Today was the day I was going to, after spending a quiet reflective week, write my follow-up post on the gains of my all-or-nothing behavior.
I will most definitely be writing that post, but it’s not going to happen this week. End-of-school-year craziness, combined with some run-of-the-mill family decision/discussions/debates, made this a busier than normal week. Which still would not have prevented me from taking the time to write that post.
Except for another situation that had me thrown off for a solid 24 hours. I have (for the most part) processed the incident and put it in its proper place, but I figured it was big enough that I could put a pen to paper (fingers to keyboard) and hash it out once and for all.
If nothing else, the following story should provide some soap opera-like entertainment for you!
To start the story, a little background: my 11-year old son, who is graduating from elementary school, came to me several weeks ago asking if he could have some friends over on the last day of school. I say yes, but I give him a limit on the number of kids. He gives me the list of names, I email the parents, we’re all set up for an 3 pm get-together on a Friday afternoon. I mentally pat myself on the back for being such a nice Mom, that is that.
Two days ago, I am at school to watch my son perform at the talent show (which, by the way, he did FABULOUSLY…. wrote and starred in his own comedy sketch!). As I’m making my way to my seat a Mom stops me and says, “Hey, did you ever decide to have the kids over on the last day of school?” This is a Mom I see at the bus stop, and had mentioned it to her the day I sent out the emails. We discovered through the course of the conversation that I have an incorrect email address for her, I get the correct one, and promise I will fix the problem as soon as I get home. There were a couple of people around her I said a generic hi to, end of story there. That was in the morning.
That night I receive an email from another Mom in the neighborhood. To sum up my relationship with this woman: I know her to say hi or have polite conversation when I see her, that’s it. Her son and my son are friends in school, ride the bus together, that’s it. Never been to each other’s houses, never been invited to one another’s parties, you get the idea. She was apparently sitting close to the Mom with whom I conversed at the Talent Show in the morning. She sends me the following email:
> I just have to ask, did you forget to invite G to D’s end-of-
> the year party or did he not receive an invitation on purpose?
> I was quite put-off today when u asked E in front of me for her
> email address to invite V.
> I know G considers D a friend & he is both hurt & angry to
> learn about it…
So I could possibly write a series of post to describe all of the emotions that played out for me that night, but let’s umbrella it with the label Very upset. My husband and I spent some time hashing it out, I called a family member who lives in our neighborhood to see if she could shed any light on this woman’s state of mind, and I spoke with another friend who I thought might help navigate these murky waters.
Because, miraculously, in the 14 years I’ve been a parent, nothing even remotely like this situation has ever come up. In case my feelings are not plain, I am highly offended by this email. I would think this impolite of a close friend to draw such ridiculous conclusions, but a virtual stranger? Outrageous. Not to mention that you were eavesdropping on a conversation, and questioning my decisions on whom to invite to my home.
On the other hand, responding to aggressive behavior such as this is not in my wheelhouse, plus even through my red haze of anger I had genuine sympathy for a child that is feeling left out. After thoroughly discussing the options with my husband, we decide the let the guest list stand as is. He thought replying to her would just incite her more, but I found it unacceptable to leave some of her outrageous remarks unanswered.
So in the morning, I replied to the email. It was a little long (concise is not a word that applies to me), so I won’t cut and paste like I did above, but I simply went point by point and responded to each of her sentences. I was matter-of-fact, no emotions whatsoever. It was my goal to keep things civil, but to answer her truthfully.
Apparently she did not share my goals, and within an hour I received a second, much lengthier email from her. To say it was aggressive would be an understatement. She called me a liar, she accused me of punishing her son because she is not able to host play dates due to her schedule (what the what?!?!), she told me she “has my number,” and she says now her son knows what kind of person my son really is (did I mention these are 11-year old boys)?
The icing on the cake: I received this email right before I was heading to the fifth grade picnic, where I knew I would see her.
