Monday, August 20, 2007

The Amazing Molehill-To-Mountain Woman

That's me. Give me any little annoyance, and I'll blow it right the heck up for you into a BIG, FAT DEAL.

Remember last week, when Bella came home from school with a pretty significant bump on the noggin? Well, today, after she'd been at school for a half-hour or less, they called with the news that she'd fallen while playing, and we just might want to get her to a dentist. Like, STAT. For the first part of this crisis, the part of Panicky Little Girl was played by my husband, who called me near tears over his "little girl" and her "INJURY." Bella wasn't even crying by the time he got there to pick her up, but we were just looking for someone to shake.

I took over and transported her to the doctor, where there was exactly nothing to be done but maybe clean with a dilute peroxide solution and apply a little Neosporin. Now, she's sporting a fat lip and some cut-up gums, but thankfully her teeth are intact, as is her little face. Seems she was running, "not looking where [she] was going," and then tried to climb up some steps, accidentally stepping on the hem of her dress and face-planting into them instead.

Anyway, later I wound up speaking on the phone to the principal, and had the most frustrating conversation this year, mostly about the school's dress-code. This is where I provide the disclaimer that Bella attends a private school (our only real option for preschool in this area), and that we knew about the dress-code up front, and signed on anyway, so I have NO RIGHT TO COMPLAIN. I'm telling you that I know this, so you won't feel compelled to point it out to me. Having no standing for making complaints has never really done a lot to shut my complaint-hole.

I don't have a problem with uniforms. I really don't. The thing that bugs me about the dress code at Bella's school is the disparity between what the boys wear and what the girls wear. Boys are in regular chinos and polo shirts, open at the collar, while girls are in stiff, below-the-knee-length jumpers and white button-up shirts, buttoned all the way to the collar. Girls may not wear pants, ever, not even if they conform to the uniform. I just wanted to go on record with the school that, even if I'm the ONLY ONE to say so (and the principal let me know that I was, in fact, the only one in the history of TIME), I am unhappy with that facet of the dress-code. I think if he'd just have let me get it off my chest, and then said, "Well, I'm sorry, that's just our policy, and we get to set that policy because we're a private school, so if you don't like it, you're welcome to take your daughter somewhere else," I might have felt better about the whole thing. That's what I would have said, in his position. But that's not what he said.

The only reason that I'm even getting this all out is...well, just that. To get it all out. Because this was THE most frustrating conversation I've had in ages, and if you've ever attempted to debate any issue with someone who does not use proper, linear logic, you know how maddening that can be. This person was so far from my wavelength, I finally did just give up. Now I get to get some of these points out of my system.

I just feel that girls ought to be allowed the OPTION of wearing uniform pants to school. That's all. Just the option. Bella would still choose to wear a dress sometimes, maybe even most of the time, but not ALL the time. I feel, especially since the preschool is on a separate campus from the rest of the elementary school, and the preschoolers only see other preschoolers, that 3- and 4-year-old girls are just too young to be forced into the kind of body-awareness and modesty that daily dress-wearing commands. They spend a lot of time playing, and are regularly required to sit on the floor. And you know what? They have their entire lives to learn how to sit, stand, and walk in dresses, without worrying about people looking up their skirts.

The arguments I was given against this were numerous, but all essentially insubstantial. And this is where you get to decide whether these things were, indeed annoying, or I am crazy and overreactive, or both. And I get to present my arguments before a rational, logical audience. For the most part (Absolutely Mindy fans are excused).

"If the girls didn't all wear dresses, then there would be no uniformity. Nothing would be the same."

Well, no, that's not quite right. In fact, nothing would change, as far as "uniformity." You'd still have two kinds of uniforms, just like you do now. A pants/polo version, and an uncomfortable dress version.

"We want to treat them differently, because boys and girls are NOT equal."

Um, I think you meant "not THE SAME," there, Sport. Really, this was just an unfortunate slip of the tongue (that he didn't catch), but a pretty classic example of a Freudian slip. And I'm not going to pretend to be disingenuous about his real argument, which was that boys and girls are different, and there are important reasons to embrace this difference. But honestly, does anyone really believe that without external cues like dresses and long hair, little boys and little girls are going to have difficulty with gender-identity? Admittedly, I'm not a sociologist, and maybe I'm giving kids more credit than I'm should. I don't know.

