Tuesday, June 26, 2012

But You Can Call Me Stewie...

Disclaimer: This isn't a real post...it's more of a long-winded Mama Bear Rant in defence of her cub...consider yourself warned...

A couple of weeks ago, I made a quick reference to the fact that I was less than thrilled about an ‘incident’ that took place during The Boy’s 4 day long Grade 8 camping trip.

I'm not really into airing my ‘dirty laundry’ in public, because a)that's not the way I roll and 2) doing so spews bad energy out into the Universe...and that's not cool...


I am a stew-er.

I stew.

A lot.

The squirrels are having a Hey Day with this one.

I'm still pretty riled up about the whole mess and I feel a crazy strong need to vent my frustration and what's the use in having my own blog if I can't use it to work through my ‘shit’? It's cheaper than therapy (and/or several cases of Rockstar[+Vodka]s) and isn't that what blogs are for??

Workin’ shit out, right???

Yeah, I thought so, too.

So, now that we’re all on the same page, I'll give you a ‘brief’ (har har) rundown of events:

For years and years, the grade 8 kids at our school have wrapped up their time in elementary school with a 4 day adventure at a camp where they do tons of cool stuff and sleep in cabins with their friends and have an all around kickass time.

The day The Boy was due home from this awesome excursion, I received a text from him that started with this sentence:

“If you get a call from the school, don't believe a word they say”

...which was probably the best opening line of anything I've ever heard....or ever will hear...ever.


After I finished laughing, I read the rest of his text that outlined the situation...boys knocked on the girls' washroom window...girls ratted out boys...boys threatened with suspension...???!!!!...boys missed out on all the cool stuff on the last day.

I thought to myself....”Well, Self....boys will be boys and boys do silly things and I guess the teachers need to reprimand these silly boys somehow, someway, or else, if word gets out, the girls’ parents might get a bit cranky...suspension seems a wee bit drastic for something as silly as this but I'll ask that it be kept off The Boy’s academic record and so he gets a couple of days off school....no big schmoo...it's all good” ....I speak to myself in long run-on grammatically incorrect sentences...kinda like how I write my blog.

So, with that settled in my brain and with “pick-up time” drawing near, I got myself all fancied up in preparation for being hauled into the Principal's office to defend my son’s honour. One must look presentable for these sorts of things. I'm pretty sure waltzing in dressed in muddy clothes all covered in paw prints and dog slobber wouldn't show me in a very flattering ...or imposing ....light and I wanted to look all serious and imposing so that they’d go easy on my delinquent kid.

Turns out that all my snazzin’ up was for naught because when I got to the school, I was not, as expected, apprehended by some grim-faced authority figure and escorted to The Office. No one even so much as glanced in my general direction....it actually seemed like they were avoiding eye-contact.


How peculiar.


I was quite alarmed by the sight of my son. He was sad and pale and small as he hurried across the parking lot.

I put my arm around him and gave him a squeeze and said, “Well, that kinda sucked, huh? Wanna go to Dairy Queen?” <--- see how I parent by ice cream??? All the best of us do :)

And he said...

“no...I just want to go home.”

What the....??

Since when does anyone I've given birth to turn down a trip to Dairy Queen???

....uh oh....

That's when I realized that I was dealing with something pretty serious.

I asked him if he was ok and he said he couldn't eat anything because his stomach had been all tied up in knots and crampy because he was so “stressed out”.


He actually used the phrase “stressed out”.

 A 13 year old boy shouldn't have to use the phrase “stressed out”.

MY 13 year old boy shouldn't have to use the phrase “stressed out”.

He said he just wanted to go home and go to bed because he was super tired since he hadn't been able to sleep the night before.

He wasn’t very talkative....which worried me even more...but I finally managed to coax the story out of him....

Basically, a bunch of 13 year old boys and a couple of 13 year old girls were goofing around having a water fight outside behind the girls’ bathroom...because that's what 13 year old children do. The girls took off into the bathroom and the boys knocked a bunch of times on a window (that was 7ft up off the ground ....and The Boy wants me to add that it was tinted and all the girls were in their bathing suits)and yelled at the girls to come back out. Some other girls who were in there opened the window and yelled at the boys to bugger off...and so they did. These girls went back to their cabin and told some other girls and they all decided that they had been harassed and marched en masse to the teachers to tell on the boys...because that's what 13 year old children do.

