Author Topic: I have not the words...UPDATE: Post #132  (Read 14587 times)

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TootsNYC

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Re: I have not the words...
« Reply #60 on: January 03, 2013, 02:28:41 PM »
I think if you wanted to write a note, you could say this:

"Dear other parents:
"I'm so sorry that my daughter's winter-break present was offensive to your family, and that it contributed to a difficult parenting situation for you. She had hoped to express her affection to her friends, and we thought perhaps kids could hang the sparkly snowflake in their windows to catch the winter sunshine and remind them of how much fun snow is.
    "Please return the snowflake as soon as you can, and accept our apologies for unwittingly including your child in our gift giving."

Outdoor Girl

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Re: I have not the words...
« Reply #61 on: January 03, 2013, 02:29:49 PM »
Quote
I recall once being the only class unable to celebrate with a Christmas party before break because there was one Muslim and one Jewish student in it. The other classes had a blast. Those two kids ended up bullied because they "ruined all the fun." It was such a shame.

Why couldn't the class celebrate all three? It seems like a great opportunity to learn about other cultures and holidays.

My Dad did something like this when he was teaching - way back in the 50's.  He was teaching the Christmas story (which was acceptable back then).  One mother came to him and told him that her family was Jewish.  Dad started to sweat a little until she said she was happy for her son to learn about Christianity and asked if it would be OK for her and her son to do a little presentation to the class about Jewish holidays, particularly Hannukah.  Which he happily agreed to.

I am wondering if the overreaction was due to the whole bag of 'stuff', rather than just the snowflake.  But even if it was, it is not appropriate to berate a 6 year old!  Just toss or donate whatever you've received and send a note to the teacher, asking that your child be exempted from the goody bags and any other gift giving.

My wider workplace is very multicultural.  In the last year or so, we get a hub email at the beginning of each month, detailing any 'Days of Significance' for that month.  I've learned a little bit about Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, Buddist, Hindu and other religions and there is always a link if you want to learn more.  I think it is great.

And I just saw TootsNYC's post.  Perfect.
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Poppea

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Re: I have not the words...
« Reply #62 on: January 03, 2013, 02:29:58 PM »
Quote
Hope your sweet DD was not upset by such silliness.

To be honest, I haven't told her yet.  She brought the note home in a sealed envelope.  I read it and did not tell her.

It does pose something of a conundrum for us as we were already planning Valentine's Day stuff.  (I know, I'm crazy, but I hate waiting until last minute.)

We had planned on making MP3 players out of boxes of crayons and Hershey's Kisses for earbuds.  (Here's a link, if you're interested - http://ewspider.wordpress.com/2011/02/11/that-candy-box-mp3-player-thingy-for-valentines-day/).

Now, do I make one for all the classmates excluding one?  That seems hurtful.  Or brave the parents' wrath?  Or what?

Quote
It's a know your audience thing.  Some kids aren't allowed to accept Valentine's cards either.  It should be up to the parent to decide if their kid can accept the gift.  It was a sweet thought, but I just don't think that religious observances have a place in public school - that's why people are in public school and not a parochial school.

In this case, I'd be interested in finding out if the school and/or teacher received a note as well.  All of the children came home with huge holiday bags stamped with Santa Claus and stuffed with Christmas treats (holiday themed coloring books, Christmas candy, small toys, etc).  I think we went out of our way to make the gift as seasonal as possible without tying it to any particular religion.  The Christmas tree has pagan origins, a snowflake is not specific to any religion, and the colors chosen were seasonal for winter as well.  It's not like we handed out tiny creches.

ETA:  I should also mention that we were solicited for contributions to these bags well before the winter break--so I did not see anything wrong in providing an additional small gift from DD.  And I did make sure she gifted everyone so that no one would feel left out.

I'm wondering i the note was addressed to your 6 year old daughter or to you.  If to your daughter, I would be very offended that an adult would send a rant like that to a child rather than addressing it with the parent.

camlan

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Re: I have not the words...
« Reply #63 on: January 03, 2013, 02:37:31 PM »
When I was in the third grade (8 years-old) my public school teacher was the wife of the local Rabbi.  Almost all of the kids in my class were Roman Catholic or members of mainstream Protestant Churches.

  Still, we learned a bit about Judaism.  In December we had a Christmas tree in the classroom but we also had a menorah.  We each received a dreidl and a little mesh bag of Hannukah gelt. We were treated to latkes with applesauce.  The few Jewish kids who already knew about this preferred sour cream.   We also were read stories and were given coloring pages about the Macabees.  The boys especially liked that.  After all,  for a guy kid, heroes are so much more fun than Santa. 

For Purim we made crowns in art class and ate hematashen while we marched around the classroom with noisemakers.  It was almost like Halloween half-way around the year!

