I got this in 1997 from a friend. It was written by Deirdre Sholto-Douglas*. I’ve discussed it with her and she assures me it’s a true story, and gave her permission to publish it. I originally ran it on December 9, 2000, when Randy’s Random was a long-form joke email publication; she originally posted it in the Usenet newsgroup alt.peeves in 1994.
She did a very good thing for her daughter.
by Deirdre Sholto-Douglas
Your comment reminds me of one of the run ins I’ve had with the school psychologist. After our discussion, I’ve gained a reputation of being unreasonable and my daughter has gained the freedom to construct anything short of atomic bombs without psychological interference.
If I haven’t peeved about this in the past, I certainly should have and if I have, I beg the readers’ indulgence.
It all started shortly after my ill-fated Parent-Teacher Conference (as did my public school reputation for being unreasonable). Within a week of this conference, I received a phone call from said “psychologist” requesting that I present myself in his office to discuss my daughter’s “problem.” When questioned, he indicated that the “problem” was different than the one the teacher and I discussed (which was not addressing adults by first name), but coyly refused to “discuss a situation of this magnitude over the phone.”
The following day, at the appointed time, I appeared with offspring in tow. Horrified looks resulted and said offspring was shuttled off to play in the gym. Apparently these discussions are SECRET.
He began by folding his hands on top of his desk and wearing his “saintly, patient” expression. This is a man who has not only read the psych books but believes them.
“Has Lauren appeared depressed or been behaving unusually at home?”
“No, she has not.”
“Her behavior hasn’t changed?!”
“No it hasn’t. Pardon my abruptness, but precisely what are you driving at?”
He is now refusing to meet my eyes and fiddling with a paperclip on the desk. Hmmm. I should have trundled my copy of “Body Language” along with me. He could have fidgeted and I could have merrily looked up all the underlying psychological causes.
“Well, erm…you see, Lauren is using only black crayon when she’s drawing and studies have indicated that when this occurs the child is usually depressed and attempting to deal with repressed emotions.”
At this point, I was having considerable difficulty repressing one of my own emotions….namely laughter. What rocks do these nitwits crawl out from under? Realizing that my original response would be a Bad Thing, I quickly pasted my Concerned, But Amused Parental Expression on and continued:
“Have you considered asking Lauren her reasons for using black crayon?”
Shock. Horror. Complete dismay. He actually began stammering. One does not ask the child. It could cause deep-seated emotional problems, stunt their growth, cause them to suffer from low self-esteem and possibly begin hanging about on street corners with gangs of second graders.
I excused myself from his office, ostensibly to collect myself, in actuality to collect my offspring from the gym. I arrived at said gym to find my depressed, repressed, emotionally devastated monster attempting to deal with her deep-seated frustration at not being able to reach the rings. Was she crying, fussing or sulking? Nope. She was trying to negotiate with the custodialdrone for a stepladder. At this point, I decided she was entitled to draw with black crayons the rest of her life, if that’s what she wanted.
We meandered back to the office and I ignored the look of distress that was shot at me. I parked my recombinant DNA in a chair with orders to “Behave like a lady.” (Yeah, I know. So sue me.) The conference resumed, this time I addressed my questions to Lauren.
“Lauren, Mr. Shit-for-Brains indicates that you only use black crayon when you’re drawing.”
“Do you like drawing in black?”
“Then why do you do it?”
I was treated to the expression that is reserved for humouring slightly thick parents and watched as my offspring pasted on her Mom’s Old Lady But Harmless Expression:
“They make us line up in alphabetical order when they pass out the crayons. And I’m always last in line…there’s nothing left but black!”
I turned to witness what our psychological brainchild is making of all this. He has gone strangely quiet. Fine. This interview is over as far as I’m concerned. Although I confess, I couldn’t resist lobbing one more over the fence at him.
“Thank you sooooo much for your concern regarding my daughter’s emotional well-being. I suppose your job would be much easier if all depressions could be cured by simply starting the crayon box from the other end of the queue. In the future however, do you think you could at least ask her before you haul me in here?”
He managed to mutter something which I took for assent — neither Lauren or myself has heard anything from him since.
He now scuttles around the nearest corner whenever he sees me coming. I think the poor man probably suffers from deep-seated, repressed emotions.
*Deirdre Sholto-Douglas a is Microbiologist/Nanoscientist at the Center for Synchrotron Radiation Research and Instrumentation at the Illinois Institute of Technology. You’ll find her as an author on scientific journal papers such as Elemental and Redox Analysis of Single Bacterial Cells by X-ray Microbeam Analysis and A New Suite of Plasmid Vectors for Fluorescence-Based Imaging of Root Colonizing Pseudomonads. So bottom line, the elementary school officials never had a chance of out-thinking her, so I’m willing to bet good money Little Lauren still grew up just fine.
At the Time I published this, it made me realize why zero tolerance was a thing in schools: it was probably originally an academic theory thought up by psychologists who didn’t actually work with children, and couldn’t imagine the inevitable consequences of school officials applying ZT to actual developing humans.
The only thing Dierdre got “wrong” was that if she had actually asked her daughter about “Mr. Shit-for-Brains,” he almost certainly would have replied, “Madam, that’s Doctor Shit-for-Brains.”
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