I think of myself as a good communicator… I think HIGHLY of myself because I think of myself as a good communicator. Over the last several days it has occurred to me that I am great in situations with other people who are also good communicators. Trying to communicate with people who aren’t (ahem, 5 year old boys, for example)… not so great at that. Maybe I’m not that great of a communicator after all. I’ll tell you what I learned for sure today, if I choose not to get vulnerable, communicate my thoughts, and ask for what I want I’m no better than the next person.
Monday was “Student Led Conference” day at my son’s school, which is just a fancy way of saying “Parent Teacher Conference” and implying that the child is invited. Nothing about us, without us, right? I didn’t bring him, because even though he was at the previous one, it was by no means led by him and he was bored out of his mind. I left the conference feeling pretty distraught. Somewhere along the line my son’s teachers had decided that he was a problem to be solved, and even worse, one that they couldn’t solve because they didn’t have the resources. I had never heard them say anything good about him, except for a rare occasion when we received patronizing praise about his “good behavior.” Despite the fact that things had greatly improved over the school year the complaints from the teachers hadn’t and it wore on me. The next day pushed me over the edge because along with the asenine behavior contract/chart they send home every day was a note to me about how to use it (1-3 stars=consequence, 4-8 stars=reward, Be Consistent. Be Firm. Student’s Bedtime is 8:00p.m.)
First, his bedtime is 7:00p.m., but thanks for asking.
Second, I am not going to subscribe to an arbitrary system of reward and consequence at home as it relates to his behavior in school where I KNOW he is not being supported.
Third, I’ll show you firm.
|if you MUST flush manually
press black button, control freak!
The whole thing sent a message of “the problem with your child is a deficit in parenting” which on top of the “we’ve given up on your child because he is difficult and we don’t have the resources to support him” was more than I could bear. We attend our local neighborhood school and are part of an important social justice movement to improve schools like ours so they can be fully funded and not have to compete with private education for resources. But when my public school doesn’t have the resources to support my child, how exactly am I supposed to feel?
I hadn’t spoken up about this explicitly before because: a) it’s a conflict and we know how I feel about those. I couldn’t put myself in a situation where I might look like I’m being “controlling!” b) I also don’t know what I’m doing… hello first time parent to a 5 year old here!, and c) I wanted to be open to and welcoming of their expertise and experience. I was too generous, as per usual.
In my anger, I bitched and moaned and whined and talked about wanting to pull my hair out and light things on fire. I had more violent fantasies about expressing my anger through physical aggression. I expressed my hopelessness and got it validated by the Angry Wombat and Devon and through that I got the energy back to give it one more shot.
I contacted the principal for a meeting and we made one for later that same day (today, in fact). I wrote myself a 1500 word essay about: The messages I’d received, the things I’d observed, and my suggestions about how to make it better. I needed it to help me organize my thoughts. My anxiety was raging and I knew I was going into this in a very emotional, very hijacked state.
I presented myself as such at the beginning of the meeting and I was at first irritated at how hard it was to keep up my rant because I just like the principal too much. She’s smart, she’s clever, she’s good at her job and she validated the shit out of my concerns. She also strategically complimented me, my knowledge, and my suggested interventions. She reframed my son’s entire kindergarten experience to date as one that’s shown progress and isn’t being given up on by her by any means. She guessed that the teachers probably feel like they’ve tried and they’re worn out. She also said that she hasn’t been directive enough in insisting that they need to try harder and being worn out isn’t an option.
*deep breath out*
I didn’t leave the office today full of joyous confidence that my son is going to be treated the way he deserves to by his teachers, but I did leave without my rage. I left having expressed myself, through vulnerability and authenticity and even if it doesn’t make a difference at least now I know that I’m doing the best I can.
It’s worth noting that this was a “conflict” and I went into it deciding that it was okay to be in it as long as I took care of myself. I did, and I was no worse for the wear. In fact, I’m probably better. And now, I can face conflict after conflict after conflict, never backing down until my son is getting his needs met.
I guess I am a decent communicator after all. The qualifier for that, however: speak up.