A Sort-of Apology, or, Why It’s Hard to be Brave

To all who read and commented on my last post, thanks.  I appreciate the fact that your comments were supportive; I liked feeling that I was not alone in my puzzlement over the sugar situation; and I’m so glad that I was able to provide people with entertainment, food for thought, or both.

But I think an apology appears to be in order, from me to the school my children attend.  Though I have tried very hard to be careful about what I say and how I say it, and I have never — nor will I ever — used the name of the school, any names or identifying characteristics of teachers, etc., or even the names of my own kids, it seems that this blog has caused upset to the staff and the other parents at the school.  I didn’t intend that, I’m surprised and dismayed, and I feel terrible.

It must be said that, as I’ve been quick to point out in many of my posts, I love my kids’ school and the people there.  Loving the school and the staff and 98 percent of what they do doesn’t, in my mind, equate to never disagreeing with a single aspect of the kids’ day.  It must also be said that, to no one’s surprise, I’m not shy.  If I really have something to bring up with the teachers or staff, I make it a point to do so.  I also try to send emails to the directors when I think something’s really great, because I know from experience that when you work with people’s kids, you only hear from the parents when something’s wrong; positive feedback is hard to come by, in that business.  Some excerpts from emails sent from me to the directors:

“I just wanted to say THANK YOU for the amazing job you’re doing (in everything, but especially…) in bringing great physical activities to the kids…As always, you rock!”
“We are, as always, beyond pleased with everything that’s going on at (school name) and love the idea that the school will become a little “greener” with this new initiative.

“Soon we will be marking a year since L. joined the school and his whole educational experience changed, very much for the better.  Although we don’t have the means to show you all the kind of gratitude you truly deserve from us, we would like to do something modest for everyone there as a token of our thanks and to show how much the team has meant to our family.  I realize that there is a ban on homemade treats for the children; however, I’d really like to surprise the staff with some homemade goodies, which I can certainly make nut-free if you would prefer.  I didn’t want to move forward without checking with you first.
“Having experienced 3 places now, we are absolutely convinced that the way you all do things is hands-down the best.
“You guys are the best!  Thank you for everything that you do.  It’s the greatest feeling to have L. come home and tell my mother, ‘Look Gramma…look at my first homeworks (love the addition of the s on that, as a side note)…Ms. J. gave me a great job sticker.  I love school!’  If we can’t be home with them, there’s no place we’d rather have them go for their early education and care than to you guys.

That’s just a sample.  If I included everything I originally cut and pasted, this entry would be 12 miles long.

Then there’s this email, which I sent on Friday; as I mentioned in the post I wrote about the odd snack situation that arose that day, I felt that I needed to bring things up with the staff.  This, by the way, was the first time that I actually ever made a big deal about the kids and food at school — I’ve always felt that it was all right to let them have the school snacks or birthday treats, in moderation, as long as we could set the example we wanted to at home.  So in my view, until Friday, there was no big problem with school and food.  In the interest of transparency, however, I did forward a link to the post to the director; I knew she was aware of the blog anyway, and I’ve sent her links in the past when I’ve referenced the school, so that she could be aware of what is being said.  I don’t want anyone, ever, to be blindsided by what I say here, and I’ve told her as much; I’ve also told her that I would come to her personally if I ever had a serious concern.  So I did just that:

“You know I love you guys, but this morning I was completely at a loss for words when I found out that in P.’s classroom, he was going to 1) Get Munchkins for morning snack; 2) Make chocolate-chip cookies for a project; and 3) Have cupcakes for another child’s birthday.  All in the same day????  One of those things, I could let go…and I can understand how you might have scheduled the cookie project and then had a parent bring birthday cupcakes without your knowledge — that stuff happens.  But today, I was speechless.  That just seems like a LOT of sugar and a lot of junk. Frankly, I’m concerned that P. would actually throw up if he ate that much sugar in a day.

I’ve also noticed that the Munchkins have seemed to be a theme lately.  They’re showing up on his snack sheet a bit more often than I would have thought, and I don’t remember seeing them listed very frequently on the healthy snack menu you sent home.  I’m not a huge fan of Munchkins as a snack for toddlers to begin with; I would let it pass if it was a once-in-a-blue-moon thing, but it’s starting to become a regular occurrence. I know sometimes parents bring things in to share with the kids’ classes.  I just wonder if that’s a practice that, as well-meaning as it may be, might be getting out of control.

