Edit: Just found out that this post was featured on BlogHer, see the post over there here.
I ran across an interesting blog entry today called Empowering Our Children Through Disappointment which was telling the story about a recent news story about how a school had cancelled a father/daughter dance because a single mother in the community complained because her daughter didn’t have a father to attend the dance with and posed the following question:
Are we creating survivors of our children—are we empowering them to overcome the hardships they may face in life—or are we coddling them against things that might sting a little at the time, but will ultimately teach them valuable lessons?
I felt myself torn.
On the one hand, I agreed with her and most of the comments that followed that it seemed unfair that one parent’s complaint could ruin an entire event that might be fun for everyone else. I thought it was quite a valid suggestion that perhaps the school could have suggested that the daughter bring another male role model from her life… maybe an uncle or grandfather or family friend.
I agreed with the point that life isn’t fair. That sometimes things happen in life and you’re going to feel left out or put in a situation where you’re made to feel weird or different.
Then I thought of my partner and how one day his dad up and decided that he didn’t want to be a father anymore and told him never to contact him again. He was 11. He hasn’t spoken to him since. That’s not fair.
Then I thought of a story I was told by the woman who was my first grade teacher (she and my mom are good friends) where she was teaching a unit to her first grade class about family, and after the first day one of the little boys in her class was sobbing.
“Why are you crying?” she asked him.
He told her through his sobs, “Because I don’t have a family!”
Taken aback, she asked, “What do you mean you don’t have a family?”
He explained that he lived with his Grandma and Grandpa. He had drawn the erroneous conclusion that he must not have a family because they’d only talked about mommies and daddies that day. She had to explain to him that just because his family didn’t have a mommy or a daddy didn’t mean it wasn’t a family.
Then I thought of that cute guy in Iowa that I can’t remember his name but he’s all YouTube famous from testifying in front of his state legislature about his wonderful loving two moms that should be able to marry.
Then I thought of all the kids who’ve lost a parent in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Then I thought of all the kids who’ve lost a parent to cancer.
And I know what you’re thinking… What does your boyfriend and that little boy and a guy with lesbian parents and a bunch of nameless faceless kids with dead dads have to do with a father/daughter dance?
Well, I’ll tell you what. You could slide that girl into any of those situations and have a kid who’s in pretty considerable emotional pain who might need some extra encouragement to want to attend something called a “father/daughter” dance because she might not want to draw attention to the fact that her family isn’t one that has a mom and a dad. Maybe this child needs to know that her family isn’t less of a family than anybody else’s family.
I felt that the blame fell on the school. Why did the event need to be cancelled? It could have just as easily been expanded to be a dance for young ladies celebrate any roll model in their life. Why did it necessarily have to be their father? Why did it even necessarily need to be a male role model? And then I wondered… Why aren’t the boys in this community being invited? Don’t they have families too?
That’s when I asked Google. Obviously, I was missing some details.
Apparently, this was a little more political than just a single mother filing a complaint with the office and the school rolling over and saying “Oh, you don’t like it? We’ll cancel it for you.” She had the ACLU backing her and she was taking on a long-standing tradition in Cranston, RI of a father-daughter dance and a mother-son baseball game. They make a case that these events are gender discriminatory. Maybe sons might want to play baseball with their dads. Maybe moms might want to go to a dance with their daughter. Maybe sons might want to dance with their moms. Maybe daughters might want to dance with their grandfather. So on and so forth…
I almost don’t want to link to a news article because as one might expect, since the ACLU is involved… They’re all a little more than sensational. This one seemed a little less bad than the others.
So, maybe mom didn’t humbly voice her concerns and came in with guns blazing or maybe she did originally and got ignored and that’s why she involved the ACLU, that’s an unknown… Maybe that sends a message that she didn’t want to play nice and wanted to ruin eveybody’s fun, but I honestly don’t think that’s the case…. It to me sounded more like she wanted to ensure that everybody who’s a part of this school’s community felt included AND got to attend the event that they were the most interested in.
She wasn’t trying to destroy a tradition, she was trying to make a tradition better. It seems pretty obvious to me that these events were probably originally begun in the spirit of celebrating family, and I don’t think the changes that the lawsuit proposed were detrimental to the spirit of these events.
The mistake, at least in my eyes, was made when the school district just decided to take their ball and go home. What message does THAT send to our kids? That if someone challenges the status quo to make something better and so that more people can participate without feeling like they’re an accepted member of the community that it’s okay to just walk away and say, “Okay fine then, we won’t play cause we can’t do it our way!” I think that sends a way more selfish message.
And I dunno… maybe it’s just me… but the whole thing made me think about this guy named Jesus who I read about in this book called the Bible who was really good about making people who normally felt like they were being excluded from stuff because they were different somehow feel included in whatever was going on. I mean, sure… I doubt Jesus would have enlisted the help of the ACLU if he was a resident of Cranston but I think he would have wanted everyone to have felt like they had a place and were included. Maybe that’s something that the residents of Cranston and the school district there could aspire to. I know if I lived in that community, that’s what I’d want.