Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I will meet you there. — Rumi
So, this week my daughter had her first Issue at school. For the past two years, she attended this amazing little holistic private school where the parents were a very tightly knit community. If there was ever an issue, I could just approach the parent of the other child who was involved, have a friendly and civilized conversation about things, and find a mutually agreeable resolution.
But that school has closed, and now Bess is a kindergartener at our local public school. She seems really happy there, and though I am by no means a fan of public school (for a bevy of reasons that I will save for another day), I do think that this particular school is the best it can possibly be of what it is. The building is beautiful, the teachers are great, the principal is very hands-on, they try to be innovative…it’s still public school, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised by a lot of things since the school year has started.
Anyway, all year she has been coming home and telling me things about one girl in particular who is on her morning and afternoon bus and also in her class, things that have made me uncomfortable though I have kept my mouth shut. After all, not everyone is, nor should they be, like us. But last week Bess came home with a particularly alarming story, and I decided to mention it to the teacher. We agreed to not do anything besides keeping an eye on the girls for now.
That afternoon, the proverbial shit hit the fan. My daughter came home hysterical because she had to sit by herself on the bus (and get mocked because of it), which I later found out was because the other girl accused Bess of punching her. The next morning, I mentioned to Bess the reason they had been separated, and the hysterics began anew. She was horrified that anyone would think her capable of doing such a thing.
Long story short(er), they went to the guidance counselor and the girl admitted that Bess had never punched her. The counselor gave them some ideas for conflict resolution, and now they are wonderful friends again, happily ever after.
Except…where does that leave me? Most of all, I think the situation was handled extraordinarily well by the school within the structure that exists. It was addressed quickly and thoroughly, and all parties were treated with the utmost respect.
But it also has me thinking, a LOT, about the best way to handle these types of things. We practice nonviolent communication in our family – but I was absolutely not feeling particularly nonviolent during this whole thing. I teach my kids that there are no bad people, that people make the choices that are right for them – but lying to get my daughter in trouble is a difficult pill to swallow. I know my child isn’t perfect – but I also know that she would not punch someone on the bus. I wanted to get information from Bess about what was going on – but how do I ask questions without putting words into her mouth or making her feel like she’s being interrogated? I know that teachers are busy and overworked, and I don’t want to be an annoying mother who complains about stupid stuff – but I also want to be an advocate for my daughter. I regret that it became such a huge thing – but what was the option, calling a mother I have never met to tell her that her daughter is being mean to my daughter?
It is difficult to take a compassionate approach towards someone who is causing your child pain, but it is what is required vis-a-vis putting your money where your mouth is. Conflict resolution is one thing within a family, but when it comes to dealing with the outside world, it is hard to find the line between trying to understand the other perspective and failing to defend your own. I don’t think I’m very good at this – I don’t know if it is empathy or conflict-avoidance (probably the latter), but I take the live and let live approach to the extreme. I’m working on it.