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I got a call from my 11-year-old son’s school telling me he wet his pants and that I needed to bring him new clothes. When I reached the school, he was sitting in the nurse’s office, crying. I took him home rather than making him change and return to class. On the way home he kept saying it was the teacher’s fault for not letting him go. He says he never wants to go back to school. He’s never done this before. What can I do about this?
You’ve heard from your son. Now talk to the teacher. Because you have not heard the entire story – not by a long shot.
Find out how long the teacher made the child sit without allowing the bathroom break and ask about the boy’s attitude while asking to be excused. I have no idea what happened in that classroom. But here are two legitimate possibilities, illustrating different people at fault.
- Your son guzzled water at lunch, then goofed around, procrastinating while his friends visited the bathroom. He then asked for a bathroom break early in class. Knowing the boy’s penchant for fooling around in class, the teacher said, “You had plenty of time to go during your lunch period,” assuming he was just angling for a few minutes out of the room. In this case, the problem involves your son’s conduct more than the teacher’s actions, and you should advise him to use his time more wisely.
- Your son’s classmates were unusually rambunctious that day, giving the teacher a hard time. Just before your son felt the urge to go, the teacher clamped down, telling the class to sit down and shut up, no exceptions. Your son asked for an exception, and the teacher said no. In this case, the teacher’s heavy-handedness caused the problem, and he probably owes your son an apology.
While neither of the scenarios I laid out above is likely to be accurate in your son’s case, both are reasonable. I told the stories to illustrate that what your son says and does will make more sense when considered as part of a larger picture. Perhaps more importantly, you won’t know what to do until you understand more about what really happened.
To get the real story, you must talk to the teacher. If you don’t get an answer that makes sense, you may want to take this to the principal. But leave the matter of how far to push the issue up to your son. He is terribly embarrassed, and no matter the cause of the accident, he will have a rough time at school when he returns. If he doesn’t want to make a big deal out of it, then don’t.
By all means, try to comfort your son by letting him know that accidents happen. And once you have an idea of what caused the problem, counsel your son on how to avoid a recurrence. But unfortunately, this is one of those cases when Mom really can’t fix the problem. Encourage the boy and discuss the issue with him if he wishes to. However, the only real cure for this kind of embarrassment is diligence (to prevent the accident from happening again) and the passage of time.
Kids will talk. They always do. But if your son is cool about the situation, doesn’t act defensive, and keeps a low profile, most of the children will eventually move on to other topics. They may always remember, and a few of the jerks (every class has them) will rub your son’s past in his face. But many people have lived down such embarrassment, and your son can do it as well.
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