My Blog Got My Daughter Kicked Out of Preschool
• In December, my daughter was exposed to lice. We treated her. She gets them anyway.
We treat again. They go away. I tweeted and joked about it on Twitter/Facebook. My daughter’s preschool director finds out that I mentioned it on Facebook and admonished me for it.
• In January, the director calls and tells us that my daughter has lice and had to stay go home. When pressed, she admitted she didn’t see actual lice but did see nits (lice eggs). We pick her up, treated her again, but see zero lice or nits.
• In late January my daughter started singing “Tomorrow” from Annie on a regular basis. She told us this is for the school performance in the spring.
• In mid February my daughter started talking about the costumes for the spring performance. But she also started talking about how she isn’t going to get a costume because she’s “bad” and doesn’t listen.
This brings us to last week. Tuesday morning, I asked my husband to ask the preschool director about the costumes because my daughter brought it up with enough frequency that I was growing concerned. Moreover, this was going to be my daughter’s final performance at this school as she is “graduating” this year, so I really wanted her to have a costume this time (looking back through photographs of earlier performances confirmed that she’d NEVER worn a costume during her uneventful three and a half year tenure at this school).
Imagine my surprise when my husband confirmed my daughter’s words. I was expecting to hear that my four year old had simply misinterpreted something, but no. The school assigns costume for an April performance based on behavior NOW. I immediately called the director for further clarification and discussion.
It was a terrible phone call. It quickly became a “kitchen sink” argument; all centered on the fact that my daughter IS, in fact, BAD. My daughter doesn’t listen. She misses the lesson because she talks. She played with the plunger in the bathroom. She played on the stairs. She tried to go up the back stairs instead of the front stairs once. She draws on the back of her lessons. She sings. She talks. She dances.
I hadn’t heard about any of this, except once in October when the director asked us to talk to Tori about being careful on the stairs. Admittedly, we’d missed our parent-teacher conference in January thanks to my mom becoming seriously ill and nearly dying, but still, I found her accusations startling and to me it felt like it came out of nowhere. After a long and terse discussion, however, we agreed on a plan to work on my daughter’s behavior together.
However, I was angry. I disliked much of what the director had said and felt that it was horrible to say such things about a four year old, particularly the line “not living up to her potential.” So I blogged about it. It was a simple post, merely listing what the director said (direct quotes, which later she couldn’t deny).
At 4pm of that same day, my husband picked up my daughter from school. The afternoon teacher told him that Tori couldn’t return to school on Thursday because she once again had nits. Charlie argued a bit but the afternoon teacher threw her hands up because it wasn’t her decision.
At 6:30pm, our phone rang. It was the director. This time she was telling us that our daughter couldn’t return to school without a doctor’s note declaring her lice free because another little girl had come down with lice (however, ONLY our daughter was required to provide a note from a doctor). I argued with her. I knew that my daughter didn’t have nits; we’d be been treating her weekly since January. I told her I felt bullied, that I felt like she simply didn’t want my daughter in her school at all. But when we hung up, we promised to get the note. Two hours and an $80 visit to an urgent care clinic later we had a diagnosis: DANDRUFF. From -- get this -- too many lice treatments.
The next morning (Friday, February 25th), very early, the phone rang. It was the preschool director. She’d read the post. Tori was no longer welcome at the daycare. The director “feared for her safety” (because of the comments on the post, not what I’d posted) and had contacted a lawyer.
We were in shock.
Throughout this, I chattered about it on Facebook and Twitter. Because talking on social media networks is my version of the coffee klatch. For seven years I’ve been blogging about my life, including the years of infertility and loss, the struggles of working as a writer and blogger, financial strife, selling a house (and buying another one), depression, my addiction and fifteen years of sobriety, and my strong political views. Building a community through my blog, and later through twitter, has been one of the greatest joys and achievements of my life.
So you won’t find an apology from me. I stand by my words. I never named the school, the director, or even the town I live in (in fact, discussing this at a traditional coffee klatch would be more harmful since it would be other local moms). I never said a word that was untrue (even the preschool director couldn’t disagree with that).
Will I change how I blog in the future? Maybe. It’s a conundrum for those of us that share about parenting on the public level; how much is too much? Where do you draw the line? I’m learning as I go along, as are most of us.
Because of our history of infertility -- and the incredible support we got from our blog family during our horrible loss, recovery, and treatments -- I feel compelled to share my daughter with my readers. Not doing so feels wrong, like leaving the final chapter out of a novel. I’ve set some personal boundaries, sure, but I’m comfortable with what I share online. Will it be different as my daughter gets older? Of course. Will I rethink how I write about her educational exploits in the future? Maybe. But maybe not.
As I say, often, my blog is my story, and my daughter has a starring role in my story. Will she approve when she’s older? I don’t know. I know that my best friend’s teenage daughter lives her life out on Facebook, as do her friends; I suspect that living openly online will become more common and not less as my daughter gets older. We talk about it now, and while of course she doesn’t grasp the breadth of what my being a “blogger mom” (which is what she calls me) means, I think that when she’s a mother (should she choose to be one) she’ll appreciate being able to see herself through my eyes.
In the meantime, I’ll keep writing, and living, and sharing. It’s what I do, and this experience -- as awful as it was -- isn’t enough to change that. My daughter is now happily established at her new school, telling me after her first day, "I like my new teachers because they don't take my paper away for drawing wrong." So maybe, just maybe, this all worked out for the best.