I have been so busy lately that when I write, it seems to be more reactionary than inspired. My last blog post was a reaction to betrayal by a former friend and today’s post is a reaction to something that happened to one of my children. I think most parents would agree with the sentiment that a significant portion of our job as parents is protecting our children from harm. Obviously, we can not put them in little bubbles and protect them from every bump and bruise as they navigate this crazy world, but I personally do endeavor to protect my sons from any undue distress; Childhood should be sweet and joyful. A few weeks ago my husband and I were tested, and we experienced something that was not earth-shattering, but it was troubling. From the way it was and continues to be handled by the adults, we trusted to watch over our child.
The incident was with my oldest son, he was attacked by another child at school. When I say attacked, the incident left him so scared he didn't want to ever go back to school or church again. (They were one in the same.) This child choked him in a fit of rage that, by the different reports we have heard, was completely unprovoked. Apparently, these episodes are not uncommon, and this child has displayed ongoing troubling behavior. This child’s parents were told about the incident; however, we were not informed. When my son told me a peculiar story one Sunday about another child choking him, my husband and I decided it was time for another “do you know what a lie is? Do you know lying is bad?” conversation. It is a terrible feeling as a parent to be the last to know when something has happened to your child. I have immense guilt that I did not believe him and that I actually said, “I can’t see your teachers allowing this to happen.” My heart hurts that I let him down. Let's be real, five-year- old’s tell tall tales, some are obvious whoppers, and others are just little misunderstandings or white lies. One of my favorite stories he swears by is a story about a t-rex chasing him on the playground. I still remember being his age and calling the fire department to get my cat, Denver, out of a tree. The only problem was that I did not have a cat at all.
Let me clarify that I am not upset with the child who choked my son, [well maybe that's bullshit and I am a little upset] nor am I upset with the parents of this child. I am sure they have a lot of feelings they are processing and working through right now, and my heart goes out to them. Who I am upset with is the teacher who decided I was not worthy of being told information about my son’s life and I am angry with a school administration that lacks oversight and in my opinion does not properly train their staff on how to navigate situations like this. My son's previous school in Montana, Bozeman Summit School, an excellent Montessori school, had a strict protocol that included documentation and communication concerning any incidents, be they falling off something on a playground or something more serious like two students fighting. I felt confident in the capacity of the teachers and administration of that school to not only competently teach and watch my son; I knew that they cared deeply for him, it showed in their attention to detail and in return by his affection for the staff and school.
I have always had anxiety about leaving my oldest son with anyone, due to a speech delay, he truly didn’t verbally communicate until well after his third birthday, so I was never willing to gamble with his well being and trust any daycare or babysitter with him. When he was younger, I never left him with anyone other than my parents or my best friend. He could have been the perfect victim, unable to tell anyone if anything terrible happened to him, so my husband and I went without date nights and went without doing a lot of things because he was so much more important than a night out or an adults-only event. He still struggles with some aspects of communicating with us, he searches for words when he is and sometimes uses the opposite word of what he means. He has come such a long way in communicating and I worried that us not believing him after a traumatic incident might make him shutdown and set him back, but I will have guilt about this all for a long time.
As parents we make a choice to trust other adults with our children, to watch over them and protect them during the school day or an evening out. I think anyone who knows me would attest to the fact that I am fiercely protective of my children and while I can be very forgiving and understanding, I have a tendency to be very serious and shall we say Hell Hath No Fury-esque when it comes to my boys and anyone who would do them harm. How as a parent am I supposed to help my child when facts about his daily life and interactions are blatantly hidden from us? This bothers me on such a deep level because without open communication and trust in and from the people we choose to care for our children, we have nothing. I am also troubled by the idea that a Christian school that teaches about honesty always being the best policy to the children would model such lousy behavior and shut my husband and me out about something this serious. You had one shot to keep him safe, to keep me in the loop and I will not make the same mistake of trusting you again. The positive outcome of this is that we found another school, mid-summer to send him to for camp and in that, we also found the school he will attend next year. It has been weeks of comforting him during drop-offs and assuring him that he will never go back to that other school and reassuring him that we will never let anyone hurt him. I am hopeful that this bad memory will fade with time, and he will flourish at his new school, but I find myself once again being hyper-vigilant with my children and the people I allow to watch over them.