Abby is the oldest of my five children. She was and still is kind, funny and sensitive. She wasn't a rule breaker or misbehaver at all. She was and still is a delightful and considerate person. At preschool the teachers and staff adored Abby and she adored them, especially her teacher. She was shiny and lively and would often burst out in song like a happy Disney movie in real life, the whole class would join in and she brought a sweet unfettered joy to the school. Every day I would be met by the teacher with a story of how Abby was kind or made everyone happy with her skippiness.
Until one day, I was pulled into the Director's office and then heard the words that parents dread ...."we had a little problem today with Abby"....As I listened she rolled out the story of the "incident".... It seems that the staff had attended a conference the previous weekend where they discussed among other things, the way to handle what we all call Tattling. You know, when kids tell on other kids for small things, it's annoying and everywhere in a preschool and early school setting. The conference (taught by Puritans as far as I could tell) suggested that when kids were Tattling, that way to handle it was to pin a "tattle tail" on the offender. Much like Pin the Tail on the Donkey. The intention was to humiliate the kids into keeping quiet. Yes, humiliation as a technique, why not just put them in stocks in the middle of the playground and throw fruit at the little tattlers?
Abby it seemed had been a victim of our neighborhood bully (who also attended the preschool) ...(trust me, he was a jerk in the making, I can say this with confidence because he lived on our block and rode his bike past our house to yell things at my kids daily, I already didn't care for the pisshead) He had been tormenting her at school as well. So on this particular day after the Humiliation as a means for controlling students Seminar, Abby was again being followed and taunted by this kid so went to her favorite teacher to get some help with the situation. But instead of receiving any help, my sensitive daughter who was until that moment the bright light of the pre-school was pulled into the office and told she was now considered a "Tattle Tale" and her punishment would be to wear a long piece of cloth pinned to the back of her dress, a tail for a Tattle teller. My girl fell to pieces, terrified, humiliated and betrayed. She became hysterical, distraught and begged for them to call me. The director saw how upset Abby was but instead of backing down, she brought in Abby's favorite teacher to force the punishment on her and pin the tail to her. It took 2 grown women over an hour to stop her sobs and get her calmed down. And at the end of it, they put that tail on my girl's dress and sent her out to the playground. Betrayed by the people she had counted on to protect her.
And then that sweet sensitive girl did a brave thing. She curled that tail into a ball and sat on it. She wouldn't budge from where she was. She couldn't stop them from doing their cowardly act and she was far from defiant, she just got super creative and didn't let them humiliate her in front of the whole school.
I know that the director was expecting me to jump on board their crazy train idea but that didn't happen either. I let them know that they should be ashamed of using humiliation as a tactic, I told them that if ever a child of mine required 2 adults to calm her down for over an hour, they had better make a call to me. And I told them they had no business being around children. I wrote a letter to the newspaper which was printed and one to the Licensing Board for preschools in California and that preschool was investigated and closed for multiple violations including the use of what was deemed to Corporal Punishment as it seems the Tattle Tail was much like the Dunce Cap not allowed in preschools...Thank goodness..
In every brave act there is a lesson and this one has stuck with me. Abby is a grown up bright light, she has a strong sense of what is right in this world and remains one of the kindest and most considerate people I know. She is raising a couple of bright light boys which is good news for this world. What I learned from my girl and her brave act is that you always always have some power in any situation, even if you are 5 or 57. She didn't let the bully win, she didn't let the adult bullies win. She was braver and smarter than they were. It's taken me many more years to get this than it took Abby but lately I have thought about what courage it took to say "enough." ...Brave Acts every single day..... That's the deal, be brave because you don't have to wear the tail people pin on your dress....