Have you ever attended a school function where there were crying babies, whining toddlers who couldn't sit still, and a lot of parents gazing upon their older children doing some kind of special memory-making performance, graduation, concert, etc.?
Did that presence of families and the inevitable noise they bring bother you? Or were you comforted by that warm feeling surrounding you, of families sharing in special moments together? Well, if you chose the latter, you better not enroll at my daughter's school.
Somehow during school tours, acceptance, registration and even orientation this unadvertised, but well-enforced school policy of "no kids under age 5 allowed at school events" was never mentioned. And somehow, it never crossed my mind to ask if my 3-year old son would be allowed to attend his sister's performance, graduation, field day, or any other school event. Boy, was that a bad move. This whole school-year has been a flurry of finding baby-sitters (thank you to my good friend who did it A LOT!) so I could try to be an involved parent and take part in my daughter's special activities at school. Because let's face it, I'm a rule follower. Well, I might have broken the rule just once. Shockingly, nobody called me on it. But then again, it was about 18 degrees outside and probably fewer than 50 students had showed up for the event.
Early on in the fall, I replied to an after school cultural event filling out the form for myself, my daughter, and my son as attendees. I'm still trying to delete from my memory the number of e-mails (4) and phone calls (3) I received from the President of the PAC about this. At first, my naïveté let me think I was being contacted to volunteer at this event. And then, after a lot of phone tag, the messages became more detailed to make sure I received the specifics that I'd better not even think about showing up at this event with my 3-year-old. I was aghast and could literally feel my blood pressure rise. Then it just grew.
Every flyer and notice of all the fun things you dream about being offered by a school contained this phrase: "Remember: Children under age 5 are not allowed. Please plan accordingly so that you are not disappointed." And sometimes, we get a tag of: "Due to the potential noise disruption". And I have confirmed this rule has nothing to do with a space constraint either. But come on, noise disruption at field day, graduation, a Kindergarten show, Literacy night??
I did contact one school official merely inquiring why this rule applied to graduation since it is such a special event. I pointed out how ludicrous it was that I can (and have) bring my 3-year old to a High School or College Graduation, but not his own sister's Kindergarten graduation. I also mentioned how we all know the parents are the ones who make all the noise at a graduation. In reply, I was only very politely given the statement from the flyers again. And after reading the full-page Kindergarten graduation update, I know why. There are so many rules for this event that I'm going to have to write crib notes in pen on my hand to remember what I can or can't do. And whatever happens I won't forget to "refrain from the all-embarrassing 'whooping' or hollering when my child's name is called."
Being the good mother, person and writer that I am, I decided to do some unscientific, undocumented research to find out if I was alone. Of course not to my surprise, even the parents of children who have no siblings are appalled by this rule. Some of the quotes I received were "It's terrible." "It makes no sense." "It's the opposite of what a school is about." I honestly did not have one parent tell me they agree with and/or like the rule.
And what about the parent(s) who want to be involved with their child, but can't afford a babysitter? Or what if culturally, the only babysitter's they know are other family members, who of course also want to attend the special event? Is it right to take away once-in-a-lifetime memories from these parents just because they have younger children?
Luckily, we can afford a babysitter. But sadly, in my house, we now have to downplay our daughter's Kindergarten graduation. Otherwise, my children will be even more upset and devastated that our whole family cannot celebrate this very special moment together.
So as the school year draws to a close, here are my thoughts. This rule does nothing to help us teach and celebrate the value of education within our own families, let alone build a sense of community within the school. And this is our school, right? We are the families whose children make up this school, so why should we allow this rule to remain? Everyone wants it changed, but nobody knows what to do, how to do it, has time do it, etc. The only person I know that has challenged it was literally threatened to be escorted away by a security guard if she came to Kindergarten Graduation with her 2-year old daughter. I guess this is the school's definition of "Please plan accordingly so that you are not disappointed."
I'm not sure where I'll start, or how high my blood pressure will get, but even if it takes the next eight years, I plan to get this rule abolished. So school officials, please take note of our future rule: NO School employees who are bothered by children under age 5 will be allowed to attend any school events. Please plan accordingly so that you are not disappointed.
See more of Heather's stories here.