"If we let the girls wear pants, then the boys are going to want to wear shorts, and it's a slippery slope..."

SERIOUSLY? And, also...WHAT?!? Let me get my head around this. Is it that, if the girls get to be as comfortable as the boys, then the boys are automatically entitled to something even better? You're making my argument for me, here. I'm really not sure what this line was supposed to be proving, but it was repeated many, many times, the horror-story of the boys wanting to wear shorts as a reason for keeping the girls in their dresses.

"It's really not a big deal."

This point, I totally concede. It really WASN'T a "big deal." The final question I asked before I just got completely flustered and had to hang up was, "Well, if that is true, and it's really NOT a big deal, then why not just allow the girls an option for pants?" This question resulted in repetition of the Great Shorts Debate, and went nowhere.

Ah, well. Hey, whaddaya know--I DO feel better now. A lot better than when the principal was laughing at me and my objections to the dress-code. OK, he wasn't really guffawing, but was audibly chuckling while telling me, in so many words, how silly I was being (and, just by the by, see what happens when you let girls wear pants? They start TALKING BACK TO MEN).

I did get a little kick out of it every time he tried to tell me how much cooler and comfortable girls' clothes were than boys' clothes. Hmmmm...oh, never mind.

So here's the meat of this post, for those of you who've been through this stage of parenting already, and those of you who teach, and those of you with any further insight: We have until February to enroll Bella in Kindergarten for Fall 2008. (Yeah, that seems like a long time away to some people, I know, but I've already started panicking about Christmas.) Our choice is between enrolling her in the main campus of the school she's now attending, and the public school near us, which is one of, if not the best public school in the area. He'p me, Internets! Where do I begin researching, and how do I find people to talk to who are "in the know" in my area, if I don't know anyone?


  1. Are you going to put her in public school when she hits kindergarten age?

    Because, honestly...I don't know that I'd want my daughter going to a school that promotes SO OBVIOUSLY that boys are better than girls.

    Arianna is in what I feel is the best elementary school in this town. It's the school where all the "old money" kids go, and so they have a better PTA...better programs...more money filtered into the school.

    She LOVES it.

    There is no serious dress code. Just no flip flops on gym days, and no skirts that are shorter than the middle of her thigh...and no spaghetti strap tops. I can live with that.

    She gets a perfectly fine education. She's doing well, and I feel the school is really, really beyond acceptable as far as teaching is concerned.

    If the public school that is near you is the best in the area, I'd seriously consider placing her there for her "Real" school years. That private school sounds like oppression in the making!

  2. What really matters is that on the whole Bella has a positive experience in school. As a former elementary school teacher, I can tell you that the number one, numero uno, first and foremost factor in the school experience is the kind of teacher she gets. In elementary school, the teacher IS the school, at least to the students. Ask around, go observe, and see how the teachers compare.

  3. I'm not going to tell you what to do, but I will tell you what I've learned. My older son is in his fourth school in four years, because not every school is right for every child (or every child's parents). I started looking at schools when he was 18 months old (he's seven now); I visited and asked smart questions and made long lists.

    But in the end, the school we really loved was the one that respected our values, and was honest about THEIR values. And it wasn't at all the school I thought we would wind up in.

    If you really DO want to dish about what to ask, I can tell you. Shoot me an e-mail.

    And give Bella a big smooch. And maybe a pony.

  4. We've never been to a school that has uniforms, AND I only have boys, but my view is that you're right on this one, if for no other reason than kids this age do play a lot, and a jumper isn't conducive to letting out all that energy.

    Next question!

  5. My friend found a site that gives all kinds of stats on schools, and parents and teachers can post comments on what they like/don't about the school. She found it to be really honest and a good tool. I just can't remember the name of the site... I'll ask her and send it to you.


  6. Uniformity: it IS the promised land. Just ask George Orwell. Seriously, though, I can't offer insight because many of the public schools here give just as good if not a better education than the private schools. I'm on board with uniforms, though: of the kind the BOYS wear at Bella's school.

