Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Defensive Much?

It's a good thing I am not often the direct recipient of criticism, no matter how light. I just can't seem to handle it well.

Sean has had a cold. Not a big one, just a runny nose and slight cough. On Monday, I sent him to school, since his symptoms were mild and his demeanor not otherwise affected. Little did I know that the mere act of arriving in his classroom would trigger a deluge of mucus that apparently lasted the entire morning.

When I picked him up, both his teacher and the assistant told me, with much dramatic reenactment, that Sean's nose had been running profusely and that he wouldn't use a tissue to wipe it all up. I kind of joked in response about teaching Sean good tissue habits. End of story, or so I thought.

Today at dropoff the teacher and the assistant both asked Sean if he was feeling better. When I explained that I thought he was okay and that his nose didn't seem to be running, I was treated to yet another lengthy description of The Mucus That Wouldn't Quit. Augmented by a casual "We like the kids to stay home when that happens so that the other kids don't get sick."

What did I hear instead? "You suck as a parent and you are so short-sighted that you didn't give a thought about the immune systems of the other children." As if I have nothing else important to occupy my brain, I spent the rest of the morning stewing over the criticism and wondering whether it was valid. I wouldn't have sent Sean to school on Monday if I thought that he would be spreading his rhinovirus about like Valentine's Day cards. His symptoms really weren't that bad when we had packed up to go to school that day. When directly, albeit cordially, confronted about this, however, I felt that protesting my innocence would have sounded defensive. So I just nodded and smiled and said "Of course, of course."

All of the teacher's concerns were perfectly reasonable, especially in the interest of ensuring good public health. Why, then, did I immediately feel my face flush as if I were a student being reprimanded by the principal? And why have I wasted so much time, and now blog space, dwelling on such a minor exchange? Is it my massive inferiority parenting complex? My wimpiness in general?

I guess I need to stiffen up, for I'm sure there are far bigger battles awaiting me as my children get older.