Children being killed in our schools is unacceptable. From here the debate gets crazy.
Some support the #WalkOut.
I see this side. Our children deserve to be safe.
Some counter with the #WalkUp stance.
Inclusion. I get it. In fact, this is why I am here.
I would like to share my testimony of the philosophy of inclusion and compassion.
You should know that I am the mother who talks to her children. I drill them after school. We have conversations about their friends and choices. We talk about everything, and sometimes about nothing at all.
I take great pride in my responsibility to raise each of my children to be exemplary citizens in their community. I do my best to lead by example. Above all else, I tell my children, “Be nice. Be nice to everyone. You simply do not know what someone else is going through in their lives.”
Four years ago, we moved. My children were starting over in a new school. There was a child who would say, “Hello” to my daughter when we were out and about. he liked her. I thought it was sweet.
The next year, he still liked her and was picking flowers for her, remembering her at holidays and giving her notes that asked her to check “yes” or “no” if she liked him. Notes she brought home to me, rather than return, because she didn’t like him. Not like he liked her, but she was kind.
He was our after-school conversation.
I am the mom who told my daughter to “be kind to everyone.”
My daughter would tell me that this child didn’t have many friends.
I am the mom who told my daughter “be inclusive.”
My daughter would tell me this child was disruptive.
I am the mom who told my daughter to “listen to what people have to say.”
My daughter would tell me this child had issues at home.
I am the mom who told my daughter, “have compassion; you don’t know what someone else is going through.”
Then one day I got a call from the school. The conversation started, “This is the school counselor, and I’m calling about your daughter. Everything is okay….”
My heart was racing. I have never been called by the school for my child acting up. I have never been called by the school about any of my children.
The call continued, “some of your daughter’s peers brought it to my attention that there is a child who has been giving your daughter attention.”
I listened as she revealed what my daughter’s peers have told her.
I interrupted and asked, “Is this ____?”
I was told she could not, by law, tell me his name; but my daughter could.
I listened as she told me how he followed my daughter too closely.
I listened to how he said things and was aggressive. Things like, “I’m the man; I will do it.”
I took a deep breath, interrupted again and said, “If this is ______; you and I need to be having a different conversation.”
She said, “I’m listening.”
I knew this child.
When my daughter came home telling me about this child’s angry outbursts in class, I would pull her close to me and tell her, “See? Aren’t you glad you are nice to him. It sounds like he needs friends.” Or “It sounds like he’s going through a lot; I’m so glad you are kind to him.”
This was the child I had told my daughter to include.
This was the child I had told my daughter to listen to.
This was the child I had told my daughter to have compassion for.
Terror pounded its way through my veins. My throat was dry.
It has escalated over the years. From inappropriate boundaries to bullying. This child was following my daughter very closely. This child was verbally putting my child down. This child was harassing my daughter to the point that HER PEERS felt uncomfortable. It wasn’t my daughter who said anything. The counselor’s words, “Some other children reported what is happening; they recognized your daughter didn’t feel comfortable in the situtations around this person.”
I learned no matter how many times my daughter changed her social media accounts, he found her.
I wanted to know what was being done. How was the school protecting my child?
I was told my daughter would be removed from classes with this child. Teachers were being notified to pay attention to this child and stop any interaction with my daughter. There were cameras in the hallways, and teachers would be outside their doors during a class transition.
My brain was ricocheting. I was thinking about how little time was between now and when they entered high school. I was questioning what I had missed in my numerous conversations with my daughter. I was thinking how crazy bad this could have been.
Every True Crime podcast I had listened to, every serial killer book I had read had my heart racing.
Then, in front of the guidance counselor, I cried as I told my daughter,
“I have given you terrible parenting advice.”
There was a long pause.
My daughter told me she was fine. “It’s no big deal.”
I don’t feel the same way she does.
I fed my child to a lion.
My attempt to raise a child who was kind, compassionate, inclusive and all these amazing qualities we are told makes us great parents, made her prey.
It happened last year.
Imagine my horror when my daughter went to Washington DC, and this child was placed in her group!
This time, tables turned.
My daughter had my permission to keep to her group. She had my permission to be nothing more than polite. She was instructed to stay close to the adult.
If you haven’t been in this situation, it is tricky. I don’t want my daughter to be afraid. I want her to be strong. I want her to be free, but I want her to be aware.
I find we are having more conversations about, “as a female there are things you simply cannot do…” Things she will have to be more hypervigilant than her brother.
We talk about how she cannot go into an alleyway or stairway alone.
She is reminded as we prepare to walk out of a store that we need to stay together, observe the cars parked on either side of us, get in the car, close and lock the doors and leave.
As we park, she is reminded to be aware of her surroundings.
I call to make sure the doors are locked when she is home.
The list goes on and on.
I am not taking sides on the school violence. We can all agree that we want our children to be safe.
What I am saying is sometimes, asking our child to be inclusive, have compassion and listen leads them into a dark abyss. Sometimes, it’s okay not to be inclusive and kind.