Monday, 11 November 2013

School is Ruining My Child

As mothers we create our children, literally, we carry them, nurture them, wipe away their tears, care for them when they are sick and protect and shield them as we see fit from the outside world.  In England this is for the first 4 years of their life and then suddenly, we are expected to kiss them on the cheek, gently squeeze their hands and release them to the big wide world of school.

Meg now spends the biggest chunk of her day within the school walls.  When September rolled around I had the same nervous feeling that I imagine most parents have when sending their firstborn off to school; a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach, hoping it would go well.  Mixed in with that was the surety that she would be fine, she was ready to learn, ready to absorb the knowledge school would offer to her.  In that way, I was right, she has been perfectly fine.

But school is ruining my child.

Of course, there have been the tantrums and the dark days.  The utter exhaustion of the first few weeks and the worry that our child had somehow been swallowed by a screaming banshee and were we ever going to get a straight answer from her again?!?  That isn't what I mean.

As a mother, there have been some things that I have tried to protect my children from.  We don't watch the news, for example when they are in the room and I will only watch my beloved crime and hospital dramas when I know Meg and Eli are asleep upstairs or aren't in the house.  There are just some subjects which children do not need to be exposed to, because they are children.  Likewise we don't talk about certain things in front of them, we don't want to open ourselves up to questions that we can't answer satisfactorily or that will make sense to the inquisitive minds of our little people.  I am sure that for every parent it is different but we have always taken the time to be careful about what Meg and Eli hear and see.

So, hearing my daughter say the words to her little brother a few days ago, 'I'm going to kill you and all of your family,' quite literally made my blood run cold.  A few days before that, 'bang bang I shot you with my gun, now you're dead on the floor.'  A week or so before that she was deliberately baiting Eli and I asked her to stop because it was mean, 'but I like being mean.'  

This is not my child.

Meg has never been exposed to anything of the sort within our four walls, or in my presence.  We don't talk about death, we don't discuss violence of any sort.  We don't condone mean or unnecessary behaviour towards each other or our family and friends.

So the only place that she could be picking this stuff up from is school.  From her peers and from the playground.

Now, I'm not building up to saying that the teachers and assistants need to be marshalling the playground better and ensuring that all children play nicely and don't pretend to fire guns at each other or say things which I may deem inappropriate.  It might be that as a parent you are sitting there thinking that I'm making a big fuss over nothing but to me it is a big deal.  Guns and death and bad attitude were not things that Meg did or said or had before she went to school.  Those things didn't even exist to her before.

The teachers tell me that she is very popular at school, has friends in every year group.  I think that's so great when I hear it and then I stop and wonder whether the conversations she listens to when she hangs out with her Year 6 buddies at lunch time are appropriate for the ears of a 4 year old.  I don't imagine that those 10 and 11 year old girls are stopping to consider that maybe Meg shouldn't be listening in on their conversations and gossip.  

How can I protect her from this?  I don't think I can and this makes me panic.  It isn't that I want to shield her and keep things from her and wrap her up in a bubble until I'm old and grey and can't do it any more.  I appreciate that such things go on in the outside world and that at some point Meg, and Eli, will need to be aware of them.  But right now at the age of 4, there is stuff that just doesn't need to be on her radar.  I want the things she knows about, the games that she plays, to be appropriate and relevant for her age.  Is that wrong of me?

I don't think that we are addressing it in the right way either.  So far we have attempted to ask her not to talk in such a way which results in her answer of 'but so and so at school does it,' and outright telling her off which just makes us the bad guys and doesn't seem to have any effect on stopping her the next time she says something similar.  We are missing the mark in getting her to understand that it isn't the way she should be behaving.  

The worst part is that she didn't start to learn any of this until she went to school.  Eli is hearing it much earlier because Meg is passing it on to him.  I can't think of anything worse than hearing my 2 year old son talking about being dead.  I just think it's so...unnatural.  At this age children shouldn't have worries, they shouldn't need to consider the issues that adults do, the idea of someone coming into our house to kill us shouldn't even exist to them because they should feel safe and secure in their own little worlds and yet Meg has told me that this is something the children at school talk about.  I want to go and stand in the playground and say, 'What the heck?!? Play make believe superheros, or play house, play hopscotch and football, play running around like crazy and tig.  Don't talk about murder.'  What is that about?

I don't want her to be mean on purpose because she sees other children behaving that way.

I don't want her to play games where she is pretend violent because she sees other children playing those games.

I want my happy, go lucky, independent and creative child back.

How on earth can we find the balance between keeping her our innocent little girl and allowing her to be in the wider world, hearing and learning all kinds of things that we can't protect her from.

Short of taking her out of school, which is not only impractical and overly dramatic but also now a bit like closing the stable door once the horse has bolted, what on earth can be done?

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