My body was going numb as I read the email. Honestly, fear is now competing with the anger for top emotion. At this point, I recognize that I have two options to consider, ignore her or write back. Truth be told, there is no way the first was a viable option for me, it is almost a physical impossibility for me to let that kind of injustice slide by. Plus, I rationalized to myself, I really want to put into words that I desire no further communication from her. Fortunately no one was around to see my hands shaking as I typed the email, but I did it, again taking the tack of going point by point and refuting her accusations, or explaining the intention behind the decisions she was questioning. In addition, I added two additional sentences to the point by point response:
1. I told her I was stunned and disheartened by her aggressive email, that I would find it unacceptable from someone I knew, but that it was wildly inappropriate for as casual a relationship as we had
2. I told her that I would appreciate no further communication from her, and, while I can’t control her behavior, I notified her that I would not be opening nor responding to any further emails from her address.
In the spirit of full disclosure, when I was replying to her accusation that I was punishing her son due to her challenging schedule, I did write that I find the notion insulting and a bit narcissistic. In Monday morning quarterbacking myself I regret writing that, because that kind of incendiary word opposes the idea of being civil. I do not, however, regret it enough to apologize for it!
She, of course, ignored my request to cease and desist and sent one more email. I tried to hold true to my vow and not open it, but there was no way. It was brief, and a slight bit calmer in tone, but continued to assert her wild accusations that I was lying about things and that my son was being deliberately mean to her son. I did not, and will not respond.
What, exactly, is my point in relaying this story, other than the satisfaction of venting it? I’m not sure there really is a point, it’s certainly not a story with a happy ending. There are at least three more end of the year events where I know I will see her, not to mention she lives in my neighborhood, so there’s no telling where I might bump into her. I have serious concerns about what vicious rumors a person that clearly unstable will be spreading about me. I am disheartened to realize that my son has lost a friend for no good reason.
On the other hand…
I am relaying this story, a mere 24 hours after the event occurred, in a calm state. I slept well last night, and I awoke peaceful. This is the polar opposite of how pre-recovery me would have handled this situation. Pre-recovery me would have made up a silly lie about his invite getting lost in cyber space, I would have kissed the woman’s rear end to make her happy with me, and I would have allowed the boy to come, all the while resenting every moment of it. I would have gossiped viciously about her to every person I could get my hands on, all the while being falsely nice to her face. I would have driven my husband crazy for weeks on end dissecting every participle the woman wrote, and speculating wildly on every next possible move she might make.
Today, I can calmly respond to her unreasonable accusations with the truth, and I can feel pride in doing so. Even though I am still offended by her behavior, I can also feel sorry for her, for surely her behavior is representative of internal angst, and I can pray for her well-being, and the well-being of her children. I can remind myself that what other people think of me is none of my business, and let go of the worries of the rumors she may or may not be spreading.
Of course, me being me, I can also pray that I avoid her like the plague for the rest of my life!
So many miracles: surviving this insanity, co-existing with her at the fifth grade picnic, and having a sense of calm rather than a sense of anxiety, is all miraculous!
I’ve been wanting to share a story that happened a few weeks ago, during a time when a bunch of things were happening at once, so I needed time to process it along with all the other things, before I could write about it. I have written numerous posts about the trials and tribulations of parenting (here’s one, and another, and another, just as examples), and it seems, of late, that subject material is plentiful. If it’s not one child, it’s the other, and the best I can hope for is to keep my head above water these days. And when life feels like chasing one crisis after the other, it’s easy to let self-pity creep in… Woe is me! Nobody has all the drama I have! Where is my Higher Power when I need Him?
So let me set the stage for this story: it is mid-week, and I’m hustling to get elementary school child out the door for his 8 am chorus rehearsal. Middle school kid is already on the bus. As I’m giving directives (make sure your schoolbag is packed, get your saxophone, etc.) I glance over to the cubby where the schoolbags are packed and see that basketball sneakers have been left behind by the daughter who is already gone. Now, this may not seem like a huge deal, unless you are armed with the knowledge that this child forgets something… lunch, sneakers, once she got onto the bus and left her entire school bag in the garage… at least once a week, sometimes more. I am running late as it is, and her school is 10 minutes further away than the elementary school I am driving to, but I calculate, and tell my son to move even faster, because we are dropping off the sneaks before I take him. I am into the garage, and he says, “I can’t find my saxophone.”
