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The Mother Bear Instinct--Why We Need to Protect Our Kids
Swans and Cygnets

My girls and I took a walk last week on a particularly windy day by the waterfront. The water was incredibly choppy. But just a little ways out from shore swam two swans, right near a rocky barrier, with their little babies, only a few days old, huddled up on a rock. They were protecting their babies from the wind by staying near the rocks that were breaking the waves. Great parents!

Isn't that a parent's first instinct: to protect their children? I thought about that when I heard about this news story. It's a heartbreaking one. In Milwaukee, a mother is complaining because her 4-year-old daughter is repeatedly being attacked on a school bus. She comes home with bruises. Two pairs of glasses have already been broken this year.

She complained to the school, but they did nothing except to blame the fight on a 4-year-old girl. So she called the local news station, who sent a cameraman out to follow the bus on two different days, and caught on tape kids running out of seats, punching each other, and in general causing tremendous chaos.

Read the story (and watch the video) here.

Yet one thing in the story really struck me.

Ms. Edwards says, “My main concern is for her to go to school and learn and be safe”.

As the bus pulls away we follow it. Watching and waiting to see what happens. Back at home the girl’s mother is fighting back tears she says she can’t believe her daughter has to go through this every day.

Edwards adds, “She continues to get hurt. Why? That hurts as a parent”.

Why is a 4-year-old getting on a schoolbus everyday where she is getting bullied?

Now I don't want to turn this post into a haranguing of the mother. As far as I'm concerned, she's the best parent in this story. She at least contacted the school and the school board repeatedly, and then contacted the news agency. It doesn't seem as if any of the other parents have done anything (since the school board said they have had no other complaints about that bus). So here is a mom who obviously loves her child. Pictures of the girl are all over her house, which is nicely kept. This is a good mom.

But even good parents can be caught up to reflexively do what everybody does--namely, put your child on a school bus. That's what we do to get our kids to school, and we start to feel like we don't have a choice because that's what everybody does.

You do have a choice. Perhaps this woman has fewer choices than many, because it looks as if she is a single mom. Maybe she has no other way of getting her child to school and still make it to work; I don't know. It's just another heartbreaking example of why we need two parents.

But you are the parent. You don't have to make your child go through a horrid situation at school just because "that's what everybody does", or "it's inevitable." You can pull your child out of school and raise a huge fuss to get them into a different school (it looks like that's what this mom is trying to do by contacting the news agency).

You can drive them to school yourself, or volunteer to be the school bus monitor. Or, in desperate straits, you can homeschool. Now whenever I mention homeschooling people get upset at me because they can't for whatever reason, but it is a valid option. We've been homeschooling since Becca was in grade 1, and you can remove your children from the school system. I had one friend who took her child out of grade 2 for six months just to teach her how to read, and then put her back in once she learned. The school hadn't taught her properly, and her confidence was faltering. So she bought Hooked on Phonics, worked through it with her, and all was well.

You don't have to put up with the things that school does. You don't have to put your child in sex ed, for instance. If the school says it's mandatory and you can't get out of it, don't make a fuss. Just schedule all their doctors and dentists appointments for those particular times.

If your child's school is holding a dance for grade 5, your child does not have to go. If your children's grade 8 class is having a coed sleepover to celebrate the end of the year, you don't have to let your child go.

We do have choices. We do not have to reflexively just do what everybody else is doing, and think that "this is just terrible, but what other choice is there?"

There is always another choice, and that choice is to just say, "no." "Enough."

Those swans knew how to protect their babies, and we need to learn how to protect our babies, too. So don't go with the waves. Find a buffer, and use it. You're the parent, and it's okay to say, "you're not doing that with my kid."

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At 11:04 AM , Blogger Pickle said…

So true. I hate how it seems that parents don't think they have the right to protect their children anymore. For some reason we feel forced to trust someone else to our children's safety because we are not good enough to do it ourselves.


At 11:27 AM , Blogger Nylse said…

smart...very smart - esp the part about scheduling doctor's appointments.
as parents we always have a choice.
i can't speak about the milwaukee mom and her 4 yr old...


At 11:56 AM , Blogger Renee said…

Excellent post!!!


At 11:59 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

Please remember, we can't all homeschool. It's option for those with a stay-at-home parent, not for a family with 2 working parents or a single parent.

While I think the child certainly should be able to ride the bus without being bullied, if it is occurring, other options should be explored, even if just temporarily.

And I wonder why a 4 year old is going to school in the first place.....

Nurse Bee


At 12:48 PM , Blogger Nylse said…

ok...i've watched the are my thoughts - 1.the school district is turning a blind eye to what is happening on the school bus. 2. if that 4 yr old has to ride the bus, the mother should teach her how to fight back. 3. i really wonder how this was resolved? 4. four may be too young but i dont think this mother has a choice. 5. if it were me, I would've riden on the bus one morning to set those children straight. 6. the mother has the wherewithal to call the news station (not your traditional recourse), i wonder if she tried anything else. 7. in this situation somehow i dont think homeschooling is an option.


At 2:33 PM , Blogger Iva said…

As a future teacher who has homeschooled her children in the past, I say yes, we do have choices. Sometimes, the only choice is to fight back.

Bullying is a huge pet peeve of mine. My son has been bullied for two years in middle school despite me going to his teachers and the principal. They didn't handle it in a way that I felt satisfied (I almost wish my son would have hit this student - he would not have gotten in trouble from me or his father). This last year of middle school, he will be going to a virtual school. I've used their curriculum in the past and I really think it's the best choice for my son.

However, I still have a daughter in public school. It's all about choice and what is right for your child.


At 2:53 PM , Blogger Sheila said…

Hi, everybody! Thanks for your comments.

Nurse Bee, I know not everybody can homeschool, and I don't think that this is an option for this woman. But it is for some, like my friend who just homeschooled for six months to get her daughter over a hump. I'm just saying that for many it is an option, but we forget that it's possible to take your child out of a difficult situation.

My impression is that this mom had complained repeatedly to the school and to the school board, but nothing was being done, so she called the news. I actually think that's pretty inventive and takes a lot of motivation, so good for her. I just wish she didn't have to make her daughter ride the bus!


At 4:36 PM , Blogger Susie said…

GREAT post!!!
It is so true that we have many options- not just homeschooling. And yet, so many parents seem to be blind to the options or that it is even their right to choose.
I love planning the drs. apptmts on days of sex ed! That is brilliant. Yet, it requires knowing what is going on ahead of time and being pretty proactive. I'm not sure I'd be that organized.

Anyway... all very well said, Sheila! :)


At 9:57 PM , Anonymous Heather said…

I was thinking the same point you illustrated - why is this 4 yr old still on the bus? I don't know of any place where school is required for a child that age. I agree whole-heartedly, that parents always have choice. It may not be an easy or pleasant one, but there's always a choice. Greta post, Sheila.


At 10:28 PM , Blogger Herding Grasshoppers said…

I think the most important thing here - as you've said - is to remember our responsibility.

My kids are MY responsibility. If I delegate part of that job to the school district (or the Sunday School, or whatever), I am still responsible for my kids. And I don't have to go along with what everybody else is doing.

And what on earth is a four year old doing on a school bus?????

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About Me

Name: Sheila

Home: Belleville, Ontario, Canada

About Me: I'm a Christian author of a bunch of books, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences. Best of all, I love homeschooling my daughters, Rebecca and Katie. And I love to knit. Preferably simultaneously.

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