The first grade classroom was quiet as usual when Mrs. Tavashi stood up at the front to address the class. It was early in the day still. I was sitting on the left near the front. One aisle over in the front row was Kiralee, who was probably the smallest student in the class, but talked more to make up for it. Mrs. Tavashi was sternly lecturing about something I’m sure when a noise interrupted. An audible squeak, gag and splatter sound. Mrs. Tavashi put her hand to hear heart dramatically and murmured: “oh my.”
Kiralee had thrown up on the floor.
I thought she had probably thrown up because she was so little. Back then at the age of 6 or 7, I made solid and sure conclusions about things however inaccurate they may have been. And I considered myself an expert on vomiting since not only had I seen my sister do it all over the backseat of our van, I myself had succumbed to throwing up before. I wasn’t prone to motion sickness. I was more the middle of the night type and had twice woken up my parents with my own incidents.
My dad urged me to use the family bathroom if I ever needed to barf at night again and not the master bathroom accessed through their bedroom. It made sense to me only at night to turn away from the family bathroom just outside my room and walk all the way to their room. My mom was always reassuring. Before my sister got carsick she complained of a bellyache and felt terrible. Once she hurled all over the backseat and started crying my mom gently declared, well there’s your stomachache.
So I learned that this potentially scary gastronomic expulsion was a good thing. It provided relief from pain and discomfort and meant that you were on the mend. When Kiralee got sick on the classroom’s wooden floor that morning it was a tribute to Mrs. Tavashi and her classroom management that everyone stayed seated and calm. Kiralee was sent home but Mrs. Tavashi seemed rattled the rest of the day. I thought she seemed worried for the poor little girl and so I followed after my teacher and reassured her.
“Mrs. Tavashi, she’s going to be okay,” I told her. It didn’t matter to me that she might know more than me being a 1st grade teacher and everything. The poor distressed woman didn’t realize that when someone threw up it was a good sign. Today I think that that the teacher just didn’t appreciate having the disruption and that may be why she looked a little stressed the rest of the day.
But I also reflect back and wonder if Mrs. Tavashi realized what a nice mom I must have had. There was a reason I went into my parent’s bedroom in the middle of the night to share the experience of nighttime emesis. Kiralee was a funny little girl who talked a lot. I may have even believed that barfing on the classroom floor would cure her of being so chatty. Because if my mom said that throwing up made you better, than that was truth. I felt I must share it.
It’s amazing and scary how a parent can create a culture and belief in a child. Even as a 1st grade teacher, Mrs. Tavashi was able to skillfully create a culture of respect and obedience. My home had a culture of love and safety. It was so rich that I took it to school.
Prajna and I tend to agree on a culture to foster in our home. Even if we don’t always succeed we try to keep things loving and safe. And I don’t mean safe as in outlet covers and padded walls. Safe can mean that the kids can mess up or throw up and still be loved. And I am by no means saying that anyone has found a secret to parenting. Of all the kids I’ve known throughout my life and kids I’ve worked with in my adult life, I can see the kids who get that at home. Sometimes the media saturates the public with bad news of individuals gone bad and wrecking havoc and terror. But it’s encouraging to know that there still are good families and good kids out there. To a first grader, barfing on the floor should be the scariest thing imaginable. And you know what? Sometimes it is.