One day when my daughter was in kindergarten, she came home and very excitedly announced that she had some really awesome news to share. The only problem was that she couldn’t remember what it was. Then the words innocently tumbled out, “Mama, why don’t you write to my teacher on your phone and ask her?”.
It dawned upon me that my five-year-old realised there was some kind of a magical connection between her teacher and I, accessible through my mobile phone. That it didn’t really matter if she couldn’t remember what she was supposed to tell me, because ultimately, I could just send a message to her teacher and have the answer in a snap. It was at that moment that I decided my kids would take responsibility for all things related to school.
WhatsApp, the Must-Have?
In theory, I’m sure that many parents wouldn’t disagree that they would like their kids to grow up to be responsible people. But I think what makes it hard for kids to learn it, is the one thing that we probably all have – the WhatsApp chat group.
There’s one for everything – colleagues, family, activity clubs, and you guessed it, your child’s class. I knew it would be inevitable, and I knew I had to make a choice and stand by it. So when the day came, and I saw that sheet of paper being passed around, I took it, smiled, and passed it on to the next parent without adding my phone number to that list.
So yes, I am one of those weirdo mums who isn’t in her child’s class WhatsApp chat group.
A Conscious Decision
It’s not that I don’t care about my daughter. Quite the opposite, it is because I care about her that I’ve consciously made this choice. I want her to be attentive in class and take down reminders for homework.
I want her to listen when her teacher tells the class about upcoming activities. I want her to remember when her 听写 (“tingxie” – Chinese spelling) dates are. I want her to learn about responsibility, and to learn it with little interference from me.
If there should be a time when she forgets to hand up her homework (and it has happened), she would need to face the consequences (and she did).
If she misses a deadline to sign up for a fun activity (and she has), she would simply miss it (and she tearfully has).
No, I do not enjoy hearing about my daughter getting reprimanded by her teacher. Yes, I would like her to be part of all the fun activities in school. But I am her mother, not her secretary.
My Enemy, the Class WhatsApp Chat
Why is the class WhatsApp group my enemy? To be honest, as many parents will tell you, it’s actually extremely useful. Especially when you need the spelling list the day before the test and it’s nowhere to be found. And to clarify confusing instructions from the teacher. Or to check what to prepare for a special class. So no, it is absolutely not my enemy.
I have however, chosen not to be part of the group, because I know that there is a danger of me falling prey to using it as a crutch, where my daughter simply drifts through school, and I am the one dotting all her i’s and crossing all her t’s.
You could say that she may simply just be an extremely responsible and independent child to begin with, thus making my choice easy. On the contrary, she’s a regular eight-year old who enjoys drawing, Harry Potter, and kick-scooting at the park.
She’s as normal as can be, and requires a decent amount of reminding when it comes to homework. But she and I, we work together as a team – she tries her best to stay on track, and I nudge her back on if she falls off.
No Class WhatsApp Chat for my Sanity
But I have to confess, there is another reason, and this one is for me. I am not anti-social, but I like staying away from the possibility of unnecessary anxiety and comparisons from well-meaning fellow parents.
Plus, I really am not a fan of situations of a few people sharing information, followed by 30 replies of “Thank you!” and “Noted”, on a regular basis. (Although, I must admit, this observation is made based on comments from other mums in other schools, and not specifically on my daughter’s class chat group since I’ve never been part of it and don’t know the dynamics of that group.)
Have there been any occasions when I’ve regretted my decision? Nope. Not in the slightest. Have there been close calls and moments of panic? A few, but nothing that couldn’t be solved with a phone call to a fellow parent. These days, teachers are all available through email and the school sends regular updates, and that’s enough for me.
Perhaps the only drawback is that on occasions when parents are invited to the school for events, the other parents chat like old friends, and I stick out like a sore thumb. But, nothing a smile and a good old fashioned “Hi!” can’t solve. And so I remain, the only weirdo mum who isn’t in the class WhatsApp chat group. For now. Because you know, never say never.