The Story of a Polite Child

‘How do you say that about a 2-year-old?’ Amid scandal, parents reckon with the politics of shame

I watched my 4-year-old’s body language with interest over the past five minutes as she was being ushered into a doctor’s surgery. A middle school teacher was showing her a video about being polite. No matter how hard I tried, I could not look at her.

‘I’m sorry,’ I blurted out to the doctor, whose smile betrayed surprise and who began to explain the video.

‘This is nice of you. I think you should take a look at her.’

I turned the television on my daughter and made her stand so she could watch. I tried to make eye contact and hold her hands, as we do as a family.

In a few minutes, however, I stopped trying to look at her. I walked in my bedroom and switched on the telly. Before I watched a programme about my own life, I had to watch a programme about my daughter’s.

I had been surprised earlier that morning when my husband told me that he was taking our son to the doctor after I suggested he check his teeth. I told him that I had been worried about his teeth and asked him to visit a specialist about them. He said he would.

I felt irritated that he had had this talk and not taken my concerns seriously. Now I saw why he had kept his mouth shut.

My husband had just told me that my daughter would be the first child to be called for a cheek swab at nursery. I didn’t know that it was because a school nurse had overheard our conversation and reported it to the Department of Education. When I confronted him, he claimed the story was about his wife’s job. I knew by this time that his wife was a school nurse and that his work for the Department of Education had paid for the clinic appointment.

Our son was then escorted to the surgery, where a female doctor who had just read the school nurse’s reports stood in front of three other doctors in a small room. I could hear muffled conversations from the hallway

Leave a Comment