We got a flyer listing an activity for each day, beginning with every kid being given a red ribbon to wear all week, then signing a drug-free pledge, wearing crazy socks to show their commitment to being drug-free, tying ribbons on a fence to commit to being drug-free, and then on Friday the Halloween parade's theme is "Boo to Drugs."
I'm wondering now if I'm the only kindergarten mom who is uncomfortable with this?
First of all, my kindergartner doesn't know what drugs are. As I read the flyer that came home for the weekend, I wondered, are they going to teach the kids what that word means? Sure enough, in the middle of a classmate's birthday party on Saturday morning, as my daughter, who was dressed as a black kitten, was biting into a cupcake decorated to look like a spider, she looked up at me and asked, "Mama, what's drugs?"
I took a deep breath, summoning wisdom and words, and tried to, quietly, give an accurate definition, the same way I explained it to my second grader back when he first asked. (Probably during his kindergarted Red Ribbon Week.)
I said that "drugs" is another word for medicine. That they can be good for you and make you healthy, but can be bad for you if you take the wrong kind or too much. That's why doctors have to give you drugs when you need them, to make sure it's the right drug and the right amount, and won't make you sick. Even vitamins are a kind of drug, that's why you can only have the one I give you, to make sure it's safe. Some people take drugs they shouldn't, and it's not healthy.
This is what I feel should be step one. Explaining the actual word. I know that doesn't quite cover the use of the word in "Say No to Drugs."
Then she asked, "But why did a policeman die because of drugs?"
She stumped me there. What did the school tell them? Wish they had briefed me first, so we could be on the same page.
So I looked it up. According to www.imdrugfree.com, "Red Ribbon Week commemorates the ultimate sacrifice made by DEA Special Agent Enrique "Kiki" Camarena, who died at the hands of drug traffikers in Mexico while fighting the battle against illegal drugs to keep our country and children safe."
So the school thinks 5 year olds could absorb that? While not knowing what drugs are, and wearing crazy socks? And then sign their name to a piece of paper, pledging to be "Drug-Free," which essentially means nothing to them.
Personally, I believe making a pledge and signing your name to something is a big deal. My daughter has never done that, this would be her first time doing it.
I get that there are neighborhoods and schools, unfortunately, where small children do encounter drugs at an early age, and it is relevant to them. But that is not my neighborhood. I don't believe it's a developmentally appropriate topic for my kid, or her kindergarten class.
I suppose you could say, what's the harm? Maybe the message will stick with them if they do it every year.
But I think making a big deal of something that confuses them, and making them "pledge" a meaningless commitment, does do harm. It makes the words meaningless. And by the time illegal drugs, addiction, and substance abuse is on their radar, the "Say No to Drugs" thing has become a childish elementary school slogan, just for kids who have no idea what they're talking about.