before I replied. I read this entry last night and I was literally seething. I have had two children complete their schooling and have come across a teacher or two like Elfling's in my time.

I got my children to the end of their schooling years and now I KNOW without a doubt, it was not ME, it was THEM. I was not a bad parent, I did nothing wrong. Every other teacher was wonderful and encouraging and embraced my second son's character (who by the way sounds very much like your gorgeous little Elfling) and helped him to flourish exactly as he was yet still be able to cope with the demands of schooling.

This is where this teacher is failing. She cannot find a chapter in her text book that tells her how to work with spritely children so instead she tries to stifle and squash what is natural to the child so she can fit in the mould. It's wrong. It's the teacher who needs to learn how to teach a spritely child, not to squash her and push her into conformity.

My son had some beautiful teachers in his schooling years who loved him for the character he was. They were able to teach him without stifling him. One or two along the way tried to 'pin it on the parents' but it was not us.

I could keep going (anger does that to me lol) but I will leave it there. I just hope you are feeling a little better now.

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...