Refuse. Resist. Rebuild.
So I was watching ‘The Bachelor’ and the producers had organised photos and memorabilia from each of the girls’ lives to show the bachelor. I turned to my partner and said “gee, they are kinda taking a bit of a risk here- presuming that everyone has this normal previous life in which they would want to display. What if the girl was like ‘Umm… I lived in and out of foster care until I was 18 and I have no photos or mementos from my childhood’ or ‘My family abused me and I ran away’ or ‘I used to be a drug addict’?”
The next day, I was reading on an early childhood Facebook page about sending home ‘family weekend sheets’ for families to write on there what they did over the weekend. The educators had the intention of ‘following up on those interests’ and ‘getting family input into the program’. Fair enough.
But then I think about the children I have taught who have been physically abused by a parent; who have watched their dad beating up their mum; who have been sexually abused; who live with a family member with a mental ‘illness’; who have had the incredible devastation of a parent passing away unexpectedly; who have lived the quiet sadness of being neglected and I think what would be written on their ‘weekend sheet’?
Do we send home these sheets expecting the normal representations of childhood- I went to the park, I played with my sister, we ate fish and chips at the beach?
Do we send them home, pretending we are Jonathon Silin, and invite the ‘other’ representations of childhood? (Jonathon Silin wrote extensively in the 80s about early childhood and AIDS; not pretending that children are innocent beings who only do ‘child’ things. He writes profoundly of these ideas in his book “Sex, Death and the Education of Children: Our Passion for Ignorance in the Age of AIDS”.)
I think sometimes the ‘family weekend sheets’ might marginalise the families who do not have ‘normal’ lives. I think we send them home with particular expectations of what should be returned. Do families understand what we are expecting to receive? Does this pass judgement on what childhood ‘should’ look like and damn anyone who does not or cannot conform? And then what happens when we get other sorts of representations we don’t expect? What if a child and their family created the following ‘weekend sheet’:
“Me and my mum painted posters about Invasion Day and made a banner for our car.”
“I marched at Slut Walk with my dad. Everyone was saying you can’t touch someone if they don’t like it.”
“I watched movies with my big brothers. We watched ‘Saw’ and it was really scary, but I wasn’t scared.”
Would we ‘follow up these interests’ in the way we intend to follow up playing at the park or going to the zoo or having lunch at Grandma’s house?
So I wonder…
What are we actually asking families to share with us?
Do we do this with the expectation that families have normative lives?
Why do we want to see the representations of their weekend lives?
What are we going to do with all this information?
Are we committed to following up the unexpected, perhaps controversial, interests?
Are we prepared to understand that not everyone has a home life they want to represent and share?
Do we respect a family’s right to not share their every moment of life with us?
(Do we tell families what we do every weekend?)
© Awilda Longstocking 2014
Anarchy & the EYLF Pirates