Sunday, July 9, 2017

I remember they lied

In 5th grade, my teacher one day told all the boys that our girls' PE teacher was sick and that the boys needed to leave the room so she could talk to the girls about it.

Once all the boys left, she passed out permission slips to the girls to see a movie about menstruation.

To this day, the thing that I remember about that whole event is that my fifth grade teacher lied to get the boys out of the room.

This was either 1973 or 1974.  I was ten years old.  We weren't that far removed from a time when sex just wasn't discussed publicly, and where certain subjects such as menstruation just weren't talked about unless it was in secret, or in very veiled terms.  My teacher was an older woman; I remember that she had gray hair and she may have been just a little bit older than I am now.  (Which means that she probably wasn't that old. :-) )  I understand that she came from a different generation, a different way of thinking, and she may not have known any other way to get those permission slips passed out. 

But the one question I still have is, "Did she have to lie?"  I mean, surely she could have said, "I need to talk to the girls alone for a minute; you boys need to leave the room."  She didn't have to tell them why she needed to talk to the girls alone.

I thought about this episode while reading about a very tragic event that happened last week in my county.

Five members of the same family, a father and four children, were all stabbed to death in Loganville, Georgia.  The mother was arrested and charged with murder.

Today, I read a story about the neighborhood the family lived in and the reaction to the neighbors to the murder.  A five-year-old girl who lived in the neighborhood was close to one of the children that died. The article quoted a family member that said that they'd decided not to tell the little girl that her friend had died.

Instead, they chose to tell her that her friend had moved.

When I read that, I immediately thought of how adults, in order to shield children from the death of a relative, would often say that the person "went away" or "went off on a long trip," rather than saying, "they died".  But here's the problem with that explanation:  What happens when the person doesn't come back?

And what happens when the child learns the truth?  That the person died?

I believe this family means well.  They're trying to cope with a horrific reality.  

But some day, this little girl is going to learn about what happened to her friend.  She's going to learn that this little girl didn't move.  Instead, she's going to learn that her friend died . . . and she's going to learn that her family lied to her.  

Yes, the neighborhood is going through shock, horror, and every other emotion in the aftermath of this murder.  How in the world do you explain to a five-year-old that your friend has died?  No, it's not necessary to tell this kid all the horrific details.  She doesn't need to know the entire story.

But although I can understand wanting to shield the kid, why lie to her and say she's moved?  

Because eventually, she's going to find out what happened.  Maybe she'll understand why her parents told her that story.  But I also wonder if she'll think, "Why did you lie to me?  And if you lied about this, what else did you lie about?"

In the case of my fifth grade teacher, I'm old enough now to understand some of the nuances that I couldn't understand when I was ten.  Menstruation is a difficult subject to talk about; it's awkward and messy, and finding the correct words to discuss the subject is not easy.  

It's the same with murder.  Murder is much harder to talk about when it's happened in your neighborhood and when you know the people that it happened to.  

The little girl in this story that lost her friend--when she's old enough to understand the entire story, will she remember what I remember about my fifth grade teacher?

Because, even when all is said and done, even when I take into account the subject and the context of the times, what I still remember is that my teacher lied to me.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

1 comment:

  1. I agree about lying. On life issues, you just tell the truth. I kid that it is a Michigan thing. We just put it out there. The first part about the film telling girls what lies ahead for them. I was in Girl Scouts and was invited to our leaders home, with my mom..who didn't go. My friend and I watched the film, her mom said it was true and that was it for us. One of the girls there said that wasn't going to happen to her. She is 71 too and we still kid her about that.