A little story about our morning. As I have said before school is a major issue for us. Girl cannot take to it at all. A normal school week we can just about get through but this morning Girl woke us up before 6am complaining of tummy ache which nowadays is a rarity, for her to wake up so early. We could not settle her and we had all the amateur dramatics of one of her ‘I’m not happy about something so I am going to pretend to have tummy ache’ tummy aches which involves a lot of flailing around, wailing in agony and mock-collapsing and groaning. She is so good at this I do actually find myself questioning ‘does she actually have appendicitis or something equally horrendous? Is she genuinely very, very poorly?’
I am always right with my initial instinct that it’s nothing serious; she had no temperature and the point of pain was apparently her belly button but I do know when she does this that something is worrying her, that she has sort of an emotional ‘phantom’ tummy ache. It’s hard to explain but you know when you feel stressed your tummy ties itself up in knots? I think that’s what is going on but she can’t explain that so can only emphasise how stressed she is by hamming it up.
So I went with my instincts, sympathised that she had tummy ache and told her to curl up like a mouse with nibbles the bunny in her own bed. I also told her that she could stay off school for the day if she wanted but she would not get her certificate and reward at the end of the week like all the children that attended school all week (it’s school attendance week, I’ll get onto that in a minute). Suddenly the flailing stopped, all went quiet and girl went back to her bedroom. What I call An Amazing Recovery.
My instinct was proved correct when she cheerily announced she was better enough for Cheerios and a crumpet when we all blearily got out of bed a little later. Following breakfast Girl started to tell me something that had happened at school yesterday and suddenly the penny dropped. Now before I carry on I have to add that I received a text yesterday afternoon from the school ‘warning’ parents that they were undertaking an ‘exciting’ science project about tunnels under the school, not to let on that the tunnels are not real, no further explanation.
So here is what Girl told me, you can decide whether this is appropriate for any six year old yourself. ‘Yesterday when we were in assembly the radiators starting making a loud noise and shaking and cracking, we had to stop singing and leave the hall. A man called Jack Wigglebottom disappeared into a hole under the school…in the field where we play football. We are not allowed near the hole in case we fall into it.’
Now I am sure whoever thought out this project thought it sounded fun and exciting and to some kids it really would be but to a sensitive six year old who needs to feel safe in her environment this is worrying stuff. Radiators don’t shake and rattle like that unless something bad, unusual or out of routine is going to happen. Girl told me she wasn’t worried but her very best friend Ruby was and that she had had to look after her. I know Girl well enough to know this meant she was worried but putting on a brave face, just the fact that a friend was worried would be enough to worry her and the tummy ache this morning tells it all.
I have spoken to other mums and this one is a county-wide project that involves telling children that the man/men are stuck in the tunnels underneath the school with no food or water. I can’t quite understand why this is thought of as appropriate for six year olds and why it has to run for a whole week. I do appreciate that eduction has to be fun for it to stick but this is not fun. This is worrying six year olds when they are in bed and not just my sensitive Girl but other children too, one mum described her daughter as a ‘toughy’ but even she fretted about it. The general consensus between my friends is that this is unacceptable and also encouraging parents to keep up the pretence places a mistrust of the parent from the child, a particularly important issue for an adopted child who struggles to trust the world around them and must place trust in her parents and teachers.
I have heard tales of schools telling their children that there is an alien loose in the corridors, one school staging a mock kidnapping of a teacher and of another giving a five year old a hard boiled egg and telling them to look after it because it was a dinosaur egg and that it might hatch, the same five year old woke up during that night screaming because she thought the dinosaur egg had hatched.
So is it fun eduction or a step too far?
My second school woe is attendance week. A week where if you attend school for a full week you get a certificate and a reward, last time it was a cinema pass. I do not agree with this idea (I’m on my soap box now). What are the implications of a child being genuinely ill and all her friends being rewarded for not being unlucky enough to get sickness and diarrhoea or for not tumbling and breaking a limb? Particularly for an adopted child with emotional and behavioural issues the ‘shame’ or disappointment when he does not get the reward and all his friends do can result in some pretty dire behaviour. Shame for being ill, that really sucks. It has never been an issue, Girl’s school attendance is always good but this morning knowing she was stressed I debated her staying at home for some TLC but then I had to battle with ‘…but if I do and all her friends get a reward on Friday what will the implications be…?’ so I left it to Girl to choose but I hope that while she is in this frame of mind that she never is genuinely ill during an attendance week.