The notification from my children’s preschool app lit up the front screen of my phone.
“You have an important message,” the text said in Swedish.
I logged in with my email and password and opened up the “important message” that contained photos of my five-year-old son’s preschool field trip.
From the photos, it looked like the kids were in someone’s yard enjoying the beautiful sunny day, eating grilled hot dogs and hamburgers, and running through the sprinkler. Most notable was that the kids were running through the sprinkler completely nude or with only underwear on.
I didn’t even know he was heading on a field trip that day but none of that shocked me.
- The fact that I didn’t know that my son was going on a field trip that day? Pfft, whatever.
- The fact that there were nude photos of my child on this preschool app shared with the other parents in his class? Not an issue.
- The fact that they went to a teacher’s house for that field trip? Cool!
- The fact that they took public transportation (buses) to get there? Super fun.
I asked my son how his day went during pick-up that afternoon and he was ecstatic. He had the best day ever!
He explained what I had already seen in the pictures—he had a super awesome running through the sprinkler, he ate tasty hamburgers at his favorite teacher’s house, and he got to ride on not one but two exciting buses.
What could be better?
I told my mom, who is a kindergarten teacher in the US, all about my son’s Swedish preschool field trip on the phone and she said quietly, “Your brother had to pass a background and fingerprint check before he could volunteer as a parent chaperone on the second-grade field trip .”
My brother, father to three kids and actively serving in the US military, had to jump through some complicated hoops before he could accompany his daughter (everyone was fully clothed, mind you) on a field trip to a museum.
Our worlds could not be farther apart in regards to cultural child-rearing practices.
My son’s Swedish field trip would never have happened if we lived in the US.
Not in a million, trillion, gazillion years.
There would be consent/waivers to sign before they could hop on a bus. The destination would definitely not be a teacher’s house. The food he ate at the BBQ would have to be pre-packaged in a sterile environment. Clothes would never be removed, even if they were soaking wet. He probably would’ve had to have put on a swimsuit underneath his clothes beforehand.
But my question is, why couldn’t this happen in the US?
What’s the big deal?
Why all of the legal consent? Why is there such a fear of pedophilia in a controlled environment with teachers who see your kids every day? Why all of the hassle and trouble? Why the lack of trust?
Is it all based on fear and paranoia? Why are parents entrusting teachers with their kids’ lives during the day in a closed school environment but the rules magically change during a field trip?
First of all, for anyone concerned about child nudity at preschool, let me remind everyone that these preschool teachers wipe kids’ rumpas all day long—I’ve seen it. Have you ever wiped another child’s ass that didn’t belong to you? It’s gross. It’s not something I want to do even if I’m getting paid $20/hour. No, thank you.
The level of care that that act requires from a teacher to a child is beyond anything I’ve seen. Not only that but they have already passed background checks. I trust these teachers to care for my child—they already do.
Second of all, these are the same teachers who helped my kids fall asleep during nap time by gently rubbing their backs, the people who give them hugs and Band-aids when they fall, and they are the first people who reassure them that mama will be back soon when my kids are feeling sad.
My daughter’s hair often comes back in a different braid, and she tells me that her teacher, Johanna, did it while they were reading a storybook.
Why wouldn’t I trust these people to look after my kids at someone’s fenced-in backyard for a BBQ?
It seems like the perfect place for some sprinkler nudity.
It’s all about trust
The closeness, the community, and the relationship between a child and preschool teacher is strained and limited when parents don’t give teachers their trust.
If I trust my children’s teachers to look after them, feed them, wipe their grubby faces after lunch, help them fall asleep, and blow healing air on their cuts and scrapes, then why wouldn’t I trust them on an impromptu field trip?
The hypocrisy I see in American society of not trusting these professionals who have already gone through background checks, are in the plain sight of other adults, and are the other most prominent adult in your child’s day never fails to surprise me.
I know that there are super super rare cases where children are abused by their teachers, but it is most definitely not the norm.
To hold the vast majority of well-intentioned, hard-working, and caring teachers to the level of scrutiny and distrust that should be reserved for only the most extreme cases is not fair to them or the child.
I absolutely love the fact that my kids can play without abandon. If they get their clothes wet at school, they strip them down and change into a dry set without thinking twice.
If they hurt themselves, they turn to their teachers for comfort who feel comfortable hugging them.
The spontaneity of saying, “Hey kids, let’s head off to the library today,” and then hopping on the next bus that heads into town gives our teachers the freedom to plan our kids’ days based on what the classroom needs. How cool is that?
I don’t need advanced knowledge of my kids’ classroom plans every day. I’m not these teachers’ boss. They don’t report to me. No permission is needed.
Heck, I’ve already handed over my kids to them with the understanding that they will care for my children accordingly.
And I wouldn’t want it any other way.
We send our kids to daycare/preschool to experience things that we can’t provide them during the day while we are at work. If that includes new experiences like running naked through a sprinkler with their friends, then good for them.
A little effort goes a long way
Over the years, I have made an effort to get to know my children’s preschool teachers. To speak with them and inquire about my children’s day in person. As a result, I am eternally grateful for all of the unsaid acts of heroism they do every day.
For all of those poopy rumpa -wipes, for the tender cuddles after a tumble, and for the hair salon specials they provide while exposing my children to new words, numbers, and ideas.
I pose this challenge to you—get to know your child’s teacher a bit better than you do now. Stop by the classroom and see them in-person. Ask about how your child is doing and how their days are going. Ask them about their summer plans.
And thank them. Say thank you as often as you can.
They have worked hard to help your child get dressed every day to catch the bus at the end of a long day. I guarantee you, they have re-tied your kid’s shoes or helped them re-Velcro their boots many times.
They deserve your appreciation…especially if they’ve wiped your kid’s rumpa.
For more reading about the difference between American and Swedish preschools, read A Tale of Two Kindergartens.