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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Open Letter to the Lunch Lady

Dear Lunch Lady,

I can appreciate that you may not enjoy spending so many hours of your day policing elementary students during lunch when they're hyped up on sugar and letting loose a little of their pent up energy.

I can appreciate that you get sick of giving the same directive 5 million times.

I can also appreciate that if Little Jimmy doesn't listen one more time, your head may very well explode.

Oh how I can appreciate those things. It is, after all, my life on a daily basis. I may only have 5 while you corall a cafeteria full, but I understand the frustration none-the-less.

What I DON'T appreciate is that you chose to make my son so fearful of coming to school tomorrow that he sobbed as he begged me not to make him go.

No. Don't understand that at all.

I also don't appreciate that it took me 45 minutes to get it out of him, the reason why he didn't want to go to school tomorrow.

Finally, after practically pulling teeth, holding him, and corecing the details out of him, I found out that he was told he'll have to sit alone at a table tomorrow at lunch time.

Because why?

What was his heinous crime? What is the reason you are choosing to ostracize him and publicly humiliate him?

Was he bullying another student?

Did he use foul langauge?

Did he destroy school property?

Did he talk back to an authority figure?

Was he causing a scene and disrupting other students?

Did he cause someone bodily harm?

Oh yes-- that's right...he went up to the garbage can to throw away his trash not once, as the rules apparently allow, but TWICE.

Yes! Of course! THAT'S why you would take a 6 year old little boy, who already has issues with anxiety and fearing school because he thinks everyone is "looking at him" and place them AT A TABLE ALONE SO THAT ALL HIS PEERS CAN SEE THAT HE IS IN TROUBLE. FOR THROWING GARBAGE AWAY.

Brilliant.

Where did you go to school? Sign me up.

My Mama Bear Meter just went from 0 to 100 in about .3 seconds.

Do I think my son is perfect?

Hardly.

Do I think he's above being naughty or misbehaving in school?

Laughable.

Do I know that he deserves his time outs like the rest of them?

Absolutely.

But you will never, NEVER convince me that singling out a student and using humiliation as a method of reinforcement is the appropriate action.

Nor will you convince me that a 6 year old, in the 3rd week of school, should be reprimanded so strongly and threatened with segregation from the student body so that he actually cries and begs me not to make him go to school.

This is a little guy who is so shy it's painful. He can't be 1 minute late because he doesn't want to walk into a room full of people who will look at him when he enters.

He locks up and shuts down on us sometimes because he can't always express his emotions.

He is someone who I have long thought has some kind of sensory issues and has to be approached gently or it's too overwhelming.

And regardless of all this...even if R were a typical student who even defiantly marched up to the trash can for the offensive second time.....I still don't think the punishment fits the "crime."

Last year R had to sit in the principal's office because he was playing in the boys bathroom when he shouldn't have been. It was embarrassing to him and he felt awful about it.

And I was absolutely, 100% okay with it.

You do the crime, you do the time.

But this? This...I am not okay with.

I'm allowing myself to reserve full judgment until I actually speak with you, "lunch lady." I may be my child's biggest proponent, but I am NOT so naive as to think he's above reproach. I realize that certain-- shall we say-- necessary details could have been conveniently "forgotten."

I will listen to you tell me what happened, Lunch Lady.

But let me tell you if what you say matches what R said...and you still believe sitting him at a table by himself for the lunch period is appropriate...I'm not responsible for the words that may fly out of my mouth...or the teeth that may fly out of yours.

So maybe that last part was only for effect...but you get the idea.

I will not go quietly into that good night.

After our initial conversation was over...hours later...R said to me, "I've seen people sitting at that table before."

I was a little confused and asked "What table?"

He said, "The brown table where I have to sit tomorrow." And he couldn't look me in the eye.

Suddenly I could see it. The brown table.

That lonely, brown, laminate lunch table that sits off to the side by itself. The "trouble" table.

The table where the "bad kids" sit.

I can't bear it. It makes me sick to think about it.

What if he hadn't told me?

I'd never know because there was no note or phone call home. He would have been forced to sit alone while all his friends watched him eat his lunch by himself.

You want to break a mom's heart-just picture your baby in that scenario.

Absolutely not.

I won't be "that mom" who thinks Jr. can do no wrong and her child will never face punishment.

No way. It certainly isn't how we live at home!

But, I won't ever allow my children to be publicly humiliated in the name of discipline.

Especially my sensitive little six-year-old guy who's afraid of his own shadow. The guy who holds his little brother back if he thinks he's too close to the edge of the steps. The guy who tells me I'm beautiful every day. The guy who is so afraid of dogs (we're talking tea-cup poodles here) that I had to wrestle him and peel each finger off the headrest the other day when we went to a friend's house who has a dog.

Uh uh.

I will die on this hill.

So, Lunch Lady, I'll do my very best to be open minded. I certainly hope this is all a misunderstanding and we can all "ha ha ha" laugh it off.

Because if it isn't...and if this goes the way I think it might..well, it may get pretty ugly.

So rest up, Lunch Lady. Tomorrow morning is only a few hours away and I'll be marching into school with R in tow. Ready to discuss.

Sincerely,

Me
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