    I'd want to stay away from that school just because the principal used the lame "slippery slope" comeback. It's almost as big a cop-out as "It's always been done this way." I also wholeheartedly agree with Paper Napkin (and surprise surprise -- I am also a former elementary school teacher!) but #2 is the principal as he or she sets the tone for the entire school. And there are more useless principals than teachers out there IMHO.

  7. After dealing with private and public Alabama schools for preschool, kindergarten, and 1st grade for my eldest, guess what we chose? Homeschool! 4th year now and we love it. There are so many options out there that the old "how do you socialize them" is a moot point now.

  8. OH JEEZ. I went to parochial school (we're not Catholic, but it was the best school in our neighborhood in Seattle) 20 years ago and even there, girls could wear pants, as long as they were the same plaid as our jumpers. Now, these pants were hideous, so I did not wear them, BUT, my uniform was only knee length. There would have been NO danger of hem tripping.

    Do they not see these super Big Love's Nicki-esque dresses are a major liability issue?

  9. Ooh, honey. I'd be running like the wind after the "Boys and girls are not equal" comment from the principal, but that's just me.

    The school my son attended from early childhood through fifth grade did NOT look good on paper, but he got a truly excellent education there because his teachers were fan-freakin'-tastic.

    I guess what I'm trying to say is that I agree with everyone else who said that the teachers make the school, because they totally do. :)

  10. I've just discovered your blog (linked from another blog that was linked from another blog that was linked from the Pioneer Woman blog). Of course, your title got me right off. :^) I have three standard poodles.

    Sorry about your school dilemma. I cannot help you. We homeschool. Here in Louisiana, private and public schools both wear uniforms though. The public high schools do "body piercing checks" and make the girls UNTUCK their shirts and lift them for a teacher while standing in line for lunch. I had a fit when my son's friend told me that! No belly button piercing checks for the boys, however. So it's not just your daughter's private school that's weird. :^)

  11. You have until February?

    Then you can wait until Christmas when you unwrap the giant box in the corner out of which I will jump and surprise you and then haul ass around town where I will scrutinize every little corner for inspection to see if Bella may attend.

    That is totally reasonable, right? We're bringing your sister with us for the Double Educator Discount.

  12. I have an idea: Next time you see the principal, tell him you have another question about the dress code. And then ask him whether Bella is allowed to wear a Freudian slip under her fugly plaid jumper.

    OK, don't do it. But he's still a douche.

  13. You have the obligation to visit the schools that you're considering...often. Drop in unannounced. Make appointments. Get there before school starts and hang around with the other moms and ask questions. Ditto for afterschool time.

    Have Bella visit each school for a couple of days. See how she likes each school, which schools seem to take to her learning styles, etc.

    To me, it sounds like your current school is going to suck the life blood out of her with rules that don't make sense. She's a questioning kid. She's going to want to know WHY and she's not going to accept "Just because".

    For us, we started out in parochial schools and tried 3 of them before I bagged it and moved to public school. I'm a HUGE proponent of public schools, especially for very bright children like Bella. Private schools do not have to cater to learning differences, so they often don't. Public schools do, by law.

    And if people give you the teach to the test garbage about public schools, they do the exact same thing with the ERB in private schools, and then they manipulate the scores and publish their fixed scores as marketing tools. Just a thought.

    Let me help you with the determinations. I'll get my people on it.


  14. Hey, Belinda, I've tagged you:

    Love you. Smooches.


  15. B~~ I actually doubt that the Principals "equal" comment was a true slip of the tongue. it sounds to me that he promotes this way of thinking in many, many ways, including his complete dismissal of your safety concerns. likely, because you are a woman.

    JMO, but I would be yanking her out.Mainly because she is s smart kid who will not be satisfied with "because this is the way it has always been" answers to her inevitable questions. And because it is being run by a patriarchal moron.

    BTW, what is the dress code for the female teachers? Do they have to wear starched jumpers also? If not, isn't that setting a double standard for the girls?

  16. I'm with Margalit on this one. Go to each school that you're considering and talk to the parents, teachers, and principal. After that you'll have to weigh the good against the bad, but it will also give you something to guard against.
    We take our kids outside the district because the school they're attending caters to the needs of kids that need extra attention and are gifted also, simultaneously!
    BTW, do you REALLY want Bella learning propaganda like women are equal to men? I mean, really, what kind of drivel is that?! Next you'll be hearing that a woman can be president or something!

