Mother’s Day this year has been an interesting time. It’s the first year that it has really been something we’ve had to acknowledge in our household because it is the first year that one of my sons has been in an institution (his school) that decided to create an event around it. Previously they have been at a nursery who tended to do anything (cards etc) on a day when they didn’t attend, avoiding any conflict with our family.
So, an invitation arrived from the school inviting us… oh wait… not us… Addressed to “Mums”…. to their Mother’s Day lunch event. Hmm. Maybe they will let one of us come as there isn’t a Mum. I read further on, “If mum can’t attend” – ah here we go, I thought, I’ll be able to go after all – ” then another female relative can come in her place”. Oh.
“What’s the big deal?” you might be wondering. You’re not a mum, why do you want to go anyway? You’re partially right if you are wondering that, and actually, if I’m 100% honest, I didn’t want to go. I didn’t want to be the sole Dad in a sea of female relations whispering under their breath, wondering what on earth I was doing at the event. But that wasn’t the point.
Being an adopted child Mother’s Day is an emotive time. He doesn’t live with his mum, and when he did it wasn’t a particularly pleasant experience for him, in fact it was an incredibly damaging one. Should he be forced to celebrate her because the school thought that only females should be celebrated on that day? Or, should they have given him the choice to celebrate it with one of his dads, one of the people who took the mantle of mother and nurtured, cared, and looked after him in a way he hadn’t previously experienced?
So, in response to the invitation I wrote a quick note declining the invitation on the basis we hadn’t actually been invited. I also added to the note a brief description on how the school might want to look at the inclusivity of the event in order to properly support children like my son and other adopted or foster children in the school. I also pointed out that according to their “Equality Objective Statement” we should have been invited as they had specifically excluded our family because of its “non-traditional” makeup.
Truth be told, I expected the school to come back with a brief response of “Oh, sorry we hadn’t really thought it through properly, of course you can come to the meal with your son”. But alas, that was not the case.
You might wonder why we didn’t just speak to the school and sorted it out in person. Well… we had already. One of the first things we discussed with the school before my son even started was how things like Mother’s Day needed to be treated sensitively. Not because he had two dads, but because he was adopted. Apparently that had been forgotten when the leadership changed.
In response to my note I got a full page letter in a fairly small font detailing exactly how I was wrong about the school, how it was definitely being inclusive, how it taught the students about non-traditional families (using pictures and books no less), and how we were not welcome to the Mother’s Day meal because we were male. But not to worry because they were also doing a similar event on Father’s Day. Oh, to top it all off it included a non-apology apology “if” I had been offended or upset. Neither of which I had said in my original note – I believe the word I had used was “disappointed”.
I still wasn’t offended or upset, but the cold, patronising tone and contradictory content of the letter made me angry.
I should mention that through this I had posted a couple of statuses on social media about our exclusion from the event – the intent of it was a sort of public eye-roll directed towards the school. I didn’t name the school because at that stage I honestly didn’t want to cause a fuss and I truly believed it was just an oversight. The written response proved that it wasn’t.
I didn’t write back full guns blazing, I didn’t arrange a protest out side the school, I didn’t threaten to sue the school for discriminatory action. All of which was suggested on social media, by well meaning people who wanted nothing more than to support us. I took a different path.
I wrote a long letter firstly expressing to them that I was not upset nor offended, as they had assumed, but that I only had one thing on my mind: The mental well-being of my son. The mental well-being that would be threatened if he were to be forced to celebrate Mother’s Day without the support of his parents. The people who he trusted above any others, who he knew would keep him safe through anything, and above all else knew enough about his history that they were able to answer any questions about his mother that the event might bring up in him. We weren’t allowed because we were male. We weren’t allowed because the school had dismissed the idea that they weren’t being inclusive towards our family.
That meant that they had failed to make “reasonable adjustments” for a child who, by being a previously looked after child, had special educational needs affecting his emotional well-being. As a consequence I told the school that I would be removing my son from school that day to protect him.
I took the letter to the school, I wanted to hand deliver my letter so that I might be able to have a discussion with the leadership team who wrote that response to me. I strode up to the gate, holding my breath, incredible anxiety building in my stomach. There was no one there. I went to the office to pass the letter over, to be told their neither the head nor deputy head were in for the rest of the week – the last few days before the holidays. I was deflated, I knew no one would now read my letter for over a week, way past the deadline for responding to the invitation to the Mother’s Day event which I had still hoped I would be able to go to.
Something happened, my husband (the contact the school has) received a message on his phone telling me that the lead teacher in my son’s year would speak to me about my letter the following (Friday) morning. Luckily that was one of the days I do the school run.
And so I went in, dropped my son off to his classroom and went to find the teacher.
And that is when things really started to happen…
Title Image: unsplash-logoAnnie Spratt