Monday, February 28, 2011

A Dilemma

Since the new year, we've faced a new parenting/moral dilemma. I would love a little feed back on what you would do.

Lee is in a new Primary class. Since I think most of my readers are LDS, you'll know what I'm talking about. If you're not, that's wonderful! Primary is the children's Sunday School in our church. He attends it for about 2 hours every Sunday, and in our particular meeting schedule, he goes to his class very first thing, with about seven other students his age, and then he goes into the full Primary sharing time for about forty minutes. We end with our family Sacrament Meeting. That's the setup.

The problem is Lee's teacher--who I don't even know her name and truly have nothing against--is a smoker. In a church that is strongly against all tobacco use, this is highly unusual. It is obvious she smokes up to the point she comes in the building. When she is sitting in Lee's classroom, I can smell the smoke in the hallway.

I don't want to be mean, or hurt her feelings, but I don't feel comfortable sending Lee into a classroom, cooped up with this strong smell for two hours. He literally comes away from Primary smelling of cigarette smoke himself. I just don't think this is a conducive spiritual environment, and it makes me pretty upset as a parent.

So, question here: what would you do?

Here's what we did:
Cody and I discussed at length what should happen. We considered anonymous letters because I'm pretty non-confrontational. But we know those never go over well. So we decided to call the Primary President, who we've met before. We didn't want to confront his teacher personally, because that could lead to backlash and anger on Lee. So we called the President last night and she said she too was concerned about the kids health and well-being. She promised she would bring it up to the Bishopric and let us know. Cody and I have now decided to give it another week, but if she's still smelling so strongly of smoke, we don't feel comfortable taking Lee to that class. We'll take him with us to our classes if necessary; we just can't let him be alone with that smell anymore.

Am I being irrational? I hope not. I just know I, Lisa, wouldn't want to go to into a small classroom with someone who smelled like that for two hours. Why in the world would I force my son to put up with it? I think the other parents and teachers are probably frustrated with it as well. I don't know if other people have brought it up, but we were very gentle and kind in our chat with the Primary President, and she was very understanding. I hope we are a catalyst for good change, and nobody gets hurt or offended. That's the last thing we want.

Anyway. Just food for thought. And a good experience to blog. :)


Rach said...

I think you did exactly the right thing! How does that teacher teach the Word of Wisdom? I think it is great that you stood up for your son, a lot of parents wouldn't have done anything and just let it go. Thumbs up to you!

Laurie/Mom/Grandma said...

I think you did the right thing also. The teacher is mostly likely unaware that she smells that bad, most smokers are. It will be hard for the Primary president to figure out what to do, but she is the one with the mantle and the responsibility. (I know about that.) She and the Bishop should be responsible for this. Meanwhile, be supportive, and teach Lee that sometimes we have to deal with hard things.

Sue said...

Wow, Lisa, this is quite an interesting situation and one that I haven't run across in all my years in Primary.

I agree that you did exactly the right thing by going to the Primary president with your concerns. She can take those concerns to the bishop and together they can discuss the needs of the Primary children and the needs of the sister, who may be on the start of a long and difficult journey back.

They may find that she loves the sweet and innocent spirits of those little children and that teaching the gospel to them in such simple and pure concepts is exactly what she needs at this time. Even though I am almost ALWAYS ready to advocate for the children needing strong, committed teachers who LIVE their testimonies and live the gospel standards; I have seen miracles worked in the lives of adults through serving in Primary.

I don't think you should pull Lee out. That sets a precedent for the future and habits taught to children stay with them for a long time.

If the bishop and the Primary president decide to leave the teacher in with this class, maybe she (the PP) can talk to the teacher about cracking a window or leaving the door open, or both. Or maybe you could give Lee a little hanky with a touch of perfume or some vanilla on it and teach him how to discreetly smell it if the odor gets to be too much.

Teach Lee to pray for his teacher, in a kind and loving way (and as the mother you get to figure out how to keep him from blurting out, "We Prayed For YOU! Did You Stop Smoking!?!?") because isn't that exactly what Junior Primary children would do and say?

p.s. my word verification is tante, which cracks me up because that's exactly what I am....Your Tante (Aunt) Sue

Granny D Fifield said...

Lisa has Lee complained about the smell? If he has, was it after hearing you?

My mother suffered all her growing up years because her father was a heavy smoker and as a result her hair and clothes smelled awful despite all she could do. Kids teased her a lot.

I also would caution about setting a precedent by pulling him out if there isn't a change. That will come back to bite you, if Lee sees this as a way to resolve a problem.

Lisa said...

Thanks for all the good advice, everyone! I think you are right. Taking Lee out of class is not a good idea--just one of a slightly off-balanced pregnant mom. I won't do that.

I've tried really hard to not even mention the smell to Lee. He has mentioned how he isn't fond of his class, but I'm not sure if that's because he is still new and doesn't know very many people. He has come away from class on more than one occasion complaining of feeling sick/tired/unhappy.

Mom, I took your advice and we had a FHE about trials last night. I love your advice, Sue, about praying for his teacher and the other options available.

I support the bishop and the primary president whole heartedly. I have no doubt that they will make a prayerful and careful decision that will benefit all the parties concerned.

Nikki said...

This is a very real dilemma. I read everyone's comment and agree with all of them. Great idea on the FHE lesson. Good luck!

Raychel said...

I feel like you guys did the right thing. The Primary President needs to know what's going on. I think now is the best time in Lee's life to teach him about free agency, and how Satan can tempt us, but we need to choose the right, even when people around us choose what's wrong. Maybe you could ask to sit in on a lesson, and see how she teaches--use Lee as an excuse???. As for smokers, and the Lords Law of Health, it's a hard habit to kick, and I know a lot of people that would otherwise be greatly benefiting from the blessings of the temple and gospel if they would stop. I know the Lord gives people callings for a reason, though so to trust the bishop once he's considered it.

Kathy said...

Get to know Lee's teacher! You said you didn't even know her name? Introduce yourselves and develop a relationship--sounds like she may need friendship/fellowship herself and you have a perfect excuse. When I was teaching primary it was awkward to have parents I didn't know, and as a parent, I would definitely want to at least be acquainted with my kids teachers. And follow up with the Primary President after an appropriate amount of time (couple weeks?) has passed, but leave it to them to figure out. And good luck!