A Guest Post by Alexandra Macqueen
This is one of those things that strikes a very deep and disturbing chord in me, and I’m coming here just to muse aloud.
My kids have both been accepted to the alternative Whole Child School which is opening up in my neighbourhood, and I just got an invite to come and attend a “Town Hall Session” for the parents of kids who have been accepted to this school. The school is expected to run with a lot of parent involvement and, in fact, there is a requirement for parent involvement (I think it is 20 hours per year).
Here’s part of the invite to the Town Hall meeting:
This [meeting] is where the parent community will start to take their role in shaping the school. The organizing committee will outline the work that needs to be done by September and early in the school year. And we want to hear from you about where your interests, skills, and passions lie as there will be many opportunities to get involved. This is also the first chance for the parents of registered students to meet each other, connect, and start developing a community around the school.
Sounds great, right? Except here’s what comes right afterwards:
We respectfully request that you make your own childcare arrangement for the event, as it will not be possible for us to provide child-minding for everyone’s children.
And that’s the sound of my heart breaking. Look, I know logistically it would not be “easy” to provide childcare (“child-minding”) for all of the kids whose parents will be at this meeting.
But they didn’t even try. There’s, I don’t know, a couple of hundred parents whose kids will be going to this school. What about asking US to come up with some childcare solutions so that all the parents who want to come to this meeting can come?
But more to the point: does this not communicate that children are somehow secondary, or unwanted; and that taking care of children is “less important” than coming to this meeting? “The important work of building the school will start at this meeting! To create a better future for all of our children! Except your actual children are not welcome. And you’re on your own in terms of child-care arrangements. We’re not ‘child-minders’!”
It isn’t that I can’t find a way to have my children cared for during this two-hour meeting – I can. And it isn’t that I think they “must” provide a space where children are included. Except: I sort of DO think that.
And I also think they are (unwittingly) setting up a hierarchy where kids are at the bottom. The “ideal” Whole Child School parent will not be encumbered by children, but will be able to roll up their sleeves and get to work on building the community for the children…but wait a minute.
Don’t they realize that every single person who is invited to that meeting has at least one child that must be provided for during that meeting? How hard would it have been to get TWO occupancy permits at the school so that the kids could be in the gym, and the adults in the library? And then a few volunteers from among the parent body to supervise the kids – just as one option? (Given that I’ve organized several events at that school, I know it would NOT be hard.)
This is one of my hot-button issues. Not that I am going to get hot under the collar and DO anything. It’s just that…I’ve been a parent for seven years now, and I feel as though I have spent significant amounts of those seven years trying to insert my kids into spaces where they are not welcome. (I’m not talking anything inappropriate or weird; just public places where I feel my kids should have the opportunity to participate. Like church!) And it’s exhausting.
I remember one time when I was at a meeting at the Beausoleil First Nation on Christian Island, long before I had my own kids. The chiefs were meeting on some topic, and there were also kids playing right outside the doors. It was a hot summer day, and I went, independently, to close the windows so that (in my mind) the important meeting would not be disturbed by the sounds of busy, playing children.
The chief of the community called out to me, “what are you doing over there?” and I explained what I was up to. “No,” she said, “we don’t do that. We are building a better community for those kids, and it is important that we be interrupted by them. We need to always keep at the front of our minds who they are, and what they are doing is more important than what we are doing. They aren’t a disturbance – they are the whole reason we are having this meeting.”
I think about that exchange all the time, and wonder why I can’t find that kind of open and welcoming attitude other places.
Thoughts are welcome.