The teachers, in turn, rounded up the young dudes and proceeded to yell at them and berate them and threaten them with suspension and in the end, the boys were confined to their cabin for the rest to the trip, thereby missing out on all the best stuff that was left for the last night/day.

All because they knocked on the window of a girls’ bathroom.

I guess the part that the teachers took issue with is that the girls insisted that the boys were using a stick to try to pry open the window (that was 7ft up off the ground) and the boys maintained that there was no stick involved, they just were knocking with their hands.

The teachers told the boys (repeatedly...and with their big man outdoor voices) that the girls were far more trustworthy than they were, so, obviously, the boys were lying.

The boys were confined to their cabin for the next 18 hours and threatened with suspension if they didn't admit that there was indeed a stick involved. (Apparently, The Boy was the (alleged) Stick Wielder.)

No room for discussion.

End of story.

I asked The Boy if there had been a stick involved ...

And, he said no.

And, I believed him.

The Boy can be silly...and goofy...and annoying...and a complete pain in the ass.

The Boy is not a liar.

I was having a very difficult time wrapping my head around the fact that these kids had been yelled at and threatened and called liars and segregated and forced to miss out on the bulk of the trip's activities .....because they knocked on the window of the girls’ bathroom.

The punishment didn't really fit the crime.

So, wanting to hear the other side of this sordid tale, I called the school to speak with The Boy’s teacher....who had gone home. Then I tried the Principal....who was in a meeting. I'd have to wait till Monday.

Over the course of the weekend, The Boy was quiet and withdrawn and ate very little...all very out of character for him.

Sunday evening, I received calls from two of the other miscreants’ mums and it turned out that I was not the only one who was a bit baffled by how the situation had been handled. (Four of the original seven “guilty” boys had, one by one, been let out of the cabin and allowed to rejoin the activities...leaving the three “most” guilty boys there for the duration.) These two mums had decided to keep their kids home from school until everything had been sorted out.

I felt that was a good plan and let The Boy know that he didn't have to go to school the next day...that news inspired his first smile since he returned from camp. I could feel the relief as it radiated from the centre of his very being...and I'm not even being all that overly dramatic...well...not much anyway :)

Monday morning, I called the Principal again and left a message informing her that The Boy was feeling too anxious to go to school and that I needed to speak with her. She called me back and listened to my concerns and was very understanding and agreed that the teachers had been out of line with their behaviour.

I asked if  it would be possible for the boys to receive some sort of apology for having to endure such harsh reprimands and, most of all, for missing out on all the good stuff and she said...no....but could I bring The Boy into school so, the whole class could get a pep talk and be encouraged to put the past in the past and to enjoy the rest of their school year?

I said, “ummmmmmm....well....not today. How ’bout tomorrow?”

Apparently, I was too easily assuaged because one of the other mums had an actual in-person meeting with the Principal AND one of the teachers and that teacher refused to cough up an apology, so the mum said to her son, “Ok, ‘B’, let’s go home.” and proceeded to take her kid home, where, she informed them, he would stay until such time that he received a public apology from the teacher.

Later that afternoon, this mum got a phone call from the teacher explaining that upon further investigation, the girls re-examined their story and, it turned out that ‘B’ was NOT involved and he would receive an apology in class.


Sounded kinda fishy to me, but I decided to let it go and carry on with our lives, confident in the knowledge that The Boy was telling the truth and that he knows we love him and trust him and support him...even if his teachers are mean ol’ yell-y, girl-favouring jerks.

And, because I am so very skilled and accomplished at letting things go and carrying on...

I wrote a letter...

...’cause it's what I do :)

Dear Mr. Yell-y and  Mr. Yell-y-er,

Two weeks ago, I dropped a young boy off in front of ------- Public School. A young boy who had spent all weekend gathering up and organizing his gear in preparation for his grade 8 camping trip. A young boy who was beside himself with excitement, since this was a trip he had been looking forward to for literally as long as he could remember. A young boy who, for weeks, had been going on and on ...and on...and on.....as only this particular young boy can... about how he couldn't wait for the Inuit blanket toss that his older sister had told him all about....he was sure it was going to be the best part of the whole entire trip and he was especially excited about seeing his friend, “L”, have his turn because they'd really be able to bounce him high because “he's so little and would probably get some pretty huge air“.

