Two weeks ago we went to my niece and nephew’s sports day. The girls had never witnessed a school sports day before and Shahada, being pretty speedy, mentioned several times how she’d love to run. Of course she couldn’t. Not in any of the races anyway.
My sister asked, ”Don’t you regret that they’re going to miss out on things like this?” I replied that I didn’t – if the girls want to take up athletics or any other type of sports they can do so. In fact, we’re attending a home ed sports day this summer. But I was avoiding the real meaning of sister’s question. She didn’t mean the sport in itself but the friendly rivalry between friends; the team camaraderie and banter; the parents cheering on their kids and their friends’ kids (providing they’re on the blue team!) and taking part in mums and dads races. Mostly she was talking about rites of passage.
I anticipate the same question in the future regarding various other milestones: school discos, trips, initiation into secondary school, nativity plays, swimming galas…
No matter our age or background, those of us who attended school can always find some common experience, some occurrence in our school lives that connects us even for a moment. It could be sports day or detention, class assembly or exams, good or bad these experiences bind us in some way. Are my children being denied this?
Or are my children being spared?
Although our school experiences can give us common ground, they often involve common pain. Ritual humiliation, peer pressure, stage fright, bullying. I think about my negative school experiences – being ridiculed by a particular nasty-bitch-of-a-drama-teacher, being laughed at for my un-trendy clothes, being hammered in assemblies about the importance of exams- and tell myself they weren’t *that* bad. I believe a lot of people do this because we have to reconcile the fact that our school days were, at best, difficult. It would be too traumatic to admit otherwise. Besides, everybody else got through it, didn’t they? In order to justify our own shitty experiences we hold onto them as some sort of badge of honour. Why wouldn’t we want our children to ‘earn’ this same accolade?
One day, in the future, my children may say they want to go to school and I would support their freedom to choose. Would I worry that they will suffer the same anguish that I have done? No. They will be making an informed choice – to go or not to. It’s the prison sentence nature of school that make the daily strife so unbearable.
I don’t want to keep my kids in a bubble in an attempt to protect them from any form of struggle. I advocate struggle. Dammit, I live for the struggle! But a struggle for something I desire, for something I care about and for something I choose.