Friday, 19 February 2010

I upset a receptionist, become an anarchist, and shoot myself in the foot

Yesterday and today, Shark, Squirrel and Tiger have been booked into art workshops.

The workshops are great. The kids work with artists, and make stuff.

Meanwhile, I make a nuisance.

To book the kids into art workshops, I must present myself at a reception and give my name and contact. That is OK. Tiger might burst into tears. Squirrel might fall out of window. Shark might self-combust.

But perhaps I am not the right person to be asked for any more. The receptionist hands me forms requiring permission to photograph, information about allergies, permission to take off site, agreement to emergency medical treatment, my contact details, all emergency contact details (evening and daytime), our doctor's contact details, my agreement to policies and procedures, all our names, dates of births, addresses, how far we travelled, agreement to email contact, agreement that payment is nil.

For a two hour kid workshop making patterns on paper.

When the receptionist hands the second lot of forms, I snap.

Snappy Grit slaps the forms back on the desk. In a tetchy voice I ask why should I provide details of ethnic origin, whether any of my children are disabled, whether any of my children have special learning needs, how I heard about the workshop, whether I need information about disability access, or whether I would like this information in large print. Why.

The receptionist narrows her eyes and says - as if all this information is casual, is nothing much, just a little about you, who you are, how you can be counted - she says, with a shrug of her shoulders, It's just if you want to be on our database.

And her tone and her manner could have said, 'If you're the sort of parent who doesn't dump your kids and run, the sort of parent who wants these services to continue, the parent who cares, then of course you'll fill in these forms.'

I lay the pen down and grimace. I am bull at red rag. The receptionist flicks at her hair and glances away. She is unsure. I am too difficult. I do not fit. I am a parent who is a problem.

Yes I am. I am proud to be a problem parent.

I stand, and smile a chill you to the bones grimace smile.

If I had a soap box right now, I would whip the thing out from my handbag, stand on it, and shout that I have had enough. Our compliance as parents is essential to how this society is governed. Our readiness to hand over all our information, to accurately complete all forms, to give unquestioningly our agreement to be databased, to accept this is how we are counted, to be passive in the face of further and further information collected about us, as if all this information is casual, is an outrage against who I am.

You do not fit me inside your institutional boxes. You do not define me. You do not describe my experience. You do not tell me who I am. You do not hold my actions to account. You do not describe what areas of weakness I have that can be addressed by your attention. You do not identify the areas of my personality which are deficient to your system. You do not improve me to your better fit. You do not own me. You do not control me.

Who is describing who I am? I describe who I am.

And right now, I am angry.

I glare at the receptionist, and in this moment of awkward tension, she turns away, and busies herself collecting papers.

Two hours later, Shark, Squirrel and Tiger burst from the wood workshop declaring this is one of the best art sessions they have done. Delighted, I ask the artist how we could buy his time for a workshop with a happy mixed-age group of home educated children to learn about cutting, shaping, and decorating wood.

He waves me in the direction of the building opposite. No problem, he cries. Just go to the building over the courtyard, and book it through the receptionist.


screamish said...

I get so depressed reading the Guardian and newspapers like that...there seems to be such an..intrusion..into private the UK. In the land of great eccentrics, it seems everybody either toes the line or is labelled as yes anarchist or a problem. Why WOULD you want to be on their database? I guess though the receptionist is only doing her job...

Firebird said...

There's always the option of filling the forms in with a mix of 'wrong' answers (no you can't photograph my children or take them off site), political comment - they're allergic to violations of their human rights, and silliness - distance travelled = copper sulphate, oh, and give them the email address of Ed Balls to send their spam to :-)

MadameSmokinGun said...

Whenever I get hissy with the box-tickers it always seems to turn out that they know me from somewhere - one of the children's friend's parents - are my husband's best client's sister - member of my family's next-door-neighbour - the police......... And I usually end up thanking them over-loudly to cover up my obvious misunderstanding....... and stride off head held unnaturally high wheezing 'shutthefuckup' to the kids...

It's so unfair

Iota said...

But that should be really quick and easy, because she's got your details on file...

I once had to fill in a form to say my child could have his photo taken, by the school photo company that was doing the rounds. I didn't, because we never buy the pics, so I couldn't see the point having it taken. I was surprised when, a week or so later, a photo came home in his bag. I asked him about it: "I hadn't given my signed permission slip in, so what happened", amd he said "the teacher said I had to have it done anyway". Doh...

Glowstars said...

I'm sure it was never this complicated when we were kids; our parents would just dump and run. I do t have a problem giving a contact #, letting them know of allergies etc but most of the info they claim to need is overkill.

Rachel M. said...

who makes up these forms and does someone really log the information into a computer or does it just sit in a redundant pile?

Grit said...

screamish, we have had a culture change over here. i need a society which values the oddball and the strange. strangely, moreso as the years go by and purple looks more dashing.

yes, firebird, i will do that next time, (and blog the reaction).

mme sg, sympathy. i wish i could say i have never done the swing of aggressive-obsequious, like basil fawlty without the laughs.

iota, that tells me why i am suddenly RIGHT.

you are right glowstars; i guess we are all accountable to someone, and an art workshop for kids suddenly needs feedback to justify the money spent on it. like, we couldn't just do art because we like art.

hi rachel! i suspect it is all logged down somewhere in computer land and becomes totted up in a giant end of year local government taxation form. :(