This all happened around 1955 when the USA was supposed to be so hide-bound in religious matters.

In later years I asked my mother what other parents thought about this.  She told me that she never
heard a word against it and, indeed, Christian ladies really enjoyed getting the latke recipe.  It goes
 so well with the pork roast, you know.

There is a big difference between sharing fun and proselytizing.  A family may not share the religious
 beliefs of others but learning about them is always a good thing.  It brings people together while being rigid builds up barriers that don't need to be there.

My second grade teacher was Jewish, I think, and she did something very similar, back in the early 60s. We learned a bit about Jewish holidays and spun a dreidl and the like. There were one or two Jewish kids in our class. Honestly, back when I was that little, different religions didn't mean all that much to us kids. We knew other people celebrated other holidays than we did, but no one ever made any kind of a deal about it. Maybe it was growing up on military bases?

Later, while attending a Catholic high school, we spent sophomore year studying different religions--a quarter each on Judaism, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism.
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Eeep!

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Re: I have not the words...
« Reply #64 on: January 03, 2013, 02:42:41 PM »
I must disagree that the parents who were offended were rude.  I belong to a non-Christian religion, and our religious leaders teach us that it is a sin to participate in religious holidays that are not ours.  Even the appearance of participation, such as the acceptance of gifts from those who celebrate Christmas, is considered sinful.  The snowflake ornament would not have even been allowed to come into our homes, also because snowflakes are considered Christmassy.  While the older children are of an age to understand the reasoning behind this, a six year old is not quite there.  Had that been my child, I would have much preferred that no present had been given at all, rather than having to take a pretty, shiny thing away.  While it is nice that your child wanted to give gifts to her classmates, perhaps it would have been nicer to only give gifts to the children who were actually permitted to have them.

That being said, I probably would have said nothing to the teacher, but it would certainly make me rethink any friendships with the children who put my (hypothetical) child in such a position.

While I know that everyone has a right to feel how they feel and there is no inherent rudeness in that feeling, how one responds to those feelings is where any rudeness begins.  So, while I think that if you have a belief system that is outside the general cultural norms of where you live, it is probably a good practice to try not to be offended quite so easily, if you respond in a polite manner, than you are not rude.  However, writing a mean letter to a six year old crosses the line into rudeness for me. An informative letter stating your family's beliefs? That would be fine. But a lecture in response to a kind (if ill-informed) gesture? Not OK. 

And to your final sentence - I respectfully submit that if that is indeed the case, you may find yourself rethinking a lot of friendships, as it is expecting quite a lot of a child to somehow intuit that your child is operating outside the generally accepted cultural norms of your area.  I had a friend in grade school who was a Jehovah's Witness.  As such, she didn't celebrate holidays, her birthday, etc.  I totally respected that.  But how did I KNOW that? I was told that.  I didn't just magically know it.

I personally think that getting through life is a lot easier if your default position is that people - particularly children - are coming from a good place, rather than a bad one. But that is just my philosophy.
"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind." - Dr. Seuss

WillyNilly

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Re: I have not the words...
« Reply #65 on: January 03, 2013, 02:49:45 PM »
In all this discussion I think its important to note there are two types of "Christmas". Some people don't like that, but its a reality that can't be denied.  There is the Christian religious holiday of Christmas which celebrates the story of Jesus' conception and birth and wise men and all that.  But there is also a secular, totally non-religious, social holiday, which for clarity I will spell X-mas.

The two overlap a lot, but they are different.  In this thread we've already head lots of examples of people celebrating X-mas, including the original issue, but also Muslim's giving gifts or Jewish or atheist folks celebrating generically.  OP and her family might celebrate Christmas, but the snowflake gift was carefully chosen to be an X-mas gift. American's as a nation observe X-mas - its a national holiday, mail isn't delivered, public schools and banks, etc are closed, public transportation takes on a different schedule, etc.  Plus companies have parties, employees and friends and neighbors exchange gifts and cookies and the like.  People and companies decorate, as often as not with generic things like snowflakes and snowmen, or sparkles, or candy. Many of the seasonal songs are actually X-mas songs not Christmas (Jingle bells for example).

There are many Christians who are offended by this secular co-opting of Christmas into X-mas.  The news covered "keep Christ in Christmas" issues and surely we have all encountered it on some level personally, whether it be a conversation or even just seeing a bumper sticker. The whole "Merry Christmas/X-mas" versus ""Happy Holidays" debate is tied into it.  But for better or worse, good or bad, this is what has happened, in a widespread, mainstream way in the US.  We have a totally secular, open to all, holiday that exactly overlaps with a major Christian holiday.

Its unfortunate the OP's daughter's friend's parents are taking such a negative and aggressive stance against X-mas, but it is what it is.  They are entitled to feel that way.  But I don't think they are doing themselves, or their child, any favors in the way they are taking this stance.

