The Good Girl

If only I'd known then what I know now

Cloudless cerulean sky,
a light breeze
froze falling tears
as I filled truck with gasoline.

I was 37 years old.

Motherhood was not shaping up as I’d planned. I’d just left my son’s kindergarten classroom where I generously volunteered my time two days per week. Less than a month into our elementary school duties, the kid and I were both feeling our way among letters, numbers, Playdoh, people, and puppets.

After a manic hour of children switching between learning centers every fifteen minutes, I was wiped.

Did you know five-year-olds will fight to the death over who gets the pencil with the biggest eraser?

Anyhow….while I helped clean up stations, twenty odd children were engaged in free play. Wailing echoed from the puppet station and I went to see what had happened. Lexi said my son had walloped her in the nose with the plush giraffe head while animating it with his hand.

No! She didn’t say it with that vocabulary. ;)

Mrs. C. bustled over to perform her own investigation.

Based on flimsy and uncorroborated information do you know what she did?

She sent my kid to the principal’s office. No lie! We still have a yellow carbon copy of the rap sheet in a dresser drawer somewhere.

Over the years I would come to know Mrs. C.’s personality.
Strict and stern.
Blatant preference for girls over boys.

I have no idea what her fragments entailed. Maybe she had a mean older brother? Or, maybe her husband was abusive? I know her two children were girls. Maybe one of them had been picked on or teased by boys?

The thing is….I was so knotted up in my own fragments that I did not even consider the teacher’s.

My fragments were—You are a good girl. You do not break rules. You will roll on your back like a puppy whenever a growling dog comes near. Your child will do the same.

How on earth had my son missed these messages? I wondered.

You can bet my husband and I doubled down on the poor kid that night at home.
You will be nice!
You’re off the bus for a week! (He loved riding the school bus.)
Every morning for months he got a lecture about behaving at school.

In some ways, I’m afraid we squashed some of the brightness out of him over one teacher’s reaction.
I hate myself for that.
On the soccer field, instead of aggressively going after the ball, our kid hung back so as not to hurt anyone.

Over time we changed.
He changed, too.
By the time he wore a football helmet and pads he was tackling opponents without regard for injury—his own or others.

It’s all water under the bridge now.
No hard feelings.

What if every human understood fragments?
Would the world be a different place?
What if we dared to question authority?