Our son is rapidly approaching his second birthday. He’s growing and developing exactly the way he’s expected to. He has the most pleasant disposition and is, all in all, a happy child. Even though he entered the terrible twos about six months early, it’s mild, and to be honest, it’s quite amusing to watch his tantrums.
Parenting is joyful and we are lucky to have a son who is really easy going. So it would seem that all is well in paradise: loving parents, loving relatives, great friends, amazing preschool; what else could you want? Well, in the past six months, ever since we moved our son to his permanent preschool, we noticed that some parents behave oddly around us. Far from everybody, but a noticeable number of people nonetheless: no eye contact, giving us a wide berth in the school lobby and never saying hello, ever.
My husband and I are fairly social, we say hi to people whether we know them or not, particularly when you meet people in a confined space, such as the lobby of our preschool. It is common courtesy and it’s what we’ve been brought up to do. To be ignored, to have people avoid you when they see you is painful. When they don’t greet you back and stare at the floor, that hurts.
At first you don’t even notice it, then you think it’s just a matter of a stressed mom or dad in a hurry, then you think, “How rude!” before finally, after the umpteenth time, it starts to get to you and you see yourself as the common denominator in all these cases.
My husband, who is usually the one to drop Sascha off at school and also the one who picks him up, as he works in the city, recently took to Facebook to ask for people’s feedback, and the reactions can be categorized as follows: Some pitied him and told him to ignore it (Easier said than done!); some said that they were just bad mannered (Thanks, that helps a lot!); someone suggested that maybe these people suffer from face blindness, prosopagnosia, and just couldn’t see him (I’ve yet to meet someone who suffers from this particular ailment, but I have two comments: a. Even if you do, you could still say hello to someone, even if you don’t recognize the person, as such are the rules of engagement in our society; and b. I seriously doubt that there are five to ten people with this rather rare condition in one and the same school.); some just made irrelevant comments.
In other words, no help from Facebook. Who knew? Thing is, I don’t know what to do, either. I honestly don’t. Had this happened to Sascha, had someone threatened him, treated him badly, ostracized or bullied him, I would’ve turned into this fierce lioness and I would’ve given the school hell. But what do you do when the parents are bullied (for lack of a better term)? I’m a member of the school’s PTA; I’ve raised it with the principal and she’s as clueless as I am. We have no issues whatsoever with the staff: They’re all wonderful and the school has a very comprehensive diversity policy. But the staff can’t force other parents to behave. And to expel the children? Just because the parents can’t behave? Seems drastic, and after all, some of those kids are Sascha’s playmates. So what do we do?
The first thing we are going to do is to have a discussion with the school at their next internal development day. I’ve been invited to speak about diversity and we’ll see if maybe some of the staff members have ideas about how to address this. Our preschool is an international one, as we need our son to learn English, and many of the families come from countries where LGBT rights are still largely a taboo and being LGBT could land you in prison or get you killed. I seriously doubt that most parents really care about the various policy documents of our school. They just want an English preschool for their kids before they move on to their next (expat) assignment. There are kids from over seventy countries represented across the four schools and while this creates an amazingly diverse environment for children to grow up in and learn from, it also creates challenges if and when something uncommon happens. For instance, we’ve discussed how religions should be treated with respect to various holiday traditions, and diversity is just another piece of this puzzle.
It feels strange to write a post that isn’t entirely positive. But on the other hand, life is rarely a bed of roses. I would welcome feedback and ideas. Who knows, perhaps you have been in a situation like this too? How did you deal with it? Did you work it out? I’ll be speaking to the teachers and faculty in April. So plenty of time to get ready and to take this bull by the horns!