Saturday, September 6, 2014

Culture Clash

When Miss M first started at her school, she was one of only four American children attending the school.  It is not the best school in the city.  It is not the fanciest school in the city.  It is not where the elite send their children.  There are very expensive, English language instruction "international" schools that fill those needs.  Most Americans, with their obsession for the best, shiniest, newest, most accolade-ridden things around, head straight for those schools.  Hence, the reason there are so few Americans at Miss M's school.

We chose Miss M's school, instead, because we felt like it while it might lack in fancy playground equipment, it provided other things that more than made up for it:  Spanish language instruction, so she could become bilingual; a small, friendly community; and a school-wide, old-fashioned emphasis on values.  They really focus on teaching children individual responsibility, and to care for others.  It is quite touching, actually, to see how kind the older kids, in particular, are to our daughter.  Slowly, the word has been getting out that this is the case, and increasing numbers of Americans are popping up on campus.

Given the emphasis on values, it came as a bit of a shock to see a recent email exchange.

An American child apparently took a piece of her mother's jewelry and brought it to school, and gave it to a friend.  Hey, these are 4 and 5 year olds. . .and it's not exactly a gun.  When the mother discovered that the ring was missing, she notified the teacher, and the teacher sent out an email asking  all of the parents to keep an eye out for the ring, and to ask their children if they knew anything about it.  Okay, so far so good.  It's kind of a cute story, actually. . .kindergardener gets into mom's jewelry box looking for a present for a friend, and takes mom's diamond ring to school.  Whoops!

But after I started giggling, I saw that there was another email, from an irritated parent.  The mother of another child had replied to the teacher's email, but also to all of the other parents in the class.  She said, in short, that it was the mother's fault that the jewelry had been misplaced, and that the teacher shouldn't be asking the other parents about it.  She said the mother had an obligation to keep her valuable items in a more secure place, out of reach of the children.  She chastised the child's mother, and said that she should talk to her own child about what happened to the jewelry, since the child that brought the jewelry is the one who knows what happened to it.  And, sounding quite indignant, she said that she would have of course brought it to the teacher's attention if her child had brought the jewelry home.

Where does that come from, that need to tear down other mothers?  Why attempt to shame her like that, in front of the other parents?  Why become hostile and indignant about looking for a lost item?  I don't understand.  In a school that emphasizes values, it strikes me that being a good example for your kids means pitching in and helping out when a friend has misplaced something.  Children forget things as quickly as they put them down.  Whose to say that her child couldn't come home with a platinum and diamond band, and simply forget to mention it?  One never knows, with four year olds.  

Honestly, I thought the mother's response was a little crazy.  And I would have said, perhaps a tiny bit guilty, had we not subsequently gotten an email from the teacher saying the jewelry had been found elsewhere.

Edited to add:  To be clear, the ring was worth a few hundred, not thousands, of dollars.  And we are still talking about a private school in an upscale neighborhood.  So while I take the commenter's point, it's not quite that situation.  And I am still disappointed by the other mother's response.


Anonymous said...

I understand that you think it should not have been written in public, but I also understand the mother's indignation! If you come from a background where a diamond ring is not attainable, you do find it quite disconcerting that preschoolers carry diamonds around. And you feel threatened - what happens if the diamond ring is found in your house? Will you be accused of taking it/not returning it? I understand that she expects the rich mother to keep those things out of reach of children. After all it is not a 10 Dollar bill that got misplaced, but a diamond ring!

Lollipop Goldstein said...

I'm with you in that I don't understand a request for all parents to essentially be the village that raises the child. There's a problem; let's all pitch in. It can't just be when it's convenient or when we see the worth -- it has to be that we give each other the benefit of the doubt that when help is requested the help is needed. A parent lost an item and it is amongst the children. All that was asked is that all the parents be on the lookout. The only reason the item was identified was so people knew what they were looking for. Would the person have said the same thing if it was a wooden spoon? Something with no monetary value but emotional value (let's pretend) to the original owner?

Heather Wilson said...

Four and five year olds can't remember a thing. Right now one of our 5yo twins has misplaced the key to the grandfather clock, so I can't wind it. It was in a hidden place, but kids somehow find things they think are "cool" and he says he put it back where he found it, but it's not there. I'm sure it will turn up eventually when I clean out some random drawer, so I'll be keeping an eye out for it in the meantime.

I don't understand parents that seem to love to blame other parents and be so judgmental. Shame on them!