My fourth grader, Leah, in addition to being a precious little delicious kid, suffers from severe anxiety and heightened sensitivity, conditions of which the experts had assigned a slew of acronyms to her.
Her therapist recently notified me that Leah confessed to her that she tries avoiding the main entrance of the school in the morning, and the principal at all times. She takes extreme measures in doing so, her mind being preoccupied the entire day in meticulously planning her steps. The reason being, her therapist related, is because she’s been commented on twice by the Tznius Lady as she entered the school, and once by the principal.
It was then that I was able to make sense as to why my daughter has recently taken to obsessively pulling her collar upwards, given that one of the comments were about showing too much of her neck, and why she recently became all fussy about her ponytail, given that another comment was on that.
Myself, having a younger sister who suffered from similar anxiety and sensitivity issues, who ended up going OTD following years of being mistreated by her teachers and principals, I take to extra measures to abide by the rules and making sure my Leah “fits in” and feels accepted.
Having spent the night crying through it a few nights ago after being told all this by the therapist, I took the logical step of calling up the principal and politely asking her to be sensitive to my daughter, and please call me with any complaints, rather than commenting to my daughter directly.
“What’s your daughter’s name?” she asked. “Leah…, fourth grade,” I said. “Just wait a minute while I look it up in the book,” she demanded.
“Oh, her,” she came back in a heightened tone. “You gonna dress her like a shiksa and then call me to treat her with sensitivity? Is this the way to dress a Yiddish טאכטער? And what chutzpah you have to call and tell me what I should or shouldn’t tell your daughter!”
Holding back tears, I tried explaining that before discussing tznius issues, I called to discuss my daughter’s issues, and while I’m sure the principal is 100% right, I wanna make sure, first and foremost, that it’s being treated the proper way, for the sanity of my daughter.
She would have none of it. A mother that doesn’t care for Yiddishkeit, dresses the kid like a shiksa, does not get to tell the principal how to deal with it, she pointed out, then finishing off her diatribe with a Gmar Chasima Tova.
I hung up, spending the rest of the day crying. Again.
I reached out to friends and family for advice, and heard lots of well intentioned, meaningless and senseless advice.
“Why are you sending to [this Bais Yaakov]?”
“Dress her normally and you’ll have no issues.”
“I cannot believe the principal said that!”
And so on.
Thank you. But you just don’t get it. I’m happy in my community and want my kids and grandkids to stay in the community as well. A run-in with a principal and an insensitive Tznius Lady is no reason for me to start changing schools or go town hopping.
Maybe the principal was under a lot of Yomim Tovim stress and I just happened to call in the wrong time?
Maybe there’s a personal issue she’s dealing with and mistakenly took it all out on me?
I don’t know.
What I do know is that we have teens committing suicide. That the postmortem stories usually say how they were mistreated or not understood while growing up.
What I do know is that my kid has issues and, in addition to her being mistreated, I have no one to talk to about it.
What I do know is that there’s way more emphasis going into the tznius rules than on how to properly deal with kids. Sure, all’s good when your kid doesn’t have severe disorders and cruises through childhood with the minor, expected hiccups. But what’s a principal to do when, in her mind, she’s doing holy work, giving it all to enforcing g-d’s commands and in return dismissing the well being of a child?
And what am I to do when that’s MY child?
A Sad and Confused Mother