  17. wow. just wow. I often forget that there are STILL people out there who treat boys and girls so differently. I dont know how you restrained yourself from getting in your car and driving over there in a nice pair of comfy pants so you didnt have to worry about him looking up your jumper while you stuffed his head in the toilet and introduced him to the punishment that is The Swirly.

  18. These are the funniest comments I've read in a long time! I know you live in the South, and things are different there, but honestly, women and men are not EQUAL? What kind of nonsense is that? Boys wearing shorts is a slippery slope to...what? Boys wanting to come to school dressed like Richard Simmons? GAH!!!

  19. P.S. I gave you an award, please stop by Table for Five to see what it is!

  20. I am crying laughing over these comments!

    Oh man.

  21. ummm, I was not harshed by any of his comments (ok, he's a pig and the arguments were sooo idiotic I wonder how he rose to his current position), except the one about the kids not being equal.

    At that point, and Lord knows I never thought I would admit this, public schools look to be a better choice over that particular private school.

    Good luck!

  22. Are you sure you have checked all possible other schools. I'd be delighted to help get her out of a school that is so quaint" and unloving. This child of ours can read at four. Is there no private school in the area that caters to bright inquisitive children? Is Mount St. Mary's too Catholic and too for away for you. It's supposed to be an awfully good school. I love you all. Grandmama Lynette P>S> Our cousing Caitlyn has very Baptist grandmother and mother and has been happily for all concerned in a Catholic school from k-9. /Is there an Episcopal school available? We don't proselyte, but we do teach love of God, Christ, and follow man. These schools have to meet high standards educationallly. Do something. Could you get her into public kindergarden? I too think a school is only as good as its teachers. Check it our.

  23. Thanks everyone for all the input, and HI! My sweet mother-in-law!

    The Little Rock schools are just too far away at the wrong time of day--I can't add two hours to my day just driving her to school. If we could get around that, then Abundant Life in North Little Rock would probably be a good choice. The Episcopal school in LR is supposed to be wonderful, but again, SO far to be driving during rush hour.

    I think we'll survive until Kindergarten starts next fall, and then she'll be able to go to a good public elementary school less than two miles from her house.

    I've heard, privately, from some people who have attended the school Bella's in themselves, and...I think it's safe to say she won't be there any longer than necessary.

    Just to clarify some earlier questions: The reason we went private for preschool is that there isn't public preschool available at all the elementary schools in our area. The schools in the district rotate in hosting preschool classes each year, and space is limited. Also, we weren't wild about this year's host school, and it would have been hard to get to before work.

    Also, I would love to be able to homeschool, but we're just not in a position to be able to do that. Although I have a feeling that normal life with this child is going to amount to a fair degree of "homeschooling," regardless of where she is during the day!

  24. Here is the reality of education (Unfortunately) You are going to have sucky years. There will be some code, teacher, principal or monster kid that is good at tormenting your kid just out of view of all the teachers.

    Something like this will happen at some point in their education.

    Personally? I love dress codes, but THAT one? AAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!
    All in all, though. It's just a year. I would probably feel differently if it was her long-term school, but I think given the options you have you have a good out look about sucking it up and dealing for the school year.

  25. Hey, I've worked for years in Pre-K and now after 5 years away, I'm there again. I say this with a straight face and complete sincerity: Girls like wearing dresses because they look pretty, but also because on the playground, the make GREAT sand haulers in the sandbox.

    I'm dead serious.

    Sorry Bella! Hope you feel better soon!


  26. Freudian slip? I don't think so. I think he told you exactly what the philosophy of the school is.

    The slippery slope is not about boys wanting to wear shorts. It's about girls having physical freedom. Next thing you know, they are going to want full control of their bodies and the ability to make decisions for themselves. You just can't rear properly subservient women if they have that attitude.

    You have given this child wings. Please don't leave her in a school intent on clipping them. Good academics will be of no use to her without the freedom to think for herself, and they are chipping away at that now by telling her that she and her silly mommy can't make proper decisions about appropriate clothing for the playground.

    At least in public school, you have the law on your side, and the same weight as a man in your discussions. You can enhance the academics in other ways if you really need to.