A couple of things should be noted here:
- The saxophone is not a small instrument, and is made even larger by its carrying case. It would be very difficult to misplace.
- The saxophone is a very expensive instrument.
- The saxophone, and lessons, were something that my son had to sell us on; we did not believe he was responsible enough to take this on.
Needless to say, I am not a happy camper at this point. We determine that the best possible scenario is that he left it at school (which is a side story/lecture that could fill another post), but suffice it to say that I am ranting and raving about this issue for the entire ride to the middle school to drop off the forgotten sneakers. We are, no exaggeration, pulling up to the school, so have been in the car for at least 10 minutes, and my son says, “Maybe I took the saxophone upstairs to my bedroom.”
I will just let your imagination run wild with my response to that conjecture.
By the time I unloaded him at his school, and was driving by myself, I was beside myself. My poor husband made the mistake of calling to check in on me (he knew part of the calamity that was the morning), and I unloaded on him. “I used to pride myself on being a stay at home mom, so that I could be there for my children, no matter what. There was a time when being able to run a forgotten item to school made me feel good,” I said. “But now I’m afraid I have engaged too much, and I’m doing them a disservice. I’m so involved that they feel no sense of responsibility!” We talked it through and decided that, going forward, I needed to let them suffer the consequences for their lapses, and that is how they would learn.
About an hour went by, I was running various errands, and my phone rang, it was the middle school calling. I answered, and it was the Vice Principal of the school. My daughter has been in that school for 3 years now, and I have never received a phone call from anyone other than the nurse, so I was more curious than anything else. My daughter is definitely the one I fear school phone calls from the least. Anyway, the Vice Principal, who seems to be very intelligent, and very concerned staff member, starts by telling me a story of his earliest days as an educator, and how he was out to save the world, and some student who seemed to be slightly off-track, so he contacts the parents, and, long story short, the parents try to have him fired. So, for him, lesson learned, he will only do things by the book from now on. I am interested, but am connecting no dots with how this story relates to me. He then says, “Do you remember meeting me at the “coffee klatch” (an informal parent/teacher gathering)?” I confirm that I do, and he goes on to say, “Well, I remember you, because you asked some insightful questions, and were so interested, and so engaged, and I was very impressed by your level of involvement.”
I would like to editorialize at this point in the story: there were only about a dozen parents, and the whole point of the coffee klatch was for parents to get to know the teachers and administrators. By no means did I do anything extraordinary in that meeting.
So again, to make a long story short (and this was long, we were on the phone for an hour), he just wanted to share with me some generalized concerns he had about my daughter. There was nothing concrete, and no disciplinary action, but because I presented as such an “involved parent,” he wanted to speak with me informally and let me know his thoughts.
I am, of course, glossing over the emotion involved in getting such a phone call, and the fact that there was any concern at all about my daughter. I kid you not, she is an angel, so it floored me that she would come to anyone’s attention in a negative way. So, much to process on my end, and the long and short of that part of the story is a good one. My husband and I were able to communicate with her in a very positive way, and, since then, there has been nothing but good that has come out of that issue. I am forever indebted to the Vice Principal.
But the more relevant reason for my sharing this story: if ever there is doubt in my mind that God is listening to me, I will have only to recall this day in my mind to clear away my doubt. The very same morning that I voiced out loud my concern that I was “over-engaged” in the lives of my children, I receive a phone call from a seasoned professional telling me that he is only speaking to me this candidly because he appreciated how engaged I was in the lives of my children.
There are God moments, and then there are God moments!
I started writing this post yesterday afternoon, but was prevented from finishing it due to schedule conflicts. In the interim, I “ran into” (no coincidences) the Vice Principal himself! I was able to shake his hand and tell him how much his reaching out meant to me. Crazy good stuff!