I left that excited young boy amongst his classmates and their duffle bags, sleeping bags and vibrating anticipation and I went off to work with a huge smile on my face not only because I knew he was going to have an incredible time but because as I turned to leave, he waved and shouted "Love you, Mum!" ...in front of all his friends...which was really quite something.

 4 days later, I arrived back at -------- Public School extremely excited to see that excited young boy with his big smiley face and listen to all the intricately detailed stories he would no doubt have to share about all the awesome experiences he had during his time at Kandalore.

That's not what I saw.

Instead, I saw a pale dejected sad little boy hurrying across the parking lot dragging all his stuff behind him.

There was no big smiley face.

There were tears.

There were sobs.

There were intricately detailed stories...but not recounting all the fun he had had.

These stories relayed details of playing with friends and knocking on a window. These stories told of being accused of things that didn't happen and of not being listened to and of being yelled at and of not being listened to and being yelled at and not being believed and of being threatened with suspension and of being yelled at and of not being able to sleep because of being so upset and of not being able to eat because he had such bad cramps because he was so upset and of not leaving the cabin to go to the bathroom for fear of getting yelled at even more and of being confined to his cabin while almost everyone else got to play manhunt and take pictures and do the Inuit Blanket Toss.

These were not the stories I wanted to hear. These are not the stories any parent wants to hear.

I was not there, so I do not know, nor will I ever know, exactly what happened during the time my son spent at Camp Kandalore, in your care.

But I do know this. The young boy I picked up on that Friday afternoon was not the same boy I dropped off 4 days prior.

I do know that young boy was quiet and withdrawn and tired and scarcely ate for the days immediately following his time spent at Camp Kandalore, in your care.

I do know that while you may find the word of some students who you've known for 9 months to be more honest and trustworthy than others, I have known “J” for 13 years and not once ... NOT ONCE...has he given me cause to not trust his word.

 I DO know, probably more than anyone, that “J” can sometimes be too silly and beyond goofy and can push things too far and he can be a complete and utter jackass.

But the one thing that “J” is NOT ... is a liar.

To be labelled one by two men he respected has hurt him deeply.

To be yelled at and threatened and bullied by two men he respected has hurt him deeply.

To be subjected to what amounts to a public shaming by two men he respected has hurt him deeply.

I am horribly disappointed and more than a little bit disturbed by the way you both chose to handle/mishandle this situation. Your methods were heavy handed and completely inappropriate.

He is a young boy who knocked on a window... with a hand or with a stick, doesn't really matter .... and you treated him like a criminal. What should've been the pinnacle of his elementary school career is now a black mark that will never be erased.

My children have attended -------- since 2001 and I, myself, am a -------- graduate. I have volunteered countless hours when my children were in the primary/junior grades and their father has bbq'd every spring and coached hundreds of -------- students in wrestling over the past several years - both boys and their "inherently more trustworthy female counterparts". We are a family who has contributed to the school that we held very dear. I am just so sad that it is on this note that we wrap up our years at this school.

A disappointed parent.
A disillusioned young boy.

Hugs n’ Kisses,
(I didn't really)

p.s. How is it that the same honest and trustworthy students, whose 'word' served as a catalyst for this whole unfortunate incident, upon further investigation concluded that one of the 3 culprits actually wasn't really a culprit after all?? And that boy has since been exonerated. Does that mean that their original story that implicated all 3 boys wasn't actually entirely true?? Doesn't sound very honest or trustworthy ... or fair...to me.

So, I hand delivered 2 copies of the letter...one for each of the teachers involved... to the Principal and waited to see what would happen...

That same day, when I picked The Boy up from school, I was giddy with anticipation.

“So....did Mr. Meanie and/or Mr. Meanier take you aside and fall down on their knees and beg you for your forgiveness and tell you that your mother writes one hell of a letter?”



Not really what I had been going for but I am a patient woman (??!!!) so I sat back and waited.

...and waited.
...and waited.
...and stewed.
...and waited.
...and stewed.

