My children can butter their own bread, cut their own fruit, choose what to wear and dress themselves, wash, fold and put away their own clothes, manage their own money and share their views on local and world politics and news. They can walk to sports training and home again, responsibly and independently.
My son can manage his type 1 diabetes all on his own. He knows when he needs to eat, dose insulin, when he feels low, and how to care for his body himself, and manage his life threatening disease, when he does.
He also knows when he needs to go the toilet. He’s known this since age 2. My daughter has been able to do this since age one. They know where the toilet is and how to get there on their own.
They don’t ask permission or announce when they need to go. Yet in school, at ages nine and eleven, they were forced to do both.
And sometimes, they were told no.
I articulated my concern over this, and my daughter’s very real anxiety over this to teachers, and still, she was told no. No, you do not have permission to perform a basic bodily necessity right now.
Why? Because we’re in the middle of something. Because it’s nearly recess time. Because you went half an hour ago. Because too many people are asking to go to the toilet.
Going to the toilet is a human right. What rights do adults have to deprive children of these?
If my very capable children had stayed at school into their teens, they would have no doubt been sixteen year olds, raising their hands to ask permission to perform a basic bodily function, to be allowed a basic human right. They would have gone through the very vulnerable change to adolescence suffering the indignity of having to raise their hand about a personal matter that they had under control before they could properly speak.
They would have spent the whole of their school lives ‘holding on’ to avoid the humiliation of talking about their bodily functions in a room full of their peers, and the humiliation and indignation of possibly being told no. No, you do not have permission to own your body right now.
As my daughter did while she was still at school, she might have faced the whole of her school life with a fear of needing to go to the toilet.
Where is the physical or emotional health in that?
A little bit of dignity please!
A little bit of respect for children’s capabilities.
These include climbing mountains, looking after themselves, oh, and knowing when they need to pee.
They were afforded this dignity at Montessori kindy. There was no asking permission to take care of their bodies’ needs to eat, drink water, blow their own nose, rest or pee. It was acknowledged that children can do things for themselves.
Children are not second rate citizens who must reach a certain age before they are ‘permitted’ to be comfortable or respected. If parents denied their children the right to go to the toilet, that would classify as abuse. Why aren’t the same rights afforded to children in schools?
It kills me, this argument that school isn’t ideal, but we don’t live in an ideal world, we live in the real world and children should too. In the real world, in a meeting, or conference, or training day, or university, or at dinner, you respectfully stand up and quietly take yourself to the bathroom, and quietly return.
In the real world you have to think for yourself, do things for yourself and make your own choices.
In the real world you don’t get to take away other peoples rights and it is actually against the law for adults to abuse children.
I’ll take the real world over school, any day.