Friday, December 17, 2010

Supressing the Snark

This is Flurpee's first Christmas in public school. We celebrate Christmas and even have a Santa (can you guess who Santa is in our house? That's right--I fulfill that role for our Christmas celebration). Flurpee and Hanover figured out that I was Santa a number of years ago. Flurpee is rightfully proud of knowing something so important.

I warned her that many of her friends still believe in a 'magical' Santa at the beginning of the season and that she did not need to explain to them about Santa since they would understand soon. That has not stopped her from telling everyone what she knows. She even went so far as to take bets about whether Santa is real with her fellow third graders--it's even recorded on paper for evaluation when they get to high school. I told her that I did not want her talking about it in school any more. I really cannot condone this emphasis that is so distracting to the school environment. Apparently my warning to her was not timed well.

Here is an e-mail I received from a mom of one of my daughter's acquaintances yesterday.

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Hi Kim - ---------- mentioned to me that he and [Flurpee] have been talking about Santa Clause, etc. and what they were saying. --------- strongly believes in Santa. Maybe you could explain to [Flurpee] :)

Thanks,
[the mom]

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It seems rather innocuous, right? Even a nice happy-face emoticon so I would know that she means it in a nice way. Yet it makes my blood boil. I find it offensive on a number of fronts. For one thing, if her son believes so strongly, why is she asking me to get my daughter to shut up about it? And asking me to muzzle my daughter about her views so that her son's views are not challenged is so hypocritical. Plus, this kid is eight and he still strongly believes in Santa. You would think she would welcome some insight if her kid has not bothered thinking about Santa in terms of reality yet. Further, this is a crazy request to try to control an environment for her son that she will have less and less say about. What I found most annoying is what she is implying she wants me to do as a parent to get my child to not talk about Santa.

This was my first response:

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Since ---------- believes so strongly, I am surprised that something [Flurpee] said could affect him. I'll warn ......... that ,,,,,,,,,, should not mention that she knows Santa isn't real either.

I forbade [Flurpee] from speaking about Santa not being real last week. I will punish her severely. I would not have known she had continued to tell other children the truth if you had not told me. I told her it was not her place to disabuse other children of their fantasies. I will make sure that she never tells ---------- her beliefs ever again by assuring that the punishment is one she won't forget. She needs to understand that though she is strong enough to be true to herself, not everyone can stand other people believing differently from them.

Me

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I realized that, highly sarcastic and snarky, it probably would not help this woman understand that I think this is her problem and not mine. I actually have to deal with her on a regular basis so I should try to be civil and not promote any misunderstandings. This is the e-mail I was finally ready to send after seething all day and having my husband review it to find any latent passive aggressive tones.

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Hi ---------,

Last week I counseled [Flurpee] to only state that she does not believe in Santa and not say anything more. I told her that I don't want her to debate her friends about it. I will not tell her to lie or hide what she knows.

When it comes to Santa, most kids will not leave her alone. She is being put on the defensive because so many other children cannot accept that she does not hold the same view as them. It is very hard for her to feel attacked and isolated, especially since she is so young. I have asked her to stop talking when other kids continue to pester her about why she does not believe. She has a strong sense of justice, as all kids do, and she does not feel it is right that other kids can talk about what they believe but she is not allowed to talk about what she knows is true, especially with so many kids bothering her. She is learning very early that there are certain truths people must realize on their own and that is why I do not want her trying to convince other children of what she knows.

I try to empathize with her and I point out that there are plenty of people in this world whose views differ from many of the kids she meets here and, though it is a hard lesson to learn so early, I want her to know she is strong enough to stand up for her beliefs even when other people do not know how to accept them.

It was not clear from your e-mail if your discomfort comes from [Flurpee] stating that Santa is not real, that she does not believe in Santa, or if [Flurpee] is telling ---------- to no longer believe in Santa. I will emphasize to [Flurpee] again that I do not want her trying to convince other children that Santa is not real. Would the wording, "Santa does not come to our house," be better for ----------? I'll ask .......... how she and ,,,,,,,,,, do it since they do not celebrate Christmas at all. It is important to me that ---------- is comfortable with [Flurpee] while she stays true to herself and our family's values. I hope I can understand your concerns well enough to address them respectfully while not undermining the values of honesty and standing up for one's beliefs that our family holds dear.

Sincerely,

Kim

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It was important for me to emphasize that I understand that she has a concern. It is also important for her to understand that there are limits to what I am willing to do to help. Since I have an ongoing entanglement with this family, I need to show her that I am willing to try to help in some way. I can only hope she realizes that her request is asking for tolerance of her boy's views while showing none for ours.


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5 comments:

HaynesBE said...

I hope you will let us know the response you get.

Lynne said...

Oh, man. I had a kind of similar thing happen to me, but the email was not regarding V's behavior, rather it requested that ALL the mothers of a homeschool group NOT give their children money to play arcade games at a bowling alley because she did not want her boys to play the games. This mother is my friend, but I could not hold back the disgust I felt at her "it takes a village" attitude, that my child did not need to be handled this way, nor did I need to make my parenting decisions in order to prop up her parenting decisions.

I never sent that email.

It really was much too cutting, and I couldn't find a way to make it less so.

But I did send my child on the trip with as much money as I felt appropriate and had a lovely discussion with her about standing on her own two feet and doing what was right. I hate the arcade games, too - but that's between me and my child - not between me and the village children (who, as homeschoolers, could sometimes dress so as to be mistaken for the village people).

I'm already a pariah in the group because I do not hold community service as a primary in learning new skills. And these are the secular ones!

Aaargh.

Deb said...

Kim, did you get any response to this note? Very interested to know what happened.

Kim said...

Not a peep! I also haven't seen her since I replied. I hope I did not make her mad, but I'm guessing she decided to just leave it be, especially since I obviously took her request seriously rather than just off-handedly tell my daughter to shut up.

Kim said...

Lynne,

I found it ironic that, typically, the atheists I met were harder to get along with than the Catholic ones (the Fundamentalists were the worst all around, and religious liberals were bad, too). Most of the issue was that the atheists were all secular humanists and thus socialists through and through.