Wednesday, September 12, 2007

A Day of Remembrance: Norm Style


So, I called Norm after school today and grilled him about his day as is our routine. He told me about lunch and the procuring of some hashbrowns as snack. He talked about drawing a branch for brown day. Then, he proceeded to tell me why today was such a "special day". He then described how "a long lot of years ago some bad guys crashed into some skyscrapers and some big tall buidings with their planes and lots and lots of people died. People on planes died and lots of other people died too." Oh? When did you hear about this buddy? "When we first got to school we had to be quiet. Because they died and its very sad." Was your teacher talking about it? "No just the principal. When we first got there because it happened when we got there." (Did I miss the fucking "prep your five year old for 9/11 reality check?" Nope. Double checked. No memo.) And what did you think about this buddy? "Well. It kind of freaked me out. Did you know people that died mommy?" WEll no buddy. It happened very far away. "Well if all those people died how come you didnt know nobody" (I relate a few stories about people we know and care about losing loved ones in 9/11)"Hmmmm...Ill bet their mommies are dead too. And there daddies are dead. Right mom?" Well not necessarily buddy. Lots of people were grown ups who didnt live with their mommies and daddies. (Mentally I am psyching myself up into professional calm reasonable crse for my next call which is to the principal asking for a debriefing on what was said and offering my sincerest thank you for opening this little metaphysical can of worms as a surprise for our family. Is this your idea of the welcome wagon?) Norm then begins to list all the death he knows about personally, from my grandmother to every last goldfish. We talk. We reflect. We mourn greenie and spottie together.

We end the conversation because he's finished a popsicle or had some other pressing matter. I immediately call the school. I try my best to explain the situation to the secretary. She is extremely kind. She knows Norm and tries to find me someone who can help me figure out what the hell was said. I end up talking to the lunch lady. (I kid you not). (She, too, was extremely nice) I politely explain again what had just transpired with Norm and ask if she can tell me what exactly was said. Apparently, she helps herd children into the gym when they arrive at school and this is where the speech occurred. She explained that it was "patriot day" and the principal was explaining why the kids were encouraged to wear red, white, and blue. "But wait...we didnt hear anything about that..." I say. Ah...thats because it was brown day in kindergarten she explains. (Ok so you dont include them in the red, white and blue dress because you dont want to interrupt brown day for the little ones. I see. And was that decision made in the same conversation where the inclusion of a description of the massive loss of human life through an act of evil would be a good idea for the five year olds? Red white and blue...hmmm no lets not confuse them by veering off brown day. Much better to let them struggle with their first realization that the world is a cold and bitter place completely devoid of justice. Well because that wont involve new memos about color week.) Lunch Lady then confidently reassures me that the talk was not graphic and their was nothing about planes crashing or anything. It was so awkward to mention to my new friend that in fact the words "planes crashing into buildings" actually came out of my five year olds mouth. She apologizes saying that it was hard to focus because of the herding of the children.

Friends, let me interject that this was no "Operation Kiss my Ass" endeavor. I felt so bad that I was putting this sweet lunch lady in an awkward position. I then try to explain that Im only calling because it was a topic not yet introduced in the home and I really didnt want to confuse my son any more than he already appeared to be. Which led me to the next question. Friends, let me ask you this. How does one politely ask if a school speech included any mention of hope for the future or spiritual comfort? It sounds so condescending to even ask such a thing. My reason for wanting to know this is because if the speech was meant to be as stark as it sounded to impress the importance of the day, I did not want to offer some sort of comfort that the principal had already shot down as a platitude. (What kind of grown up shoots down spiritual platitudes to a five year old? Oh wait. See above.) Also, was the concept of terrorism discussed? Obviously he couldnt have said "its ok, we caught the bad guys" because the bad guy released a tape last friday. My new friend didn't really have an answer. She gave me a few suggestions for exploring the topic with Norm. I was graciously grateful. Apologized for bothering. Thanking for understanding. Etc. Etc. Finally, she explains that the principal left for a meeting which is why I was talking to her. More apologies. More gratitude. I hang up and call Madame Fabu. Am I crazy or what the fuck just happened? We share different school stories from today involving the princess, norm, the perfect storm as well as other bizarro situations that had happened over the past eight hours. She reassures me. Im thinking ok we let this pass and see what happens.

