Filed under: Goats, P3, Photos, Working Mom | Tags: Parenting, PreSchool, Toddlers
I cannot believe how very very different my children are from each other. Goat #1 is thriving in his very controlled, very challenging, small class, private religious elementary. Meanwhile, his sister is falling apart in the preschool. Pretty much from “Go” with her, we have been butting heads with the teacher. I expected a small amount of that as Goat #2 got used to a larger class with a more structured curriculum, I really did.
What I didn’t expect was to hear, 4 days into the school year, that my daughter “can’t wear dresses to school anymore; I had to tell her all day long to put her skirt down. It would be one thing if she were just doing it in [the 3-4 year old room] but she did it in the hallway and the 4th grade boys saw her panties!” (Seriously, her teacher looked SCANDALIZED. I almost laughed. You’d have thought my daughter was acting out some Girls Gone Wild commercial or something. Note: this really should have been way more of a red flag to me than it was.)
My first thought was “Um, I’m pretty sure that teaching her the proper way to behave at school is part of your job description, so while I know it was probably very tedious to tell her all day long “please put your dress down” I’m not sure I see what the big deal is?” Of course, I couldn’t say that out loud, so I didn’t. Then the teacher proceeds to tell me that Goat #2 had to sit on a bench during afternoon outside playtime (30 minutes!) because Miss D had to tell her too many times to put her skirt down.
And that’s where I bit my tongue off so as to keep my mouth shut until I could figure out what to say. So I got home and mulled some more, and was trying to find the right way to approach this issue without having to buy my daughter an entirely new wardrobe (I’d say her closet is 80% dresses and skirts) and also show Goat #2 that she would have to listen to the teacher, and additionally try to find a way to explain to her that she can’t be showing her panties to the whole world without making it sound like there is anything wrong or sinful about the human body (that part was pretty easy, after a little reflection; I just told her exactly what I told her brother: underwear is not meant to be seen in public. Short and sweet.)
I went back to talk to the teacher and the director and explain my take on this: how I certainly understand that they don’t want her flashing her panties all day, and if we could work together on this, I would do my part, too, and hopefully she will get the message with some gentle reminders if she needs them. I also said that while I sympathize with Miss D trying to keep control of a classroom full of 3 and 4 year olds, and of course Goat #2 should see that there are consequences for not listening to the teacher, I think that: 1) Missing all of her outside play time is a disproportionate punishment, and 2) a 30 minute timeout is inappropriate for a 3 year old. (Especially MY 3 year old. If they’d taken away 5-10 minutes and made her see the other kids having fun for a little bit and then let her come play after reinforcing what the punishment had been for, she’d have remembered that. Making it the entire 30 minutes, they lost the lesson on Goat #2. All they did was piss her off and make her more determined not to listen because her teacher isn’t fair OR nice. She’s a redhead, and she’s got a good memory. The grudge match, it is ON at this point.)
So everyone says “Oh, of course” and we all seem to be working together and I’m not hearing any more wardrobe ultimatums (ultimata?) from Miss D, and for a few weeks, I’m assuming everything is going along just fine. We did have a chilly snap that made it possible for me to throw some cotton leggings under some of her dresses without the poor kid suffocating from the heat, so that helped, too, I think.
We did have a few skirmishes here and there that were not over the clothes. She had about a week where she was in trouble at lunchtime for kicking under the table. She was moved to another table to sit by herself every day that she kicked someone. However, I didn’t hear about it until she’d had to sit by herself at lunch for the third day in a row. Do I want her kicking people? No. Do I think they should remove her from the others when she does? Absolutely. Do I want to be told by the teacher – in the first instance that I’m even hearing about it – that “we’d really like for her to be able to sit with the class…”? Um, NO, I DO NOT.
I hate (whoops, I mean do not like it. At all.)when people are passive aggressive with me. If you want me to do something about my child’s behavior (and come on, we all heard the unspoken “so you need to do something about this” as she trailed off her sentence, am I right?) then: A) I sort of need to know about my child’s behavior, and 2) Come right out and just say it, already. I’m a busy girl. I don’t have a decoder ring and I don’t have time to ponder everything you say for layers of meaning.
Also, Goat #2 was getting in trouble at naptime for not sleeping and not lying quietly, and had had her afternoon playtime taken away from her (again, all 30 minutes.) I was angry about the much too long punishment recurring, but I was livid about the way that Miss D brought it to my attention: She did it in front of Goat #2, which I’m fine with; this is her behavior we’re discussing, so one of the consequences is having to realize how it affects other people. But Miss D lost the lesson again. She was snide, and didn’t limit herself to that day’s behavior; she recited a laundry list of past issues (none of which anyone had thought to mention to me except for the panty-showing), and ended with “She is going to learn to listen to me.” (Note: This, also, should have been a giant blood-red banner waving at me.)
