In a world of germs should we also sterilize our children’s behavior?
I couldn’t believe my ears. Week one of kindergarten and I was sequestered to report to the classroom after school with my son. What on earth could he have possibly done that required such attention? I was blank. He had been in preschool for three years and he had always received high marks for sharing, listening and being empathetic towards others (his lowest marks were in art but that was hardly a reason to call in the armory). I am frequently told that he is a very loving child, so I couldn’t help but wonder if he had been the victim of something that was misunderstood, or if maybe he had awakened some hidden anger issues that were about to be unearthed. I just couldn’t put my finger on it and despite the fact that I am typically the first to admit that my children are not perfect, I felt my defenses rising as I couldn’t begin to imagine what I was going to be told.
The meeting was on many levels shocking because I was told
that my son is too affectionate and that personal space must be respected. The
look of horror on my face said it all. I was here at this moment in time, a
parental milestone to be called to the teacher’s office, to discuss that my son
had not harmed anyone but he had been affectionate (and mind you not overly
affectionate) and being affectionate is no longer acceptable at school. Before having children, if I were to
have imagined this moment, I would have thought that it would have been because
my son had hit, yelled, spit or punched another – maybe even talked back to his
teacher. I NEVER thought it would be because he had been loving and kind.
On this particular day, aside from wanting his usual hug and kiss from the teacher, (which as Italians we regularly practice when greeting respected elders, family or friends,) he had crossed the line and kissed a girl on the cheek. He had asked her, "Is it okay if I give you a kiss?" And she had replied in some sort of favorable manner, but the witnesses objected to this behavior and the summons was rendered.
In a world of germs, swine flu and personal space have we lost sight of the goodness around us? Do we want to curtail loving behavior and sterilize our children’s behavior? Do we reconsider home schooling because then we could impart our values without risk of offending others? And on and on my mind percolates and ponders this unexpected event. I do ‘get’ that we have to be careful but with so much already removed from our schools (aside from the funding), I would welcome my son being in a loving and nurturing environment.
When we left this meeting, I explained to him that he had not done anything wrong and that we can kiss and hug as much as we want with our friends and family when we are not at school. Evidently, the only kisses allowed in the class are those given by the teacher to the student and they are a chocolate candy. (That is, when candy is again allowed back in school). It is a sad day for me to know he must now unlearn what I’ve worked so hard to instill in him.
Clearly time has passed since this episode and yet it continues to play over and over in my mind. I suppose I should let it go and I chose this forum to help me get closer to that goal….if it is even possible. I take the blame, perhaps I over kissed and hugged him. I couldn’t resist his adorable cheeks that often times smelled of Oreos, and I did hope that the extra love and kisses would make him into a caring and cuddly being but I suppose the greater society has deemed those traits to be negative on some level.
While a part of me remains stunned, I do believe in the public school system and I know that the rules are in place to protect against extreme behavior and to protect everyone. I realize that teachers/schools have to make some difficult calls and abide by the guidelines. I don’t begrudge his teacher- I actually adore her- and I really enjoy the school too. My observation is really more about our society and where we are going with these types of policies. I guess I believe in love and its healing powers on many levels. I hate to see this erased as we move into our laptop silos as older adults. There is so much good to learn at school, but I wish we could relearn how to reincorporate this positive behavior.
This is an original post to Silicon Valley Moms Blog. When Gina is not talking tech or winking at a Campari she can be found cooking North of the Golden Gate Bridge or on her blog at http://www.bowllicker.com