Boys and girls were segregated at my high school for gym class, or P.E. as we called it. This was a good thing because at our school the boys were made to undertake P.E. stripped to the waist. Anyone who dared enter the hall with a t-shirt on was immediately scolded and made to remove their top.
With no other reference point this seemed totally normal to us. Only later in life in conversation with people who attended other schools did it emerge that this might have been slightly strange. If this school had been a public services broadcaster, there may have been an enquiry.
Anyway, the point of this is that every year in the run up to christmas, boys and girls came together for P.E. (tops on..) in order to practice our “country dancing” ahead of the Christmas ceilidh party. True to barbaric form, the teacher would make all the girls line up on one side of the hall and the boys on the other. The boys would walk forward and choose their partner, or vice versa.
It was a horrible moment. Spotting the girl you fancied walking off towards someone else or seeing the look of disappointment in the eyes of the girl who’s hand you take they were hoping for someone else. Undoubtedly, a few folks would remain, unpicked at the end, left out and embarrassed by the whole shameful event. These kids that were a bit different, or just not in the cool club, were left out and I imagine it hurt.
Having a daughter with a disability, we will have to deal with this type of situation. It will happen. I can’t kid myself that it won’t, and I need to toughen myself up to deal with it and support Eilidh when it does.
I have worried about how included Eilidh will be with her peer group. At nearly 3 years old the fact that she can’t walk is her biggest differentiator, but even that on it’s own is enough to stop her fully being part of the gang. Kids want to run about, and if you can’t run, you can get left behind.
So today something happened that made me smile. Eilidh got her first ever party invite from another kid at nursery. It might seem bizarre that I would even give this a second thought, but it was a little bit of acceptance and a reminder for me that I shouldn’t worry about everything.
Typical that the party is on the same day as Rory’s birthday party. I’m tempted to take her anyway, just because I can.
22nd February 2016