On the other hand, I think the OP is doing a great job in making sure her daughter understands that X-mas (or "winter break" and "snowflake decorations") is for everyone while Christmas is specific to certain people.

Piratelvr1121

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Re: I have not the words...
« Reply #66 on: January 03, 2013, 02:52:21 PM »
I always have loved learning about different religions and different denominations as well, and enjoy when I find someone who is able to discuss their religion, denomination and traditions without trying to convert someone else.  I've learned a lot about the Jewish faith thanks to having a Jewish aunt and uncle.  (funny thing is my uncle is very unobservant, and my aunt that married him jokes that she knows more about traditions than he does, from learning about it from her sister in law)

My oldest is in 6th grade social studies and has been really enjoying learning about other cultures and their religions, such as Judaism and Hinduism, so far, so much so that his favorite subject has gone from math to social studies. :)

And to your final sentence - I respectfully submit that if that is indeed the case, you may find yourself rethinking a lot of friendships, as it is expecting quite a lot of a child to somehow intuit that your child is operating outside the generally accepted cultural norms of your area.  I had a friend in grade school who was a Jehovah's Witness.  As such, she didn't celebrate holidays, her birthday, etc.  I totally respected that.  But how did I KNOW that? I was told that.  I didn't just magically know it.

I personally think that getting through life is a lot easier if your default position is that people - particularly children - are coming from a good place, rather than a bad one. But that is just my philosophy.

Agree with this one. :) It's rather snowflakey to expect others to read your mind and know where you stand on issues without being told. 

I once gave a Christmas card to a guy I had a crush on in middle school, only to find out later he was Jewish and I was embarrassed, but grateful that all he did was smile and say "Thanks!" even if he might have pitched the card when I wasn't looking. 
« Last Edit: January 03, 2013, 02:54:23 PM by Piratelvr1121 »
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Moray

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Re: I have not the words...
« Reply #67 on: January 03, 2013, 02:53:20 PM »
I think it's important to remember that just because something annoys or offends you (general you, of course), that does not automatically make it rude.

The OP was not rude in giving a secular, Winter-themed gift. Frankly, she wouldn't have been "rude" to give a Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or Yule-themed gift, either. Whether that would be a "good idea" is another matter.

Etiquette tells us that an unwanted gift is to be accepted or refused graciously. The child's parents chose to get offended instead of using it as a teaching moment with their child or simply disposing of the present. Their decision to write a letter castigating the OP's child (and the OP, herself) is where the rudeness comes in.
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artk2002

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Re: I have not the words...
« Reply #68 on: January 03, 2013, 02:54:45 PM »
I personally think that getting through life is a lot easier if your default position is that people - particularly children - are coming from a good place, rather than a bad one. But that is just my philosophy.

Nope. Not just you. I found that as soon as I stopped parsing everyone else's tiniest actions or words looking for bad intent, I became a much happier person. Everyone around me suddenly got nicer, too. Amazing, that. I'm also a big fan of Hanlon's Razor, although I tend to replace "stupidity" with "ignorance."

On topic: OP, you and your daughter did absolutely nothing wrong. You gave a gift that wasn't at all religious, at a time when many cultures and religions traditionally give gifts. Attributing a pro- or anti-religious message to your snowflake says a lot about that family and nothing about you.
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bow lines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. -Mark Twain

Girlie

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Re: I have not the words...
« Reply #69 on: January 03, 2013, 03:00:39 PM »
In my workplace of about 65 people, we have one person who is not either Protestant or Catholic. She does not celebrate any holidays, religious or otherwise, and before I knew that, I made up bags of Christmas candy to give to everyone.
She very politely pulled me aside and explained that while she appreciated the gift, she doesn't celebrate the holiday and could not accept it. I told her I was very sorry that I hadn't know of her restriction, and asked if she would be able to accept it as a gift of friendship instead. She did, and later complimented me on the candy she'd eaten.
I would not have been offended if she'd refused the candy altogether, although I am glad that she didn't.

I say all of this to say that there is a polite way to alert people to the fact that you cannot accept holiday gifts. Children who belong to families that discourage gifts for whatever reason should be taught to politely refrain from accepting gifts. Sending a disparaging letter to a first grader is impolite no matter how you look at it.

LeveeWoman

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Re: I have not the words...
« Reply #70 on: January 03, 2013, 03:01:24 PM »
I think if you wanted to write a note, you could say this:

"Dear other parents:
"I'm so sorry that my daughter's winter-break present was offensive to your family, and that it contributed to a difficult parenting situation for you. She had hoped to express her affection to her friends, and we thought perhaps kids could hang the sparkly snowflake in their windows to catch the winter sunshine and remind them of how much fun snow is.
    "Please return the snowflake as soon as you can, and accept our apologies for unwittingly including your child in our gift giving."

