Usually, Thanksgiving is a happy day because the family is together. But that was before my husband’s passing. His birthday was November 28, and it often fell on Thanksgiving. Even though he has been passed away for a long time, it is still hard for us to celebrate Thanksgiving, especially my youngest daughter, who happens to be born on the same date as her father.
I was careful last year to try to cheer her up and avoid anything that would remind her of her father. At Thanksgiving dinner, I suggest that each of us say something about the past year that deserves our gratitude to our family members. It went very well, but it was her turn to share her appreciation. She spoke for only a minute and then burst into tears. It took her a long time to stop crying and say her thanks.
The day after Thanksgiving, we had lunch and dinner parties to celebrate her birthday. I noticed how hard she tried to look happy in front of us, but her swollen eyes told me she must have cried the night before. This was the first time, after all these years, I felt I should help her. What could I do? I can’t raise her father from the dead. I can’t change her birthday. The worst part is that every birthday she remembers her dad, who shared her birthday with her. How could she not be sad! I am usually very helpful and encouraging, but I have no idea what to do about my daughter’s unhappy birthday. I kept thinking about how I could help her. All of a sudden, I was reminded of a little girl I had seen crying on the street, hopelessly waiting for me to pick her up.
Ring-ring-ring! The telephone rang, but it sounded unusually urgent. I picked up the phone, and the principal of my daughter’s school was on the other line. He introduced himself. He sounded so cold, and right away, my heart dropped. Continuing, he told me that my daughter broke school rules and that she would be stripped of her captaincy on the cheer team. He wanted me to pick her up. I was so shocked. How could it be? She was such a good girl; why would she receive such a horrible punishment? With all the questions in my head, I rushed to her school.
There, I saw a little girl standing there, shaking and crying. I couldn’t believe that this was the same happy girl I brought to school three hours ago. Where was that happy girl? When I opened the door for her to get into the car, I couldn’t help but cry. She continued to cry as she got into the car; in between crying and talking, she explained to me what had happened. She and a friend, Eric, were student representatives monitoring the lunch door, and only seniors could go off campus for lunch. There was a junior, and all of his friends were seniors. He begged my daughter and Eric to let him through so he could eat lunch with his friends. Seeing his sadness, my daughter and Eric tried to help him. They wrote him a pass to go off campus, but the boy was caught. My daughter and Eric were called to the principal’s office, and Eric shifted all the responsibility to her. The principal made the decision, without discussing it with administrators and counselors, and gave her the most severe punishment: he removed her title on the cheer team.
I remember that Friday afternoon. After listening to what had transpired, I was quite upset. I called the principal to make an appointment with him, administrators, and counselors on the following Monday. Of course, I would not give in to or accept this unfair decision made by the principal alone.
On Saturday morning, we drove the car to the church mountain. While my husband was driving, I closed my eyes, and I had no idea how I could help my daughter. Not only did I have no idea what I could do, but I also had no idea how I could do it. Somehow, I felt that I needed to connect to the high divinity, to a higher power. All of a sudden, an apparition appeared in front of me like a TV screen. I saw scene after scene about how we worked hard back and forth, countless times, I took her out of school early and drove her for two and a half hours to receive a special training. She then won the competition one after another and finally got her dream position as a cheer captain.
After seeing those scenes, I was enlightened. I knew how to handle Monday’s meeting. Right before I entered the principal’s office, I saw the sign: “Home of the Children.” I couldn’t help but smile, and I looked up to the sky. I said, “I understand now. I know how to fight this battle.”
They were surprised to see that I was coming alone (my husband was busy at that time.) and that the principal was defiant and seemed proud of his decision. I didn’t waste any time asking almost immediately for their explanation after thanking them for meeting with me. The school calls itself the “Home of the Children.” As a family, the principal, counselors, administrators, and teachers should be the parents of the family. They didn’t know why I started like this, but they couldn’t say no, so I went on and said, “Kids do make mistakes at home because that’s how they grow up. They learn from their mistakes. As a parent, you can only guide them and let them learn from mistakes and learn what is right and what is wrong. The relationship between parents and children is love. You have to guide them through love. Of course, you can punish them, but that should be after the communication with the child, find out the cause of the problem, and understand why he or she did so, you then know how to guide your kid. I’m sorry to tell you that I don’t see the love that parents give to their children in your house, and I only know that you can’t wait to deliver the most severe punishment to your kid without giving her the chance to explain to you. Let alone to give yourself time to counsel with an administrator and student counselor.
The principal felt attacked and he said that my daughter shouldn’t have allowed the junior student to go out for lunch. I asked him, “Do you know why?” He couldn’t answer. I explained to him, “It all comes down to the compassion my daughter holds for her classmates. She sympathized that he didn’t have that many chances to have lunch with his senior friends. Maybe at that moment, my daughter’s emotion overwhelmed her, and she allowed him to go out. She knows now that it is wrong, and she has asked for forgiveness. She has gone through so much already, psychologically, and physically. She couldn’t eat nor sleep, she kept crying, and she got a stomachache. Isn’t this punishment enough? The school is an educational organization. The purpose is to teach and guide students on the right path with love. Give them a chance to correct their mistakes. Besides, those who commit crimes in adult society have the opportunity to plead before being sentenced.”
My daughter was a junior at the time. She wasn’t even an adult, but when she made a mistake in school, she was treated less than an adult. All she got was the judgment and punishment once she was called into the principal’s office. I know my daughter well. She is very friendly and always wants to help others. She often went to teachers’ offices, asking if they needed help. Can you imagine a junior begging and pleading to her about how he would no longer have any chances to have lunch with his friends? So she gave him the pass because she understood how he felt. She didn’t gain anything from letting him out. She made this mistake for being kind and loving. Didn’t you think of that?
For the last few years, I tried my best to arrange my time, and my daughter worked so hard for her dream so that she could receive her position. I couldn’t help but cry up on that church mountain after watching that apparition. I spent many years building her to become a leader. But it was all destroyed within several minutes with an innocent mistake. With the rash decision made by the principal, her dreams were crushed. The worse part was that she lost her confidence in herself and helping others through love. This was such an unjust punishment. Where was the love of the school towards students? Where was the love of the teachers towards the kids? Where was the love in this family of children?
To be continued…