I do not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it. – Voltaire
As a writer and a bibliophile, it should come as no surprise that I am a strong proponent of freedom of speech. Censorship is to be abhorred and I believe that in order for there to be any peace, love, and understanding in this world, people need to have the right to speak their minds and their truths. I’m not a highly political person and don’t often feel the need to evangelize, but there are causes and opinions I hold which I feel strongly enough about that I may occasionally get up on my soapbox… and I don’t ever expect to be shut up about it.
Most people in the Western world take freedom of speech for granted. As my previous statement indicates, I am one of those people. The horrific attacks on Charlie Hebdo have made many of us pause and consider how we feel about this freedom and reflect on what it means and why it is so important.
But I am not going to write about this extremely heavy subject. Not really, anyway.
The other day I was perusing my Facebook feed and saw a post from a fellow parent of a child that attends the same school as my boys. The post was in the community group and was expressing dismay at her dealings with the school over a change to the schedule of the kids that wasn’t communicated to the parents. The school had changed the lunch period of half of the fourth grade class so that half of the class would eat while the other half was at recess and vice versa. Before, they all went out to recess and then ate.
I had found out about the change from one of my sons who announced it on the first day back to school and as a parent who was already concerned that the kids were eating kind of early, I was a little annoyed. My son was annoyed too because he felt like he was going to use up all the energy from eating at recess and have nothing left to get him through the day. The kid eats like it is his job. He could have two breakfasts and still be hungry in an hour. The first thing he asks me when I pick him up at the after-school program is, “What’s for dinner?” He often complains that he doesn’t have enough to eat at lunch and snack and I am packing him a BIG lunch. I shudder in fear over what the teen years are going to be like and have already begun to make budget adjustments to allow for the food intake that is to come.
While reading the thread on the community posts, some other parents were commenting about how they, too, disliked the change, how their kids were disappointed that they were no longer able to eat with their friends, and how the school could have handled the switch better. After all, we were off for two weeks. They could have sent a note home before break letting us know they were switching things up in the new year. So, I thought I would add my two cents and commiserate with the poster.
That was my first mistake.
Once you comment on a post on Facebook, you receive notifications when others comment as well. And of course, this can completely suck you in to whatever happens next.
Unfortunately, what happened next was a little bewildering. Some parents began commenting and disagreeing with the original post. OK by me, of course. Everyone has their own opinion and should be free to express it. Except when they are being a total asshole about it. Maybe then they should keep it to themselves.
Women began calling other mothers pathetic and stupid for being concerned about this unannounced change. They focused greatly on the comment about the kids not being able to eat with their friends and slammed that as ridiculous thing to be worried about. Kids go to school to learn, not to eat with their friends. Yup. I totally agree with that. However, I also agree that socialization is a huge part of school–especially elementary school. And for a lot of kids that struggle in their classroom or with the kids in their class, lunch and recess is a chance to get a break and socialize with whom they choose. For a lot of kids, it is the bright spot of an otherwise crappy day.
But these women were merciless. And rude. And condescending. I had kind of thought the whole mom-shaming trend was going away, so I was surprised at the venom in the comments over a seemingly innocent post.
My second mistake was commenting again. Thinking that if I could politely clarify what the issue(s) were that I would be heard. After all, it seemed perfectly logical to me that whether or not people agreed that socialization was an important part of child development for these 8, 9, and 10 year-olds, they would certainly understand that it was the lack of communication to the parents and kids that was really the issue.
No. Not logical, apparently. And the idea that for a lot of kids, mine included, abrupt change isn’t exactly the ticket to a peaceful existence was equally scoffed at. Essentially, I was told I am sheltering my kid. When is a good time to learn about abrupt change? I was asked.
The answer is never. It’s never a good time and yes, it is a part of life, and yes, we all learn that shit doesn’t go our way a lot of the time and yes, our kids are going to have the rug pulled out from under them many times in life, so I guess they better get used to it. But, call me crazy, when a sensitive child has already had the rug pulled out from under them several times and already has “transition” issues and could use an extra few days and some conversations with a parent about an upcoming change, shouldn’t we endeavor to do that?
Actually, shouldn’t we endeavor to do that for all of our children always if we can? I’m not saying shelter our kids so they will never be able to deal with the unexpected. I’m saying, if we have the ability to prepare our child for what is coming next, shouldn’t we? And if the school has the ability to help us communicate to our children what is in store for them and what they can expect, shouldn’t they? If we don’t just throw our nine-year-olds into the pool of life with a sink or swim attitude, are we sheltering them?
Eventually, the original poster deleted her post because she didn’t want to endure the name calling and comments from those who missed her original point (lack of communication from the school and support thereafter). I was all ready to post another very logical and polite comment to explain what we were really talking about to those who were slamming mothers and children for being soft and not being survivors and for focusing on unimportant things like lunch instead of curriculum, but alas, I couldn’t make my point. Perhaps it is best that I didn’t get sucked further down that rabbit hole and get exposed to more angry, rude mom-shaming.
The thing is, I don’t mind if people disagree with what I have to say. I don’t mind if people disagree with the way I raise my kids. I do mind if people do it in an ignorant, angry, venomous way. You can have your opinion. I can have mine. The original poster wasn’t looking for people to debate her point. She was looking for empathy and commiseration. There were people who commented that they didn’t think it was a huge deal and they understand why the school did it and that they had never had a problem dealing with the administration. They did it in a non-judgmental, objective way. Perfect. But maybe if you can’t state your opinion in a way that doesn’t completely condemn others for not feeling the same way you do, you should just keep it to yourself. At least on Facebook.
Which reminds me of a completely perfect quote from Downton Abbey, “Principles are like prayers. Noble, of course, but awkward at a party.”