5 Things I'm Fine With My Daughter Getting Suspended Over
My junior high experience was like living through a neocon reboot of Lord Of The Flies. Teenaged boys rampaged through the hallways, waving their tiny naked dicks and setting fires while we girls sat through lectures, preparing for an anxiety-ridden, people-pleasing life of genetic inferiority. So you can't imagine the relief I felt when I found out the school my daughter was going to was one of those modern ones where sacrificing both pigs and fellow students was frowned upon.
Until I realized that because of the strictness of those rules, my daughter was going to be the one getting in trouble ... and that I was surprisingly okay with that. So as weird as it may seem, I've come up with a list of things I'm totally fine with her getting suspended for ...
Showing A Little Extra Skin ... On Her Shoulders
Ah, the early teenage years, when you can suddenly wake up in the morning six inches taller, with your flailing limbs stretched out like Groot's. Then you get to go into a school system so obsessed with hiding every possibly offensive part of your growing body that you can be sent home, because the exact same clothes you wore literally a few weeks ago now show an inch more shoulder.
The whole obsession with making people cover their shoulders (and for non-parents, yes, this is a thing) for fear of distracting God, their peers and legislators, is so trendy that by the time this article comes out, society will have already moved on to hiding a woman's elbows and making us churn our own butter. But until then, every parent knows the dread of hearing the phone ring and worrying it could be The Call: "I'm sorry, Mrs Clearly Neglectful Parent, but we're sending your daughter home from school for showing too much shoulder."
"What?" you say, grasping at your pearls. "But we measured her shoulders with the handy shoulder graph ruler you sent home last week, and burned all tops which didn't fall within the three-and-five-quarters-inch guidelines."
"Judging by our records, her shoulders appear to have grown by three 100ths of an inch since yesterday, which puts her clearly over the line."
Look, I'm not saying she should be allowed to show up to school wearing a G-string bikini or body paint, but holy shit. Don't make "shoulder math" a part of our weekly routine. Unless her exposed shoulders are causing people to burst into flames, can we agree to call that one a non-issue, please?
Playing ... You Know, The Way Kids Do
Here is a very real list of things my daughter's class has been banned from doing at recess:
-Kicking a ball
-Throwing a ball
-Climbing on the climbing frame
-Doing chin-ups on the chin-up bar
-Touching the trees
-Any game that involves touching each other
Besides that, anything goes. She says they get a lot out of their rousing games of "maintaining a strict six-inch distance from each other while walking very slowly in a circle."
I swear, I'm not one of those "anti-PC" people who think the world should be released from the freedom-destroying grips of politeness. But do we really have to go so far in the other direction that the kids become a Pink Floyd song?
Here's an idea: Stop the actual inappropriate contact when it happens, and maybe don't put a blanket ban on literally every kids' game ever invented? I'm not under the illusion that this is an easy thing to do, but the solution to playground problems isn't to eliminate the entire point of a playground. That's what study hall and Prison Preparation class is for.
Refusing To Dress Like An Abominable Kenny
Sorry, Middle and Southern America, but I'm going to talk to a non-you audience for a sec.
In Canada, it can randomly decide to snow any day between October and goddamn April, especially if everyone was in shorts the day before, because the Canadian weather gods are temperamental gits.
The school has a very strict policy about snow: You're not allowed anywhere near it unless you're wearing a full snowsuit -- with snow pants. Let that sink in a moment. Teenagers aren't allowed near snow unless they look like a cross between Kenny and the little brother from A Christmas Story.
Now take yourself back to being 14, with your torn blue jeans and puffy orange Marty McFly time traveler vest (yeah, I get it, I'm old), and imagine being told that once the snow falls, you must spend every recess standing by the front door like the huddled mass refuse of society until you agree to slide those sweet, sweet jeans into a shiny snowsuit that makes squeaky, high-pitched fart sounds whenever you walk.
