I mean, after all the fighting to get them through the door in the morning, they come out at night laughing and smiling! And they walk out with their friends, chattering away. And they don't look any different from the other kids meeting up with their parents at the gate, even though those other kids went in looking as happy as when they came out. What's going on?
Can we back-track a moment? Or maybe more than just the one moment, just to make sure we cover everything.
You fight to get your child into school but you don't know why? Come on! This is in the same league as slapping your mother up the side of the head and then wondering why she is in a mood with you. Or behaving like a rabid dog at the checkouts then complaining about the bad attitude of the staff.
You know, you just don't want to know. There is a difference.
Any child who does not want to do something will tell you why. There is likely to be A List:
The other children are mean!
The teachers are mean!
The food is nasty!
The teachers are nasty!
The children are really nasty!
They are all nasty!
They are all mean to me!
I want to be at home!!!
Yes, general statements that any child could make when they're having a rough day. Maybe you discount them because not all the teachers can be mean and you're pretty sure none of them are mean at all. They smile a lot when they see you and they don't seem to be drawing lots to teach your child (yet).
And the kids? All kids can be nasty and mean sometimes. Your own child is not an angel. It's all part of the great school experience, learning to get along with people who don't behave perfectly. It's a part of life, preparing children for the real world where there are also mean people and nasty behaviour.
No, there has to be something specific if your child doesn't like school, right? If only they would tell you what it is, you could fix it. Or tell the teachers and let them fix it.
Well, remember last Thursday at the school gate when your little one pointed at a snub-nosed boy with a cheeky grin and whispered, 'That's Tommy'? You nodded and got on with what you were doing, thinking what a cute kid Tommy was. Did you remember the conversation your child had with you in the car on the way to Jenny's house a few days before? Where they told you about how Tommy liked to wait behind the coat racks next to the playground door and jump out, roaring? Did you listen long enough to hear the roaring was followed by nipping and sometimes kicking?
Yes, I'm sure you did listen, it was just that by the time you'd got round the awful roundabout at the end of Jenny's road and then parked in her L-shaped drive, you'd forgotten all about Tommy. Kids do silly things, don't they, and Tommy is just playing a game. No doubt in a few weeks you'll be having him over for tea.
What about last week when Mrs Montrose told all the children to write about their holidays and your child decided to write about their grandparents' holidays instead because they went to see the white dancing horses in Europe whereas you only went to the little caravan site in Blackpool? Those dancing horses made such a good story! And then it was horrible because Mrs Montrose said your child hadn't listened and it was a good story but it wasn't the right story and there were tears - unfortunately not from Mrs Montrose.
You hear the Reasons Why every time your child tells you things. Or you figure out the reasons when you piece together clues from other parents, children or the teachers themselves. There is always a way to find out why your child doesn't want to go to school. You do not need to resurrect Poirot, you only need to ask the right questions and listen at the right times.
So why does your child pretend to hate school and then come out all happy and smiling and chatting to friends? Because your child actually does hate school and at the end of the day they are super-happy to be leaving the place and are chatting to friends because happiness and relief make you feel so exuberant you will chat to anyone, even people who leave you to face Tommy alone every day.
There is no pretence. The only pretence is in comforting ourselves that school is a preparation for life. It can be, you know. All the best bits are there, like learning to follow instructions and sit still for a long time and get on with absolute ticks who ought to be kept away from the general population.
As for putting up with bullies and pedants? Well, I guess that's some preparation too. I know it prepared me very well for a life lived differently, avoiding normal jobs and trying my utmost not to have to work for other people.
And as for Tommy? He'll probably go really far as he has figured out how to work the system and do just what he likes without ever being pulled up on it. Good for Tommy, eh? Bet he doesn't pretend to hate school.
©Amanda J Harrington 2014
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