Power Differentials

I’m missing the chip; my brain seems to lack the wiring to warn me I face a power differential moment.  (Weapons and border guards still get my deference, but I think that’s just raw fear)  Last week I went to register my child for Kindergarten.  Her documents are hard-earned.  We waited more than six months for the beautifully handwritten birth act, the literal name of the birth certificate, to be issued.  So the papers do not leave our possession or sight.

The District placement office has a good system.  A staff person comes around and checks your paper work and legal documents are in order in the crowded room of strangers.  Thinking I was prepared with the originals the website wanted and copies I made, I was not worried.  Well, I did not think to copy the back of her permanent residency card.  The man said, “I’ll go make copies and bring these right back.”  Calmly I stated that all of these documents stay in my presence.”  Well we went back and forth as he explained I couldn’t go in their offices; he’s a School Board employee; this has never happened before.

God’s grace and some training on how to have “hard” conversations helped me stay calm, and repeat that I need to see the papers at all times.

The poor man was frustrated.  When he whipped out his VSB badge, I should have clued in, he is exerting power; cower.  But I missed it.  Only later when I tried to figure out what happened, did I realize I was supposed to yield to his position.  Probably he spoke the truth; this had never happened before.  Others clue in to the dynamics faster than I do.  (Or am I just stubborn?)  The other difference may be that although I was registering her for children born outside of Canada, I had no doubt that she would be registered for school.

Trying to learn from the experience, a friend suggested I could have explained how hard it was for us to get the papers.  Well, I could.  We try not to tell her personal story in every situation, so I did not point out that most parents in the room could pass a maternity/paternity test, but I couldn’t.   I did not explain that I cannot go on-line and pay $25 for another copy.  I just said that I stay with the papers.  

She’s registered.  He’s probably over it, and I realize I’m missing the power differential reader in my brain.

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