Last week my son was sent home with a disciplinary report. I have that particular breed of children who are usually exemplary at school, or anywhere I am not, and save all of their mischief and misbehaving for when they are with me. Granted that may be a blessing that saves me some embarrassment, but sometimes it seems really unfair.
When I read the report detailing his “crime”, I was confused. He had gotten in trouble for sharing food in the cafeteria. Really? I thought sharing was a good quality we wanted to teach our children; certainly one I always taught at home.
Before I got all hot and bothered about it with his teacher I vented to a friend who is also teacher. She sighed and said, “Yeah the school has a rule about not to sharing food so they are not responsible if your kid eats something they’re not supposed to or if it was contaminated, etc.”
I get the logic behind it, but it fueled my strongly held opinion that as a society, we have completely lost our minds. We want to teach people to share, be kind and generous, but it is more important to protect and avoid liability.
How do I explain this to my nine-year-old who is upset because he got in trouble when he thought he was being kind?
I knew I should I bite my tongue and not infect them with my cynicism or make his school wrong, so I asked him if he had asked why he wasn’t supposed to share?
He said no. (That same unfair paradox again, because he wouldn’t hesitate to ask me “Why?” 46 times until he get a satisfactory answer!)
I asked him if he really thought his school was trying to teach him that sharing is bad.
Victimized nine-year-old: “Yes.”
Chin-dropping mom: “Really?”
Reluctant nine-year-old: “Probably not.”
Inquisitive mom: “Why they would have such a rule, then?”
Smarter than he acts nine-year-old: “Well, probably because some kids have food allergies and they don’t want them to get sick.”
Even though I know he was secretly looking for a way out of sharing is iMac with his sister, I was clear that he understood the “why” behind the sharing rule.
Personally I think that our society has hit an extremist level of fear-based and protectionist thinking but sharing that opinion with him isn’t going to do him any good. It would undermine his school and his relationship to it, and turn him all to quickly into a cynical and resigned teenager.
Maybe the way to raise our children to be successful in this crazy upside down world of ours, and even perhaps shift the direction of humanity, is not to simply make our institutions and politicians wrong, but to teach our children to be curious and inquisitive and to not just resentfully accept the unquestioned answers.
Have you ever had a situation when your home rule and school rules collide?