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speaking out at preschool

Monday, October 19, 2009

last thursday night was parent-teacher night at the monster's preschool. i have all kinds of qualms and doubts about whether it's the right school for him, mainly because it's a private school, and because it's a 40-minute drive away.

there is no school here in macondo until the little ones are 5 years old, so for now i can justify it all by saying that we don't have a choice. if we are still here in two years, we will have to make some painstaking choices about how we choose to insert ourselves into this society without closing any important doors on our kids' presents and futures. for now i'm not entirely convinced that the local public school would necessarily condemn them to illiteracy, parasites and a world of violence, but the thought doesn't exactly thrill me or fill me with confidence in my choices either.

in the meantime, the monster is thriving, and we have been fairly happy with much of what goes on at his preschool, while gritting our teeth at some things and shrugging our shoulders at others. we've talked about eventually raising some of the issues with other parents and the school directors - something our friends have done and have been pleasantly surprised with the openness to their suggestions.

in canada, i already would have jumped in and talked to the teachers, the director or the other parents. i would have raised my concerns about the separation of boys and girls every time they line up, the admonishments that boys don't have long hair and other such genderized crap, the senior kindergarteners attending mass to celebrate police day (!!), the kids bringing soft drinks and potato chips for snack-time...

but having moved recently to argentina, and not living in a diverse or cosmopolitan centre, i struggle to find my voice here. i'm scared of being way too out there, of trying to impose my own context inappropriately, of being absurd instead of bold. i don't know yet when to stand up as a concerned parent/woman/person, when to accept that there will be societal influences i won't like, when to relax, knowing we can model differently at home and hopefully neutralize or subvert the yucky stuff.

and this is one of the reasons that i just love my partner, f., so bloody much.  he did it. he felt it was a good time and he raised his hand, clothed in the legitimacy he gets from being argentinian, and suggested that it would be a really positive thing to include representations of same-sex couples and parents in the school's celebrations of Family Month.

he didn't mention junk food and the possibility of packing healthier snacks. he jumped head first into gay rights, and then told the other parents and the director that he would really like to know the position of the school and what the other parents think.

there was basically some silence, and then three parents spoke up and agreed with each other that the kids were too young for so much information and there was no reason to deal with such complicated stuff quite yet. keep in mind that we live in a very conservative province - i am sure that a similar proposal in buenos aires or rosario would have at least met with a few nodding heads.

but we both felt great about having said something.

it gave me the push i needed to bring up my discomfort with the constant separation of boys and girls, which was met with basically some initial denial and then just basic confusion about what could possibly be wrong with such a harmless tradition.
the kids are always together, not separated. but you know boys, they can be so rambunctious, so we're helping them learn how to be gentlemen by letting the girls go into the room first on our way back from the playground. and they only get into separate lines for boys and girls when we line up to salute the flag every morning, because that's the tradition.

i'm sure that nothing will change in the monster's class, and i don't know if anything we said will get more than an eyeroll. no doubt it would have been more productive and less alienating to have suggested some healthy snack alternatives instead.

but not only did i feel so in tune and in love with f.  i also felt huge relief knowing that we can and will speak up. and at least we will be able to model that for our little guys.

all the stuff we don't agree with suddenly seems less powerful now.


Julie said...

yay f! yay, you guys!

carol said...

wow, your brave to up and move to another country. I get anxiety going to another state.

Hobo Mama said...

I am so impressed with F's boldness. He really just jumped right in there.

I'm the kind of person who'd blog about how disappointed I was but not say anything! This is inspiring.

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