I don't know about you, but I'd have stood in my tiny patch of asphalt every goddamn recess for eternity before giving in and putting on a pair of those bad boys. And if my daughter does the same, I will 100 percent have her back.
Reading During Recess
I don't know about you, but my teenaged life improved dramatically at 16 when I discovered the magic of something called "The Geeky Loser Room." It was a place where people with dark eyeliner and black nails curled up with Tolkien tomes or huddled over notebooks writing morose poetry and drawing dark, twisted comic strips. People gathered in bunches to play the dice game forbidden in my childhood, the one involving prisons and flying mythical creatures. I don't remember what it's called. Candy Land? Yeah, it's probably Candy Land.
But at my daughter's school, sitting inside and doing quiet things at recess is forbidden. Wouldn't want to miss out on any of that precious shuffling time, would we? You know what else is forbidden? Bringing a book outside with you at recess.
Teenagers can't be trusted with books. They might injure themselves or other people with them. They might drop them in the snow an inch outside the safety circle where the fact that none of them are wearing snow pants means it'll be lost to them forever.
It's not just books, though. Notebooks, video games, fidget spinners, cellphones ... all banned. Fine. I can see why some of those aren't allowed, and I'll respect those rules. But the day she gets sent home for smuggling a contraband copy of Pride And Prejudice And Zombies into the playground under her flowing blue muumuu will be one of the happiest days of my life.
"What do I do when someone tries to grab my breasts?" my daughter asks. "Like, not actually grab them. Because of the no-touching rule. He just leans over the table during group time, puts his fingers really, really close near by breasts in class when the teacher's not looking, and pretends to honk them."
This is a parent's nightmare, regardless of the sex of the child, because your first instinct is to tell them, "Remember the Nazi punch I taught you last week? We're going to slightly modify the stance for this one." The other part is telling you, "OK, this is where I teach them about how to speak to adults about serious situations like this."
What resulted in real life was a mixture of the two, and it went something like this:
"Slap his hand away and tell him to leave you the hell alone and stop being such a dumbass, or you'll kick him in the balls," I said, imparting the wisdom that has been passed down since the first tribal medicine woman drew detailed instructions on the cave wall on how to cause maximum pain for a man's nether regions.
"I'll get suspended for that," she said.
"For what? For slapping his hand away or threatening to kick him in the nutsack?"
"Both," she said miserably. "Katniss got suspended for kneeing Braxton. And Elsa was expelled for threatening to hurt Olaf."
"Hang on. First, why are the kids named that? Second, how is threatening to hurt someone worse than actually hurting them?"
"She held up a plastic knife on a field trip and threatened to cut his balls off with it."
"OK fine, then tell a teacher," I said, fully confident that if I flailed long enough, I'd hit the right answer. "Walk right up to the teacher and tell them exactly what he did."
"I can't do that! If I do that, I have to give up lunch to sit through guided mediation in the Caring and Sharing Room! I'll have to explain to him and two teachers how his pretending to touch my breasts makes me feel. And then he gets to explain how that makes him feel. And then the teachers talk about how they feel. And then we go over it again and again and again until I give up and sign a piece of paper saying it's resolved. And then he'll be right back in the Caring and Sharing Room again tomorrow with some other girl because it has snacks and beats walking in a circle beside the snow."
Look, I definitely want her to resolve this thing with actual adults who know how to handle it without violence. I want both her and that little shithead to come out of it learning something positive. But I'm telling you right now that if the teachers, myself, and the kid's parents can't solve the situation, I'm absolutely fine with her busting out a spin-kick as a last resort.
Mags Storey is incredibly thankful to all the incredibly hard-working teachers and educators, who didn't make the stupid rules they're stuck enforcing. Mags also writes books about murder and kissing, and likes to be bothered by strangers on Twitter.
Use these to communicate with your child during their vigilante schoolyard mission. Let "baby bird" know when she needs to "return to the nest."
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