I don’t want to complain or make a big deal out of it, but I told you I’d come to you if there was ever something that truly bothered me — and this is it.  (P.’s teacher) handled it very well, when I asked her to limit what P. is allowed to have today, but I also know that we have to be realistic, and I’m worried that when he realizes he’s not getting all the sweets everyone else is getting, he’ll melt down completely.  It’s a bad situation all around and I feel awful about it.”

I didn’t know what else to do, but it seems that I’ve really upset everyone; the directors are concerned, and apparently some other parents have been talking about this blog behind my back and suggesting that I must be extremely unhappy with the school.  Although I personally have only given the blog address to two families from the school, both of whom I consider to be good personal friends of ours, it must be making the rounds.  And I must not have been clear enough with my words here, because while I’ve meant only to examine some ASPECTS of the school policies — just as I examined aspects of the public elementary school, the local Catholic school, and P.’s old day care — it seems that I’ve come across as being someone who just doesn’t like anything that’s going on there.

I say this is a sort-of apology, because it’s the kind of apology I usually don’t care much for: the kind where somebody says, “I’m sorry if I’ve offended you,” as opposed to “I’m sorry for my actions.”  But it’s really true, in this case, because…see…this is why it’s hard to be brave and speak up and say something about the things other people just accept.  I’m not sorry for speaking out, on my own personal blog, about some things that I question and struggle with as a parent.  I think it’s a good thing to have passionate people trying to spark dialogue about these things.  And if nothing else, the phone call I had with one of the directors this morning proved to me that in some way, my thoughts are having a positive impact as well as a negative one; she explained to me that the Munchkins have been a regular occurrence because one family wants to treat their child, and his friends, and they’ve seen it as an opportunity to help him share with others.  However, as we spoke, she said that it might be best for the staff to have a discussion with the parents and ask them to limit the treats to their own child’s diet.  I was glad that she was so receptive and so willing to have that discussion, because of course, it’s exactly the kind of resolution I had envisioned when I sent that email on Friday.

I am sorry, though.  Not for speaking up.  Just for causing upset to people I care about deeply.  I never would have imagined that anyone would take my words about snacks and paint them with a broad brush of negativity; I certainly wouldn’t have thought that they would then choose to take those concerns up with the school, rather than with me.  I feel like the good relationship I had thought I’d forged with L. and P.’s teachers and staff has now been terribly damaged, despite my best intentions, and for that, I offer my sincerest apologies.

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3 Responses to A Sort-of Apology, or, Why It’s Hard to be Brave

  1. I applaud you…you remind me of why it’s okay to speak up when something isn’t what I need it to be for myself or people I love.

    Hey…you’re in RI, and I’m in MA…why don’t we ever see each other (besides the obvious two small children)?

  2. Liz in Vermont says:

    Hmmm. I actually think 30 or more grams of sugar snacks in one school day is something to be concerned about. It seems to me that they might not have realized how much sugar the kids were eating, and might be embarassed by it. I think when you do something hurtful, you need to apologize. When you name a problem for what it is, I don’t think that should require an apology. There’s an epidemic of obesity and diabetes in this country, and a lot of kids are suffering from these diseases. I’m sure that the school will eventually be grateful for your pointing this collection of sugar out, as soon as they get over feeling the sting of being blogged for the sugar fest. It’s tough being the truth-teller, kudos to you for telling it like you see it! It’s also tough being a teacher these days, kudos to them for running a good school and being willing to listen to some constructive criticism!

    • I agree — they are handling the constructive criticism very well. I just think it’s startling to them to have a parent who is swimming upstream on this one; I imagine that many other parents probably aren’t thrilled when things like this happen at school, but may not choose to address it for any number of reasons. My threshold may just be a bit lower than other people’s. But in the end, we’re all working towards the same result: a great, healthy educational environment for all of the children. I applaud the school staff for being willing to face the issue head-on with me and find solutions that work for everybody.

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