FTW!

audrey11

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Re: I have not the words...
« Reply #71 on: January 03, 2013, 03:04:03 PM »
Wow.  I really didn't mean to give the impression that we expect others to be mind readers.  Generally, the school and the teachers are informed and the child is also taught to say "thank you, but I really can't accept this".  Doesn't always stop people from pushing presents on the kids (sticking them in backpacks, etc).  Also, the parents seem to think it's cute to teach their children to tell our children, "you'll be ruining my Christmas if you don't accept this", so yeah, the manipulation definitely requires a cooling of the friendship.  Your mileage obviously varies.

Also, to clarify, I never meant to imply that the letter was not rude, but it seemed like several people seem to think that just being hurt/offended is rude and that is what I was trying to weigh in on.  The letter was rude.

poundcake

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Re: I have not the words...
« Reply #72 on: January 03, 2013, 03:54:11 PM »
I like Toots's note, also.

I think it's important to remember that just because something annoys or offends you (general you, of course), that does not automatically make it rude.

The OP was not rude in giving a secular, Winter-themed gift. Frankly, she wouldn't have been "rude" to give a Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or Yule-themed gift, either. Whether that would be a "good idea" is another matter.

Etiquette tells us that an unwanted gift is to be accepted or refused graciously. The child's parents chose to get offended instead of using it as a teaching moment with their child or simply disposing of the present. Their decision to write a letter castigating the OP's child (and the OP, herself) is where the rudeness comes in.

Yes. Although within the bounds of public school, giving a religious gift is a problem, but again, that was so very clearly not the case in this situation.

magician5

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Re: I have not the words...
« Reply #73 on: January 03, 2013, 04:52:27 PM »
You gave them a Christmas ornament.  While it may not have screamed "Christmas" it did whisper it very loudly.  Offending someone's religious beliefs is not silly and they're entitled to those feelings.  At this point I would let it go and not give Christmas presents to the class next year.

What you say is true, but the real issue is the inappropriate response by the offended parents. Seriously inappropriate. The basic principle of this conflict is exactly why it's inappropriate to mix religion into public school (I know some people disagree, but that's another argument).

The parents have a right to any religious beliefs they choose, but they do not have a right to be shielded from the consequences of their choice, nor do they have a right to expect no consequences when they react so very badly to an occurrence that's bound to happen when living in a diverse society with their chosen beliefs. If they need to be among only their co-religionists, let them find a safe haven and avoid this sort of "offense". Some other faiths have formed insular communities, so clearly it can be done ... can't have it both ways.

Moreover, as much as they have a right to take offense, the rest of the community has a right to draw their own conclusions from their behavior and their beliefs ... including "gosh darn, they're weird" ... including "so this is the sort of thing their religion teaches". I hope they don't decide to go shopping and hide their kid's eyes when they pass near a Salvation Army bell-ringer - can't imagine how they handle the kid's reaction to being dragged away from a store Santa Claus. I certainly hope they don't decide to berate those guys, too.

That is so sad. I hope your DD didn't get bruised by the whole thing.

Sad to see her bruised, but she'll be stronger for it.
« Last Edit: January 03, 2013, 05:29:44 PM by magician5 »
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snowdragon

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Re: I have not the words...
« Reply #74 on: January 03, 2013, 05:51:39 PM »
You gave them a Christmas ornament.  While it may not have screamed "Christmas" it did whisper it very loudly.  Offending someone's religious beliefs is not silly and they're entitled to those feelings.  At this point I would let it go and not give Christmas presents to the class next year.

Actually she gave the kids an acrylic ornament. A snowflake. It's  only Christmas-y if one deems it a Christmas ornament - I have snowflakes up year around, a friend of mine had her entire kitchen counter backsplash tiled in snowflakes.  There are ornaments for everything these days - including for everyday use/ And the note said  "Have a wonderful winter break.  See you in 2013!  Your friend, DD"  nothing about Christmas at all. The only reason it took on that meaning was that the other child's parents deemed it so. 
  Their offense is their own - not something that a loving child did to them, they CHOSE the most offensive ( to them) interpretation they could and took it out an innocent kid.
  She should not have to stop giving gifts because someone wants to twist kindness into offense - if the parent does not want this one kid receiving well that's sad but the rest of the children, including the OP's child should not have to be held to this family's standards.

OP, are these folks JW? If so they do have things like "I love you days" as I recall and while hearts and valentines may not be allowed - expressions of love and caring certainly are. When I taught kindergarten we had one wonderful family who was JW and when it came time for Valentine's Day I vetted the project with Timmy's mom, she ok'ed him making the cut out of the ASL sign for "I love you" but not the heart. Maybe you could do something that could be a friendship gift rather than Valentines ( or St Patricks's or....) for this kid.