Vince had eaten something that didn't agree with him, and as a result, he had an accident.
I got a phone call asking me to come for him immediately. Apparently they do not help children wipe themselves, adjust their clothing, and they certainly will not change a child's clothing after an accident.
I was beyond floored. I began to argue, but realized I wouldn't get my point across and didn't want Vince being forced to wait any longer than he had to for help. Sitting by himself in soiled clothing is not only unhygienic, it's embarrassing and upsetting. I told the teacher I'd speak to her and the principal later as I wanted to contact my husband (who was much closer) so he could come for Vince.
After calling John and making him aware of the situation, I got onto the computer and sent the following letter:
Dear Mrs. X and Principal X,
Obviously I'm contacting you regarding your wiping policy. Given I'd written to you this morning about the issue, I'm not altogether surprised it reared its head in this manner after lunch.
However, I'd like to make very clear that I am incredibly disheartened by this policy. As an educator who has been in this situation and changed children ranging from Pre-K through 3rd grade, I am surprised that you don't have some sort of plan in place in the event of an accident- even if that plan is the school nurse, a trusted health care professional.
I understand the basis for your policy. You're worried about legal repercussions should a child claim inappropriate behavior.
However, fear should never be a substantial reason to allow a child to suffer an embarrassing, harmful health situation - and that's exactly what this amounts to.
His bowel movement was an abnormal occurrence precipitated by something that didn't agree with his belly. As such, even if Mrs. X was unable to dedicate time to handle the situation because she had to attend to the class, there was an aid present. If the aid was also wrangling the class (given girls and boys use separate rooms), the nurse can surely be sent for.
But to leave a child for an indefinite amount of time in a soiled state because you're afraid of being sued, especially after I've made every effort to let you know that I do not view you as enemies, but as partners in my son's development, I'm just floored.
I've been in your situations. Both of you. I've been the teacher juggling 20 kids while trying to clean up the one who had an accident, and I've been the principal trying to protect her teacher from any sort of legal worry for being in close proximity to a child's genital area.
I understand FULLY where both of you are coming from. Now please understand where I am coming from.
I know full well that a child's fine motor skills (necessary for properly wiping himself) are not fully functional until they are between 4 and 5 years old. Vincent is not yet four. If you need me to, I can get a letter from his pediatrician. That being said, I expect that should he ever be sick and have an accident like this in the future (which should rarely happen, if it ever happens again at all), he be sent to the nurse's office with his change of clothes.
After all, why else would you request them unless you expected to use them in cases like this?
I am doing everything in my power to make this transition to school possible for Vincent. I am his willing advocate and I will gladly do everything in my power to fall in line with requests you make of me. This, however, has me baffled. You are effectively asking something of my son that is simply physically impossible for him at this point. He's able to use the bathroom and has some ability to wipe himself, but should he have an accident, there is no preschooler that can handle cleaning him or herself up without the help of an adult.
So as I mentioned above, if you need a letter from his pediatrician, I'd be more than happy to comply.
I received an e-mail from his teacher about an hour or so later, and just as I responded to her, I got a call from the principal.
I was spot on with my analysis regarding why they wouldn't touch him, but given the points I made and the obvious willingness I've shown in working together in establishing a partnership with them, the principal agreed to allow the nurse to help Vincent should this problem ever arise again.
However, it was clear that she still expected Vincent to be farther ahead regarding his bathroom capabilities. I'm still surprised by that given all of my experience with children Vince's age (and even older) has set my expectation that kids that age are going to have accidents and will sometimes need help wiping.
Have my experiences just been wildly different from everyone else's? What age were your children able to properly wipe themselves? Button their pants? Tuck in their shirts?
I dunno. I'm glad that his teacher agreed to help him when necessary, and I'm glad the principal agreed to have the nurse could help with this situation in the future, too. I felt like it was finally something I did right for my son. I'm all for challenging him, but setting an expectation so high that he has no chance of touching it seems excessive.
It's all due to these ridiculous laws put in place to "protect" children. All of this fear of pedophiles... we are our own undoing. The sins that we left fester have given us this as our legacy... stupid policies that end up hurting more than they help.
We're able to teach kids to masturbate and use condoms, but we can't help them with basic hygiene. What kind of world are we living in anymore?
God help us.
I love his teacher and his principal. I really do. They are beyond what I could have ever expected for Vince. Observing them only made me love and appreciate them more. They're in my prayers double-time for all the wonderful things they're doing for Vince and all the frustration they're putting up with on account of his difficulty transitioning. But this was just unacceptable to me, and I'm glad it was addressed sooner rather than later.
Really, I'm just glad I finally feel like I did something right for my kid. Seems I've been doing a bang up job of screwing things up lately. It's nice to have a victory every once in a while for him.