So I had yet another conference. I explained that she hasn’t napped at home since she was 20 months old, so she didn’t nap all summer when the Goat Nanny was here. New school and new schedule and back to naptime was sure to be a rough transition, right? Also, when she naps at school, I have a horrible time getting her to bed at night. She’s NOT TIRED at 8:00 if she has a 90 minute nap at school. We compromised: Goat #2 has to lie quietly so she doesn’t disturb the other children, but once they’re all asleep, she is allowed to go with the aide to an adjacent table and work on writing her letters. This has worked out pretty well so far.
I thought things were improving at preschool. But at home, Goat #2 had become more and more (and more) a whiny, clingy, obstinate, rebellious child who was having night terrors every night instead of maybe once a week. And I can’t say that anything at preschool is causing the behavior, but it’s almost certainly related, because it started almost simultaneously with week #2 of school. It’s been a very long month here chez Waltz. Plus, the weather has warmed back up again into the mid-80s every day, so she’s not layering the leggings right now, either. But she does have a couple of skirts that are actually skorts that are easy for her to take off and put on herself (another preschool edict: the teachers do not/will not help the kids use the potty; she has to be able to handle all of her own clothing [which is another reason I had her in dresses!])
Yesterday, she wore a new little skort that I had originally bought at Macy’s with a shirt, cardigan, sweater, tights, leggings, etc. to all be mixed and matched together this winter. However, since she has difficulty handling tights by herself at potty time, the skirt/skort probably won’t be worn this winter after all. So I let her wear it with the short sleeved shirt, threw a pair of ankle socks on her with her brown Mary Janes, and she looked adorable. Not what I had envisioned when I bought every item they had in that color palette, but still — better than not seeing her wear it at all, right?
When I picked her up yesterday, Miss D stopped me at the door for a minute. I had already picked up Goat #2’s behavior report and she was still on “red apple” so I couldn’t figure out what this was about but I knew it wasn’t going to be good. Not once in the past month has Miss D stopped to speak to me about what a great day Goat #2 has had, or how wonderfully she listened. Stopping me at door = more bad news.
In an attempt to not be/act defensive, I said “How was her day?” so that I could at least feel like I had asked for the information, rather than been attacked with it. I shouldn’t have bothered. Her day was fine, apparently. However, “her skirt is too short. I know it has those built-in shorts, but it is much too short. AND she kept pulling it up all day, which even with the shorts underneath, well, that’s not the way ladies behave. Also, it’s snug. It’s a little tight, don’t you think?”
Why, yes, I DO think, as a matter of fact. I think quite a lot. Oh, you mean do I agree with you? Hell, no. But I THINK that you people are out of your minds if a 3 year old in a knit skort is salacious or titillating or potentially sinful. And I THINK that I want my daughter to grow up without all of the body shame baggage I bought into. And I THINK I will be calling her old preschool when I get home, and begging them to take her back, is what I think.
For reference, here is Goat #2, modeling the too-snug, too-short skort:
(Try to ignore the silly face, and the smudged face and hands and knees. I didn’t realize she was making a face until I looked at the picture on the computer. And I could rant for days about how filthy my child is when I pick her up every day, but I try not to get worked up over dirt; she washes.)
I know some people will say I’m overreacting, but this too important, in my opinion, to ignore. I knew it was possible that the kids would hear doctrine I don’t subscribe to when I registered them at a private religious school. It just didn’t occur to me that they would repeatedly be sending my 3 year old the message that her body is shameful in some vague and mysterious way. I take issue with the oppression of women and their bodies that comes with all of this “act like a lady” BS. She has a lifetime to be inundated by mixed messages about her body and her clothing and her self-image; I’m not really keen for it to start now. I’m not saying I want her holding up her skirts in public, but instead of a simple “No one wants to see your panties” reprimand, the entire debacle was a reinforcement of oppressive gender stereotypes that I have never liked myself and I don’t want for my daughter.
Even scarier to me, though, is the teacher’s determination to make Goat #2 behave. Somehow, this situation has spiraled out of control into a battle of wills between Goat #2 and Miss D. A battle that Miss D is determined to win. It’s not about following the rules anymore, it’s about Goat #2 doing what Miss D says. I am not raising a spoiled child who thinks the rules don’t apply to her. It’s not fair to the other kids in her class or to the teacher, (or even to her) if the rules don’t apply to her, too. But I don’t subscribe to the “break their little spirits” philosophy of child behavior, either. I learned a long time ago not to engage in a battle of wills with Goat #2 (or any preschooler, actually): It’s an unwinnable situation. Sure, I’m bigger than she is, and I can force her to do what I want. But she isn’t learning anything about self-control or the consequences of her behavior if I do that. This is not a kid for whom “Because I said so” has ever prompted a behavioral change. If you make it personal, Goat #2 is going to dig her heels in and not give an inch, no matter what you threaten or punish her with. However, “That’s the rule” works wonders. When it’s about fairness and rules and being responsible for her own behavior, she is happily compliant.
She refuses to be bullied. And I refuse to let anyone take that away from her. So in mid-October, I’m taking her away from them. That’s the soonest I can get her back into her old preschool.
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