Later that night, Norm starts a conversation while playing with his new matchbox set. "People are robbing banks somewhere in the world right now arent they mommy?" Well yes buddy, but people are helping people out there too. You need to remember that. Are you still feeling freaked out about today buddy, or are things ok for you? "Well...Im just feeling a little little bit freaked out still. (Not a lot of little bit, a little little bit)But thats ok. Because its a sad day and we got to be quiet." It is a sad day buddy. We talk about all the people that helped out in the aftermath and talked about heroes until he interjects accusingly. "Mommy, how come you never told me about this day before?" (allowing myself a mental burst of derisive laughter) Well buddy its a very hard thing that happened and its hard to understand and we wanted to wait til you were a little older. Soon after, in the kitchen "I think we should make a cake for the people that died mommy. You know, because its such a sad day" Hmmm...cakes are always a nice expression of the hopeless void of an illogical and unjust universe. Why not? "Oh never mind mommy. Lets make the cake another day. Sponge Bob is on" Almost immediately afterward, in an alarmed yet sort of calm tone "Mom, I just felt grammy's spirit. Can we talk to her?" Sure buddy. "Um Grammy? I miss you a very lot. And Um well...Im a little bit scared right now so maybe you could go away for a little bit. But um...you dont have to. You can stay because Im glad you are here". He looks at me for reassurance. I just say "we miss you grammy and we love you and you would be very proud of norm because he is a wonderful little boy". Back to sponge bob. He is a little clingier tonight than usual but so far its ok.

My bottom line? Im a little pissed that my five year old who is afraid of monsters and "bloody mary" and the goosebumps commercial on cartoon network is now pondering something vast and horrible. Im unsure because I dont know if this is exactly vast and horrible for him and I dont want to make it more so. Im guilty because I should have prepared him regardless. I knew the day was coming. Im wondering if I should prep the teachers for possible death talk tomorrow. Strangely, nothing like this occurred in any of the schools I worked in today.

Thanks for letting me process friends.

17 comments:

The Mistress of the Dark said...

GAH! It's bad enough I had nightmares for weeks after 9/11 do they have to give them to kids that will have no real understanding of them. Crikey.

Bunny said...

WTF??? Five year olds don't need that much detail, particularly sensitive little guys like Norm. I don't think this was addressed in my 6 yo's ASD room or his kindergarten room, but then again I don't really know because he doesn't relate his day very well. Geez, now I'm concerned.

That's the type of thing where the school should have sent a memo home, at the very least. The very least.

Factor 10 said...

I think this is EXACTLY the situation to go into full CRSE mode. I'd go the office with a thermos full of coffee and wait that principle out.
If the school is going to introduce 9/11 to the kinders, the memo that should have gone out should also have offered suggestions for talks on the subject. I have no idea what I would say to Little O.

Canada said...

Oh, man, I'd be sooo pissed off!! Corwin is very similar in that he is sensitive to this sort of death talk and thinks about it for a long, long time with random questions coming up for days. Thankfully we haven't had to deal with 9/11 in a big way (I don't think it's been mentioned at school), but I remember in jk when he heard about a child killed when she was hit by a train and we spent hours talking about it . . . for several days it came up. At least it wasn't the teacher who brought it up (just a girl in his class).

I agree completely with everyone when they say that a memo should have gone home. And I honestly think that the kindergarten kids should have missed the assembly and just had brown day.

RockDog said...

So the chain of command is

Secretary then up to Lunch Lady then at the top is Principal? Where do Custodian and Crossing Guard fit in??? Do you live in Crazy Town by any chance?

Gospel Bob said...

Dude, that is a handful and you rock. I take some solace though in the fact that our kids in the U.S. (and Canada) learn about the reality of war and terrorism from jack-ass principals rather than the sound of shelling and car bombs outside the door. Could be a whole lot worse. But that sucks nonetheless, and I wholeheartedly agree that a memo should have been sent.

On a lighter note, I thought this sentence is stand alone brilliant: "Much better to let them struggle with their first realization that the world is a cold and bitter place completely devoid of justice. Well because that wont involve new memos about color week."

One final question, was Grammie "greenie" or "spottie"? I keed! Jeez, that was just wrong. I'm sorry Grammy! (*No need to visit.)

luckybuzz said...

Holy crap. That is so freaking wrong. (Also freaking hilarious. Dude, you were talking to the Lunch Lady.) I mean, look at that picture of Norm up there...that is not a boy that should be traumatized by maroons. Poor Norm. I'm thinking kindergarten isn't living up to his all-day-dancing expectations.

But this: "cakes are always a nice expression of the hopeless void of an illogical and unjust universe"--is brilliant.

adjunct whore said...

that is a wee bit different than the approach of my daughter's school ON 9/11--she was in first grade, i frantically called the school at like 9:45 to come get her, they encouraged me not to. they didn't want to panic the kids and since it was sufficiently out of immediate harms way, they asked parents to try to let the day go as normal. then they sent home a memo about what was said to what grade level (not very much, as i recall, we spoke about it ourselves quite a bit though). for the rest of the year she had excessive anxiety and nightmares, talked about it, etc. but we spoke about it whenever she wanted to and it seemed to help.

norm's school: i'm impressed by the kindness of the lunch lady, only a wee bit more than your own kindness, but WTF, i would go to the school and demand in my most angry voice imaginable WHY they chose to do this with young children, not capable of historical or analytical contextualizing (i'm sure he's scared a building will come down today), and especially, that they did so without speaking to parents.

fuck that. yuk principal. of course, gb is sage--at least it is a faux pax rather than a life-threatening lesson.

adorable child you have!

