It’s one of those phone numbers I saved for ease of use but interestingly, when it flashed on my phone early one Monday morning (ya, Monday), I wished I wasn’t staring at the very number I saved, because it sent thousands of alarm bells ringing in those 3 seconds or so that it was flashing – ‘School’.
It couldn’t that she had forgotten to bring something important as we had personally gone through the schoolbag the night before, including forms to submit and a twig she was to use a part of a Stick Insect Show & Tell. It couldn’t be that she was feeling unwell as she looked her chirpy, usual self when I dropped her in school less than an hour ago.
‘Accident!’ – something out of the ordinary must have happened.
My years of being an educator (and having made those countless of phone calls to parents myself) had, in a split second, inferred the reason for the call…and indeed it was.
It didn’t help that the Form Teacher’s voice at the other end started the call with this foreboding statement, “ Mr. Sim, an accident happened in school…” Thankfully, the Form Teacher went on to say, “Dana would like to speak to you”. With that, I know at least she was still in a ‘safe’ state, able to still carry a conversation.
In between sobs, the daughter was trying hard to recount what happened – a classmate had bumped into her head from the back during the morning assembly. The impact had caused the pair of Swiss Flex spectacles she was wearing to drop and break.
Knowing that Dana is a bubbly, outgoing, ‘action-packed’ girl, I was very inclined to question if she was running or jumping around when the accident happened. But no, my years of experience as a teacher has taught me that what a teary crying student in shock needs to hear is a familiar, comforting voice from her parent at the other end.
“Don’t worry, are you hurt? Don’t cry ok, Daddy will send your spare pair (of spectacles) over…” I had to calm my raging thoughts to convey a tone of affirmation and comfort in our conversation. My main objective was to calm and console my daughter. (Interestingly, I also had to exude the same tone – calm and comforting, when I recounted the incident to my wife shortly after…how many husbands can identify with that?)
Within an hour, Angie and I were at her school, with the spare pair of glasses in hand. Before Angie darted out of the car, I reminded her to stay calm. Don’t over-react, refrain from scolding. Let’s wait for the teacher to furnish us with a proper account.
True enough, Dana cried buckets when she saw her Mommy (and our daughter is not the sort who whines or cries easily). In those few minutes when the teacher brought her down, the wife took my advice – gave her a great hug and assured her we are not upset with her before sending her back to class to continue the rest of her school day.
Now with a few more facts in mind, we had even more questions, “How did it happened?” “Who did it?” “Did anyone witness it?” The list went on…
“Whatever happened, it has happened”, I told the wife. “What is more important now is to tell the daughter that we are here for her. When she’s home, we can teach her how to prevent such accidents from happening again and how to respond properly in future…”. I found myself giving these sagely advice as we drove away from the school.
I’ve always believed that the school is a microcosm of the society at large. And it is in this environment that we thrust our young kids into. It is in this environment that they will grow into young adults. But it is a ‘crazy’ environment. One filled with numerous unpredictability and unknown variables that no parent can possible prepare our young broods for…except, when they come home to us.
While we may not be able to control what happens in school, we can certainly manage what happens within the home where the locus of control lies primarily with us. By doing so, we can steer and manage, and help our children respond and react properly to situations but most importantly, guide them to process their thoughts and feelings. As parents, we can provide a safe environment where they, amidst the nasty people and situations they may encounter in their day, can find calm and comfort, without fear of rejection, condemnation or punishment.
Even if our children are the ones who had made a lapse in judgement or committed an offence, and need to be corrected, they need to know that at home, it would be done with love. They need the assurance that no matter what happens to them in school (or in the crazy world outside), the home is the safe shelter where they can always come back to. It takes more than just providing a physically clean and comfortable home. It takes real hard work to create such a loving environment – investing in time, in conversations and in building up that trust before any storms arise.
This experience came earlier than I had anticipated – at an early part of the Primary 2 year and it had been more of a lesson for me, than for her. The realisation that my kid eventually have to face situations outside of home that may be potentially hurtful and confusing, without us by their side to shield and protect them. Whatever it may be, these are opportunities that would mould their character and form their system of beliefs and values. As parents, we play a large part in modelling how we ourselves react to unforeseen situations in the lives of our kids and our family.
Ultimately, remember that whatever that is broken can be repaired or replaced but those moments that we shine brightest potentially as parents, may not resurface again. So if you find yourselves in similar predicament, suspend judgment, offer comfort and give assurance. Stay calm and tell them that whatever happens, they can always run to the arms of Mommy & Daddy.