And then FIVE long days later...!!!???...I got a phone call from a very nervous, very young sounding, Mr. Yell-y Meanie Man, who is The Boy’s classroom teacher. He gave me a wonderfully heartfelt apology and actually thanked me for writing that letter...No thanks necessary, young man. Remember?? It's what I do :)

He's a pretty young dude and has really just started his teaching career and he's a brand new dad and he sounded so genuinely sad and sorry that I quickly kicked into “mummy mode” with him and started to feel all protective of him and his feelings.

I'm a sucker for repentance.

In the end,  I couldn't have scripted a better conversation...it was that great and I was completely satisfied and grateful for his words and he said that he would apologize to The Boy...and he did.

I feel a bit better about everything...kinda....but what still gets me the most is that these young guys missed out on such an incredible experience at camp and they won't get another chance to create those particular memories.


Even more importantly... and even more cornily...is the loss of innocence. The Boy, who is a gentle kind and generous soul, now has a pretty significant shadow cast on his limited (and beautifully charmed) existence.

There’s cynicism now where there was trust and respect...and that’s sad.

He's bounced back and will, of course, create many many MANY more wonderful experiences and memories...which is beautiful. But that first taste of bitterness has been had and I'm really angry at those men for serving it up with such casual disregard.


End of Rant.

P.S. Now, I've yet to hear anything from Mr. Yell-y-er Meanier Man....and since tonight is The Boy’s Grad...!!!!.... I doubt I will...which is too bad. I don't like not liking people but I'm having a hard time mustering up any nicey niceys about this guy. It doesn't help matters any that I was chatting with The Boy’s best friend’s mum and her story was even worse...apparently The Boy had held back a bit in his recounting of events because this pal had told his mum that the teacher who hasn't apologized was the nastiest and had The Boy backed into a corner and was leaning over him yelling at him calling him a liar .... Not a great visual for me....I feel another letter coming on...

It's what I do.


Laura said...

This story just made me so sad. :(
As the Mother of 3 sons and one daughter myself, I know that more times than not, boys get the short end of the stick.
If a girl is saying a boy did something and the boy says he didn't (or not as badly as the girl is letting on), the girl will almost always be believed.
Which is great-if you're a girl.

I think that you did everything right. If those teachers had a "real" case against "J", they would have hauled your ass in there and told you how wrong you were to believe a word out of his mouth.
The lack of confrontation on their part (with you), suggests they just took the girls word for it and didn't give the boys a chance. And really... they should know better. If you weren't there and you didn't see it you cannot just assume you know!

I think that perhaps this is something that should have been dealt with (with parents in the loop) when they got back to school.
Boys do dumb things! What a shocker!

You are a GREAT Mum K. As I said before, I think that you did everything right. I'm betting they were hoping that it would all just be forgotten about once parents started calling the school.

Hmmmm.... (I'm stroking my chin hairs while I make the Hmmm sound)...

P.S. I hope this made sense. My kids picked the exact moment I started typing my comment to start telling me about their day. I was all like.. "excuse me! typing a comment on a blog over here!".
How bad am I? ;P

Disillusioned said...

Wow, that’s disgusting. I’m really sorry to hear that your son went through that experience. Obviously those guys don’t sound like the type of people who should be teaching. Although maybe for the younger guy it was a learning experience, the other guy probably doesn’t think he has done anything wrong since he hasn’t even shown any remorse or even attempted to contact you. You’ve given him every opportunity to try and make this right all he has shown is that obviously he is not the type of person that should be teaching children. I think it’s time to aim higher. Forget the teacher, he sounds like he is beyond salvation. I think what the question is now is what is the Principals position on this? What’s the position of the school superintendent? Is there an elected school trustee? Is it fine with them that your child felt threatened by a teacher. He was confined to his room for 18 hours without his parents being contacted. He didn’t have access to a washroom. He didn’t receive sufficient food and water. He wasn’t given an opportunity to contact his parents. Since then he’s been despondent, was humiliated and berated in front of his peers and didn’t want to return to school. Hold them accountable, this is a disgrace, find out how the Principal and Superintendent could allow a teacher who has done something like this working to still be teaching in this school?

And what about the camp? I’ve heard of this camp, I believe they sponsor a hockey team in the league my sons play in. Aren’t their camp staff supervising what goes on at the camp regardless of if there are teachers around or not? What’s the camps position, are they fine with children being confined to their cabins for extended periods of time? Did you have pay for this? Sounds like the camp staff let down your son as well.