  27. I want to smack that man in the face! Of course that would be ME overreacting and not the most mature reaction.

    Freudian slip? Maybe...or he could just be a sexist jerk!

  28. Belinda all three of my sons went to public schools in the best school district in our area at the time. All three were/are intelligent and the schools were able to meet their needs at each grade level.

    You said the public school was one of the best in your area. Visit the school as others have said, but I would guess that you can feel safe sending her there.

    I've never liked the rules and limitations her preschool have set for such young children. Dresses are dangerous for little girls to be running and playing in, as Bella found out.

    The principal has shown you his true colors.

    Hope by now Bella is feeling much better.

  29. "...he tried to tell me how much cooler and comfortable girls' clothes were than boys' clothes."

    Oh, please. Didn't you just want to ask him when the last time was that he wore a dress? That's like guys I've dated who've said what wonderful things hose and high heels are. Oh yeah?! Well you wear them all day then and get back to me on how wonderful they are, huh babe?

    I'm a product of public schools. I know it's a different time, but I think I turned out okay. But do what you think is best. Do I think a year there (even with these moronic rules and this moron at the helm) will scar her for life? No. And you've already said that afterwards she's going elsewhere, so maybe that's all you need right now. (Says the childless woman.)

    On the other hand, if you want to form a posse to teach Mr. Moron exactly how comfortable dresses are...I think you'll find some willing volunteers in your commeters. I'd be happy to bring along some hose and high heels while I'm at it.

  30. You are not over-reacting. This isn't a molehill or a slip of the tongue, it's a big-arse red flag being shoved up your nose by the universe.

    If your heart's impulse is to GetTheHeckOut, but your girl-socialised side is saying "Oh, it's not _that_ bad really" and "I shouldn't make a fuss over nothing", I say trust your impulses.

    Here I am mildly miffed that the lad's (public) kindy has Boys show-and-tell on Tuesdays, and Girls show-and-tell on Fridays. I'm bugged that they're teaching the kids that gender is a primary organising principle of human groups. But I'm glad they're not teaching that girls are inferior.

  31. Okay, I have to admit that I stopped reading part of the way down because my blood was already about to boil over. How did you NOT call out that idiot principal for saying boys and girls aren't equal?? I would've been ALL over that one! And thank GOD she's going to go to public school for kindergarten. Because I can only imagine what kind of inferiority complex she would get from being exposed to their ideas.

  32. I just finished writing about our public school here and then came and read this. And now my jaw is hanging open. Girls and boys aren't equal? Um, yeah. I second (or one-hundredth -- sounds like everyone is going in this direction already) the vote for public school. At least you have the law on your side in the absence of sense, then. ;)

    I'm glad Bella's okay. Poor punkin.

  33. Thanks, everyone, for making going with our gut feel..."righter."

  34. I am from the same area, I have heard Miss Selmas is a fantastic school

  35. Wow, you get a lot of comments.
    for what it is worth my girls were in a private Christian school for preschool and I loved it. But now however my 5 year old is going to our local good old fashioned kinder garden. Both me and Allison are nervous about the transition, however being from a rural area the public school is well pretty good from what I hear. It doesn't even really save us any money as we still use a before and after school program. But to tell you the truth I would rather it cost 50 bucks more if it meant that She was getting taking care of.

  36. Your child deserves to be valued and it does not sound like the principal is capable of that. My advice to you is to find a situation where she will be valued as an individual - either in a public school or in the private school with a new principal. The "not equal" comment was egregious. I'm sure the school's governing body would be very interested to know about it.

    BTW, my son's parochial school allows girls to wear pants. And *gasp* both girls and boys can wear shorts before October and after April. Amazingly, the school still manages to churn out respectful, well-learned little individuals.

  37. "If we let the girls wear pants, then the boys are going to want to wear shorts, and it's a slippery slope..."

    OMG, and when those girls stop slipping at the bottom of said slope, they might be wearing *gasp* SHORTS!

    Haul ass, honey. Get away, far away, while you still can. It's early enough that she can still easily fit in & bond with the other kids. It will get much, much harder on her to change, the longer you wait.

    G/L and keep us posted!

  38. I DO think its a "big deal." You know what to do. The gut never lies.