Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Big Chip On Mama's Shoulder

So last week, Bella had a bad fall off of the high monkey bars at school, and fell with a "WHUMP!" flat on her back onto the gravel of the playground. She reassured me that it was at least nice smooth river rock gravel, as opposed to pointy slate gravel, but still. Rocks is rocks, and OUCH. Since she couldn't stop crying for an hour, the school nurse called and said we'd better come on and get her, which of course we did.

I took her to the ER, and based on her symptoms (her back hurt, yes, but her CHEST hurt more than anything), they performed an X-Ray and diagnosed her with a "chest wall contusion." And there was some heavily-accented mumbling about the point where the sternum attaches to something else being "knocked loose," or something, basically meaning that while she was fine and nothing was broken, she was gonna be sore for some time. We were instructed to keep her quiet for a couple of weeks, no heavy impact activities, etc.


I called the school and reported in, then kept her home the next day, and sent her back the following Monday with a note from the ER doctor.

This brings us to Tuesday, when my child, who had been improving steadily, and was really doing a great job of assessing her pain and adjusting her activities accordingly, climbed into the car after school wincing at every movement. This kept up well into the next day, and I finally asked her if her chest was hurting more, because if so, we needed to check back in with the doctor. She said, "Well, it was a lot better, but then yesterday, they took us outside for a reward for doing good on the benchmark testing, and they had games. We had to do a sack race, in teams, and hopping really hurt."

*blink, blink* "Honey, if you'd just told the teacher in charge that it hurt you to do that, she'd have let you sit out."

"Nuh-uhh. I DID tell her, as soon as I took two hops and I knew that it hurt, I TOLD her that I couldn't do it because it hurt my chest! And she said that she didn't have a note from my parents saying anything about that, so I had to go finish the race."

"Are you serious?"

"Yeah. I tried to make little tiny hops so they wouldn't hurt, but they still did. And then my team was mad at me because I went so slow I made them lose."

And then Mommy's heart broke. And then Mommy got mad.

"So they have to have a NOTE, do they? From your PARENTS? Saying that they have our permission NOT TO HURT YOU? Bring me a piece of paper, honey, I have to write a note to your school."

I think I managed to maintain my decorum, explaining the nature of my child's injury and asking that they please respect her pain threshold, and that if she tells them that an activity hurt, they please NOT FORCE HER TO CONTINUE SAID ACTIVITY. And yeah, I did resort to all caps in one section, which I hope they saw not as yelling, but as an firm but genteel raising of the voice, in a civilized manner.

I think what really annoyed me is that the girl TOLD them that the activity was causing her pain, and they essentially responded that unless she had "backup" in the form of a note from an adult, then she had absolutely zero credibility in representing her own health, her own feelings, her own PAIN. It's telling her that she is not worth believing, not even when it's something important like a medical condition or injury that they could be exacerbating by ignoring her...which is precisely what they did. She hurt for two solid days after the sack race incident, and is still saying "ouch" when I hug or hold her. Grrrrrr.

And it's not like my child is a liar, or even has a history of exaggerating her pain, illness, or other problems for sympathy or special treatment or attention. Quite the contrary--the morning after the accident, she WANTED to go to school. She kept saying, "I think I can do it, if I just go really slow and no one touches me." So when THIS kid evaluates her pain level, and says, "I'd better not do this, it hurts me," then I just feel that SHE SHOULD BE RESPECTED AS A HUMAN BEING. A small human being, yes, but a human being nonetheless.

Shouldn't she? Shouldn't all our kids? Kids, like babies, are PEOPLE, same as adults.

I really hope my note wasn't over-the-top snarky, but then again, with the knowledge that we've been rezoned into a new school next year, I might not've been all that careful...


  1. I hate public school for this reason. It drives me NUTS. It's like this warehouse where kids are de-personalized, deprived of all autonomy and identity. It's just hard for me to take, seeing how miserable this makes my kid.

    Yes, KIDS ARE PEOPLE. But public school is like the army or like prison. I'm sure many private schools are like that as well. There are alternative schools that are humane but education hasn't come very far in the last 100 years or so. There's so much research and thinking going back over decades about how to treat kids as people and individuals and it's pretty much all ignored.

    Result? People cannot think for themselves. They are taught to unthinkingly conform and obey authority. I think that's a lot of what school is for, in most place.

  2. But what about the ER note? Did the principal NOT share that with her teacher? That alone should have been more than sufficient.

  3. How dare they not respect her complaints? Ummmm, did they totally forget about what happened just the week before? Send 'em over here, I'll take them into the ring for a sparring match. Give her a very gentle hug from me. I think you may have been too polite!

  4. That happened with Dylan a few years ago with chest pain, and he has a documented heart condition. The gym teacher made him keep going when he had chest pain. She's lucky to be alive today because I was LIVID.

  5. Here via amandaw on Tumblr.

    Oh, this has happened to me more times than I can count. I have a chronic, arthritis-causing illness. I was in athletics when I got it, because the athletics-for-nonathletic-people conflicted with a required class. My coach refused to take my word for the fact that I was in pain.

    I ran up and down bleachers, around the school while being timed, did sprints, and all kinds of things that hurt like HELL. I had to have a parent's note for each day I couldn't run, and sometimes, my parents forgot. Nothing I said would convince I actually couldn't do what she asked, and what I could do, I did with severe pain. My own opinion about my body didn't matter

    Once, I forged a note because I was in so much pain and couldn't deal; the coach figured this out, and send me to the principal's office. Oh, and threatened to suspend me. I will freely admit forging a note is bad, but so is intentionally, knowingly (my parents & the principal had told her I was having major health issues) causing a child pain.

    I am angry as I type this, and it's been six years.

  6. This makes me very angry! Yes, kid's deserve respect and your note was not snarky, I'm sure. We have to advocate for our kids, otherwise who will?

  7. ARGH! I'm with ozma and avalon and want to state also that I noted the kids were being allowed to do those things as A Reward? WTF Since when does one lose the right to say, "no thanks, I don't want that reward?" I'm a teacher and I hate school-- actually I just hate institutional nature of the public school system. But this is not the place for that...

  8. I hope they did take it as being snarky because that was totally wrong.

  9. I love that you're worried about being snarky, because I'm pretty sure I would have reparked the car and marched my happy ass back in there to actually throttle someone. Especially that teacher, who should have noticed that she was out of school for an entire day and a half because of a fall AT SCHOOL, HELLO, and the principal who didn't pass along the note, and anyway decorum would probably not have been involved.

  10. I live in Oz so maybe we have a bit more clout as parents in our public schools? But I think you were WAY too nice. I'd have had that teacher in tears the principal in fear of being sued for ensuing medical costs and compensation for distressed caused (I would never really, it's against my principles, but they don't know that) and the department of education frantically writing a new policy. The kind of policy where teachers don't require a note from parents in order NOT to hurt children.

    Unbelievable. I hope she's ok.

    It's so refreshing to be reading your blog again, it's been a while :)


  11. My daughter has been at summer care with a 102 fever and no one called me. I hate that feeling. I know at our school though that there are a lot of different caregivers that may not have known the situation. I also know that there are a lot of kids, always trying to get out of doing something. During just lunch last week when I covered a class of 11 year olds, every few minutes a kid was trying to get out of the class, the activity, all of it. I was going crazy! This is so frustrating. I hope she is healing!