Georgia and the vice-principal – Anna Spargo-Ryan

Georgia and the vice-principal

Georgia and the vice-principal

Back in the old days when I was a better parent, I volunteered at my daughter’s kindergarten from time to time. I pretended to do things like wipe the tables and put out all the plastic cups, but what I was really doing was helicopter parenting. I was watching her, to make sure she wasn’t lonely.

Unfortunately, she was.

On the first day I spent with the ‘Wombats’, I watched someone else’s 3-year-old girl turn to my 3-year-old girl and say – sassily – “You can’t sit here!” and demand that she sit at a different table.

I am easily affronted, so I said, “It’s nice to share our tables with everyone!” But I knew the wheels were in motion. Six years later, I don’t volunteer in my daughter’s class, but I see her face every day when she comes home from school. And she is still lonely. But why? I’m not the kind of parent who thinks that her children are perfect. There are behaviours that both of my kids exhibit that are alienating. But I don’t think they’re jerks any more than the next kid is a jerk, or the milkman is a jerk, or Joel Madden is a jerk (he isn’t).

Georgia is about to turn nine. I’ve been making noises to this effect to her teachers for years, but this is the year that Things Really Got Serious. Rather than murmuring and looking sympathetic, her 3/4 teacher – who might be the best woman on this earth – frowned and wrote me an email. An email that frightened and comforted me all at once.

The vice-principal and I would like to meet with you to discuss Georgia.

Immediately, I felt like I was in trouble. Meeting with a vice-principal always feels like trouble, especially when you’re an ex-troublesome kid, like me. I looked at my girl sitting across the room, carefully keying in the codes from her footy cards, her shoulders moving to a song no one else could hear, and I was relieved that someone was taking me seriously. That when I said, “my daughter sometimes does things that make me wonder how her brain works”, they said, “we should investigate this further.”

So I met with her teacher and her vice-principal. Georgia knew we were going to see them, and she bleated “interview?” five times as I went to leave Before School Care. She thought she was in trouble too. Because going to the vice-principal means someone is in trouble.

“Don’t worry G, you’re not in trouble,” I told her, but she didn’t seem convinced.

“My hunch is that Georgia has a special way of thinking,” her vice-principal said, and I felt like shaking him like DO YOU THINK SHE IS AUTISTIC? “We would suggest thinking about having her assessed.” BECAUSE YOU THINK SHE IS AUTISTIC? “The school has a guidance counsellor who will look at her behaviour and see where the gaps are.” THE GAPS CAUSED BY AUTISM?

As you can see, I am every vice-principal’s dream parent.

It was at this point that I realised I don’t have the answers. I’m no doctor. Well, I am an honourary doctor of love, but that’s probably not as useful as you might think. I didn’t sit in the meeting with her vice-principal, feeling small as a mouse because I was in trouble, and think “you silly man, that’s not what we should do at all!”, because I don’t know what we should do.

So do you know what I did? I put my daughter’s wellbeing in his hands for a bit. I looked to someone else to give me some more information, some more options. It was liberating. It was terrifying. I remembered I’m not an idiot and I won’t go blindly into the dark and nod and blink while someone else makes decisions for me and I let them give me some next steps. And now we are moving in a different direction, that might be the right one or might not be but I’m not going to help her by standing still.

Sometimes I wish I could though, just for a minute, and be a helicopter parent again. I’d give those other kids what for, even if it meant I had to go to the vice-principal’s office.

1 Comment
  • amber

    May 14, 2012 at 5:28 pm Reply

    In the words of Kamahl: “Why are people so unkind?”

    I do hope that assessments are helpful.

    And that the mean kids lose all their Smiggle merchandise in a freak tornado!

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