Continued from: The Mother’s Day Exclusion
The teacher was standing on the school gate, apparently the person given the duty usually performed by one of the absent leadership team. I was nervous, so I asked one of the mums who we are friends with to come with me so that I wasn’t a lone voice.
The conversation started like this:
“I’ve been asked to tell you that the school will respond to your letter, but because neither the head nor deputy head are in until after half term it won’t be until then. They didn’t want you to think they were ignoring you.”
Oh. Great. That was it?
My disappointment was extremely visible, and I felt my face drop. My first feeling was that the school clearly weren’t taking me seriously, or that they just couldn’t be bothered to deal with what, to our family at least, was a serious issue.
We were outside and it was raining, but I still wanted to say my piece.
I really didn’t understand what the problem was, I couldn’t understand where this resistance was coming from. I explained everything that I had written in my letter, I said that I had every right to call upon the Equalities Act 2010 which the school is so adamant it follows and supports, but that I didn’t want to go down that route. All I wanted was to support my son, and ensure that he continues to enjoy going to school. That his mental well-being isn’t jeopardised by him being forced to celebrate his Mother who he has no conscious memory of, and if he did it would be one that filled him with fear.
The teacher suggested that it was probably just that the school hadn’t thought it through properly. Yes, that’s what I thought too until I received the letter from the school, clearly stating that I wasn’t welcome to come regardless of the circumstances because I was male. The teacher hadn’t read that letter, only my one.
She continued to listened, she understood, she told me that she had already been trying to convince the leadership team that they were wrong. That she would take everything I’d said and relay it to them to try to get this sorted as soon as possible, but that it was still unlikely to be until after the holidays when they were back in.
It was at this point the mum I had with me asked if this was something that should go to the governors to sort. The teacher agreed that it probably was, and that if I did that then it might sharpen their minds a bit. I hadn’t expected that.
Before we left she assured me that the deadline for responding to the invitation was now irrelevant to us, that it would be ignored so this could be resolved. The rain was coming down, the teacher had stood outside getting soaked listening to, empathising with, and supporting what I was saying.
We left the school and I went to work. The teacher didn’t stop though. Not long after our chat my husband got another call asking us to go in to meet the Chair of Governors who would like to speak to us about the issue that afternoon.
And so in we went. We all introduced ourselves, the teacher was there too which was how we knew she was the one who brought the governors in. Before we even sat down the Chair of Governors said:
“I’ve read your letters and the school’s response, and we owe you an apology. You are more than welcome to come to the Mother’s Day Lunch”.
Relief was fleeting. The next thing was:
“But can you tell us what we should tell the mums if they query why you are there?”
My instant response was to say that the school should never have put itself in the situation in the first place, which wasn’t all that productive as it triggered a bit of defensiveness. But I realised that as soon as I said it so didn’t pursue it any further. We were there to try to create a resolution not to point fingers.
We never did answer that question properly. Instead we tried to give them enough information to answer it themselves. We talked for a good half an hour or more about adoption, about the needs of adopted children and others from different family structures. We explained that not all families can celebrate Mother’s Day in the same way, and that the school had made it difficult.
We asked if the school had any families that had lost the mother through bereavement.
I said I truly hoped that they hadn’t received the same invitation addressed to “Mums”.
“I would like to hope that we know our families well enough not to have done that”. Ha! Clearly not as they sent it to us, a family with no Mum – I didn’t say that, as again it wouldn’t have been productive.
We asked them not to make the same mistake for Father’s Day, to be more inclusive by not excluding women from the event. Ultimately the school had been dictating what its ideals were for these family events, rather than allowing families to decide for themselves. In our case why shouldn’t our son get to decide who he chooses to honour for Mother’s Day?
The meeting went on. We felt like we were truly being listened to. We were asked how they should talk about Mother’s Day to the class, so we gave some pointers on how to handle it sensitively. We were asked if they could consult us on future events to make sure they don’t make the same mistakes, emphasising that they wanted to learn from them but might need guidance. We agreed to do that. I even volunteered to join the governors if they felt that would be appropriate – they seemed to jump at that chance, although I haven’t heard anything since about that.
Mother’s Day Lunch came, I felt incredibly anxious at going as I had heard precisely nothing from the leadership team since our written interactions, but I felt welcomed by most of the staff. I also didn’t notice any mums or female relatives that seemed to have a problem with me being there. I sat on a table with a few mums from my son’s class (including my ally from before!) all of whom talked to me as if I had every right to be there – almost as if they didn’t have any problem at all – and we all had a lovely meal with our children.
It took a huge amount of energy to deal with that, and after the meal I had a migraine for 2 solid days which is how my body tends to react to stress. The school did that to me unnecessarily.
We are hoping to work with the school, to help make it the best version of itself that it can be, they are certainly doing right by our son from an academic point of view, and he loves going. I know that this will not be the last time we have a problem like this, but we’re making ourselves visible. We won’t let them forget that families like ours exist, we are the first they have encountered but, with adoption by same-sex parents becoming more popular and widely promoted, we will not be the last.