A Tree Falls In Brooklyn

There’s been a bit of a flap at my daughter’s school lately. Some of the kids are having trouble in one particular subject, and some of the parents are having trouble communicating with the teacher of that one particular subject. This is a small school – just 18 kids in the class – and at the monthly parent meetings, we bring stuff like this up, and invariably, one parent turns to the other parents and says

“But my kid isn’t having that problem.”

Your kid doesn’t have any allergies. Your kid is able to effectively organize their time without reminders. Your kid is willing to call all his/her relatives and guilt them into buying stuff for a fundraiser. Your kid was not injured during the last hike. Your kid is perfect and your kid is never the bottleneck or the problem. Good for your kid.

But somebody else’s kid is. And not just somebody else’s kid, but likely more than one somebody else’s kid. And when your entire contribution to the discussion is “my kid isn’t having that problem,” you’re effectively saying “since it’s not happening to me, there is no problem.” They are not there to hear the tree fall, so it couldn’t have made any noise.

To be blunt, that attitude is at the heart of what’s going wrong in this country. “I’m not having a problem, therefore no problem exists.” It allows people to believe that anyone who is having a problem has brought it on themselves. Meanwhile, institutional racism, misogyny, income inequality run rampant. But people think to themselves “it’s not happening to me, so it’s not a problem.”

But I have a friend. Another mom in my kid’s class. Her kid isn’t allergic to anything. She does have some problem in some of her classes, and she could be a little more organized, but her mother keeps her on top of things. And her mother also sees that she’s not the only kid in the world. That her kid is part of a class, of a school, of a town, of an area and that other people’s problems matter. She’s always got “a friend” who needs something – who’s out of work, who’s sick, who’s alone in a crisis, and she’s always working to fix it. This woman has a husband who makes a great living, she’s got a big, gorgeous house and a lovely daughter and goes to Italy or for ski weekends, etc. This woman is in a perfect position to say “I’m not having a problem, therefore there is no problem.” Except that she’s not that kind of person.

Thank God that someone, somewhere is not that kind of person. We need many more of not that kind of person.

5 responses

  1. My favorite part is where Ms., “my kid doesn’t have a problem,” not only pretends the problem doesn’t exist but also pretends that anyone who is talking about the problem doesn’t exist. Her world has hardly any people in it at all!

  2. Cheers to you, sister! So spot on…it’s bizarre that there is always one (or more) parents like this in any given classroom…like an unspoken ignoramus jerk quota 😛 Thankfully, there are parents like you, and the friend you mentioned who usually make up the sane majority. I agree that this “us/mine” and “them/theirs” attitude is a major issue in most countries, and that seeing it manifest itself in a school setting (where kids should be learning to empathize etc.) can be awfully disheartening…that said, it seems that just when my optimism’s in the crapper, I come upon a fellow mom who feels just like I do, and I realize, there really are a whole lot of us who care about everybody’s kids, since their own kid(s) are a part of the larger, precious whole. Excellent post…thanks!

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