Disciplining in Public (and Judgmental Mommies)

By Nikki M

I just hung up the phone and I’m furious. Today's news: I had been overheard, and it wasn't pretty. Here's what happened:

I called the teacher of our local co-op to tell her that we're pulling our daughter from the school. It wasn't anything personal.  It just simply wasn't the right fit— most of the class was on the younger end of the age range, and she was one of the very few older kids about to enter kindergarten. Also, I felt that my participation in her school setting was a disruption for my daughter.

She had previously been in an amazing private school, where she was just totally in her element. Unfortunately, we weren't in the best financial position. So when we heard that we got the spot at the co-op (which cost a fourth of the price of the private school!), we seized the opportunity to save some cash.

My usually mature, sweet, and sensible daughter did a complete 180 at the co-op: She started acting like her younger peers, whining for attention, talking in a new baby voice, refusing to do projects, and crying all day long (usually for that darn Elsa dress). The worst was when it was my shift in the classroom.

We knew there was a deeper problem when the new behavior lingered beyond school hours. She clearly wasn't thriving. After one particularly awful tantrum in class, I had to take her outside of the classroom, recount what had just happened, and reprimand her for being disruptive. I also told her it was her last class.  She cried.

Flash forward to the phone call.  I made sure to let the teacher know of our departure well in advance so that they would have time to fill our spot (the co-op dynamic crumbles if things aren't precise). I was hoping it would all work out. I apologized for making things inconvenient, and thanked her for being such a wonderful teacher.

She told me she was a little shocked at my decision, and that we could have possibly worked things out. It felt like a bad break-up. I told her that leaving was for the best. And then came the jab.

Before she hung up, the teacher added, "I'm actually glad I have you on the phone now. Two moms had called in about you. They saw you scold your daughter and thought you were being harsh. They called me to complain, and that they were even considering calling the police."

Err, come again?

At first I was upset at the teacher. It somehow felt like a comeback. But then I started thinking about the moms: they were so affected by my affairs, yet knew nothing about me, my daughter, or the details of the situation.

They didn't know that it hurt us to see our smart, witty, confident child deteriorate in a setting that wasn't right for her. They weren't there each night my husband and I talked to our daughter about the change, and how the consequence would be to pull her out of this school.  They didn't know that we were already in the process of putting her back in her old school where she was happy. They didn’t know that my parenting style is incredibly lenient, and that I only discipline when things really start to get out of hand. They didn't know we went home happy that afternoon, cuddling on the couch and watching cartoons together. They knew nothing, yet they were absolutely confident that my actions were unacceptable.

I disciplined my child because I care. I did not do it to embarrass her, to shame her, or to be unnecessarily harsh. I pulled her aside, away from the class. I reasoned with her and reminded her of the consequences. I did not raise my voice, and I did not lay a hand on her. It truly baffled me— wasn't this good parenting? Wasn't I teaching her self-control, respect, and patience? If I let her continue her troublesome behavior and cave in to her demands, wouldn't that make me a bad parent?

I later found out that this was a thing for mommies where I live. There were online forums for bashing, where mothers would take it upon themselves to post about "bad" nannies and parents around town, accompanied with candid photos of them (and the kids!) at the playground/market/restaurant. So brave. Much wow. Very hero!!!

The teacher told me that sometimes, it’s important to be aware of what other people may think. Sorry, I was too busy being a parent to notice.

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Tags : confessions   overheard on wednesdays   parenting   discipline   

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