Jay said...

Now see ... this is what I'm talking about. Only a fuckwit school administrator would think this is a good idea. Can't they at least wait until the kids are in 5th or 6th grade before they begin the "be afraid" indoctrination process?

Around here there lots and lots of people who home school their kids. 99% of them do so because "God has been taken out of the schools" or they don't want them taught evolution. If I had kids I would home school them to get them away from the gov't propaganda like this shit!

You handled it much better than I would have.

Lucy said...

Crse--this so happened to us two years ago, and I was pretty pissed. I'm so sorry that Norm and you had to go through that. There's a reason we didn't have CNN on at our house yesterday, but apparently, these difficult conversations aren't to be left up to the family. There was also a lot of 9/11 talk in Mira's classroom yesterday, but, like I said, we dealt with the shock of it two years ago when she was in Kindergarten. She was so confused, she referred to the WTC as the "entertainment center." Clearly, five and six year olds aren't ready for the finer points.

Listen to what your favorite principal, A.C., had our kids do yesterday--effing lock down drill! This involves locking doors, turning out lights, and getting under desks in case terrorists or armed maniacs come and take over the school. I find it harm to believe that the timing of this drill was accidental. Way to go, A.C.

Mert said...

Oh sweet Lord... I agree, WTF???

I'm of the "Let the parents take care of instilling fear and a good foundation of neurosis" camp. I mean really, if I want my child to be terrified, i would like for it to happen in the comfort of her own home. Is that so wrong?

Seriously though, why introduce an idea that is beyond a child's age appropriateness... not to mention comprehension.

Maybe k-2nd grade (at the very least) should have been excused from this announcement?

I am open to discuss anything with my child as long as I think she is ready, and/or if she brings it up in conversation.

Jenny Ryan said...

Oh wow, I can't believe they did that to those little guys. I'm so sorry you and he had to go through that.

Pippajo said...

I am just flitting by to say how much I have MISSED YOU, WOMAN!

I intend to lock my family out of the house for an entire day so I can catch up on all the crse I have missed--and that's a lot!

My goal? To leave comments on each and every post I have missed. That might require alcohol fortification, so if the comments become increasingly inteligible, I know you'll understand.

Miss you! Be back soon!

MaggieMay said...

I'm late to the commenting, but all I can add is my own, belligerent, WTF??? Thank god there are good parents like you out there who might possibly counter the hideousness of some school administrators... But I am so sorry you've had to deal with this!!!

The Mistress of the Dark said...

Have I mentioned that I love that picture. It's just too flipping cute :)

lina said...

Heavens. I don't think I've ever read a blog post as carefully as this one.
I've never thought about telling kids this, I suppose because I'm not
a mum and if I was telling someone in simple terms, it's something
that happened to the Americans. Obviously for you, you'd be saying
"it's something that happened to us, our country". That said, it
doesn't take a lot of thought or empathy on my part to be shocked at
the principle. Explaining recent and unjust large-scale death is
something you ought to have been allowed to do. Norm's a clever and
kind hearted little poppet from reading his wee blog and your blog,
and I think it's something the school should have left for you.
Telling them en masse is inappropriate. There ought to have been
interaction. Do you know, I only 'know' Norm from you and his 'ask
norm' thing, but I'm pissed off on your behalf.
I think you handled it very well, for what it's worth (from a 25 year
old nonparent that can't be terribly meaningful! That is, I like to
think I would handle it that was if I was thrust into that situation).

crse said...

Heavens. I don't think I've ever read a blog post as carefully as this one.
I've never thought about telling kids this, I suppose because I'm not
a mum and if I was telling someone in simple terms, it's something
that happened to the Americans. Obviously for you, you'd be saying
"it's something that happened to us, our country". That said, it
doesn't take a lot of thought or empathy on my part to be shocked at
the principle. Explaining recent and unjust large-scale death is
something you ought to have been allowed to do. Norm's a clever and
kind hearted little poppet from reading his wee blog and your blog,
and I think it's something the school should have left for you.
Telling them en masse is inappropriate. There ought to have been
interaction. Do you know, I only 'know' Norm from you and his 'ask
norm' thing, but I'm pissed off on your behalf.
I think you handled it very well, for what it's worth (from a 25 year
old nonparent that can't be terribly meaningful! That is, I like to
think I would handle it that was if I was thrust into that situation).