95% Rant and 5% “Morale.”

Warning: today’s message is 95% rant and 5% “morale.” It’s been a rough day!

Today is an exceptionally busy day and the article I had planed for today is going to take some time to craft properly. My only opportunity to write was going to be early this morning. But, my alarm clock didn’t go off (long story, but it has to do with a problem with the electrical outlet). I woke up in a panic and scrambled to begin writing in my bleary state, but after only five minutes, my 18-month-old daughter began crying.

I ran to get her and found that she had taken it upon herself to relieve the discomfort of her dirty diaper. She had shed her clothes and diaper, threw the diaper across the room, and proceeded to sit on every one of the stuffed animals in her crib. FUN STUFF! It took 30 minutes – that I didn’t have this morning – to clean up the mess.

The rest of the morning was quite rushed, and of course, mornings are never my son’s best time; there are many things that need to be done in a rather fast and sequential pace, which does not match his style in any way.

We finally made it out of the door and to school on time. I was also scheduled to volunteer in my son’s class for the first hour of the day, so I followed my son into the school.

Waiting my turn to sign-in at the front desk, I was reeling from the physical effects of all of the rushing, almost as if I was trying to catch my breath from the frantic pace of the morning and the disappointment of my lost writing time. I kept telling myself, “No big deal, this is life with children. You’ll figure it out…just settle down…” That was moderately helpful, until I stepped a bit closer to the front desk.

I had been tending to my daughter when I overheard the principal talking in a rather loud -and almost angry- tone. I was too preoccupied with the baby to care what he was talking about, but the tone of his voice was so noticeable that I actually thought, “Wow, this sounds like a conversation that should be taken behind closed doors.”

Imagine my surprise as I stepped up to the counter and discovered they were talking about my son! My stomach rose to my throat and adrenaline rushed through me. The secretary picked up the phone and called my son’s teacher, asking her to send him to the office.

“May I ask what is going on with Mark?” I politely asked.

The principal was standing with his back toward me, about 18 inches away. He jumped with a jolt! The secretary looked at me with wide, surprised eyes. While she had not said anything inappropriate, she was obviously embarrassed. The principal, however, showed no remorse and began to yell at me…just as my son dutifully appeared from his classroom.

“You mean to tell me,” he shouted, “that if your son is having an asthma attack out on the playground and he starts wheezing, that you expect us to know which of the 500 backpacks in this school is his and know in which pocket we will find his inhaler?”

I was a bit stunned, but I saw the secretary holding the pink medical forms I had completed at the beginning of the school year, so that helped me gain some context for the verbal attack I suddenly found myself in.

“Well, no,” I explained. “He’s never had an acute attack. He typically only has a problem with coughing, specifically following a cold. I felt he would be more likely to use his inhaler if he didn’t have to ask for it. We have a special pocket in his book bag where we always keep it. This way, he has it on the bus, at Grandma’s, even at home. His teacher knows where it is and she has placed a note in her emergency folder. But,we are not concerned about an acute problem.”

The principal continued on his rant, explaining that the first acute attack could happen on their playground and they could have a problem finding his inhaler. “I understand,” I said. “If you would feel more comfortable, I can bring another inhaler to keep in the office…I don’t see a problem with that.”

Apparently, my calm response made the principal uncomfortable. He had not considered the fact that I might have a reasonable explanation and a simple resolution to the problem. To stop the conversation now would require him to look like an Idiot. So, we had to rehash the same conversation for another ten minutes before he finally let me go.

Meanwhile, the baby was getting impatient. Her eight-minute window of Tolerance-for-Anything had expired and she was now running free. My son had taken the initiative to watch her, but now that I was seriously late for my son’s class and ready to go, she was not!

After spending two solid hours in a constant state of rush and panic, I was physically exhausted. After being verbally attacked by son’s principal – in front of my son and many other petty moms in the school – I was emotionally drained and felt about 2-inches tall. When my daughter put up a fight to move, began screaming and throwing a tantrum, I lost my patience! My physical strength was gone and the anger had set in…If I hadn’t been held up by the principal while he took his time to try and step out of his self-created idiocy, I wouldn’t have been dealing with a cranky 18-month-old at that point. I hit my breaking point!

I was finally able to over-power my daughter and haul both of us into the family bathroom across the hall, where I exploded in tears. Game over!

After a few minutes, however, I had to recover. I splashed my face with water and proceeded down to my son’s class where the students were patiently waiting for me. (For any teachers who are wondering, I help with “brain gym” activities in the hall. My daughter enjoys watching from the stroller and is not a disruption to anyone in the classroom.)

Now that I have had a little time to evaluate this situation –and share it with a world-wide audience – I am still upset about many things: the inappropriate conversation taking place before I even knew it was regarding my son, the tone of voice directed at me, and the discussion that followed. I also wonder, “What were they planning to say to my son?” He would likely have walked away feeling as if he had done something wrong. Accordingly, he would never have come home to tell me about it.

Overall, I love my son’s school; it is filled with amazing teachers! The principal does a lot for the school. For example, every morning (even on bitter cold, snowy days), he stands in the parking lot opening car doors for the students and personally greets them by name. I find that very impressive, but many principals would think that “parking lot” duty was beneath them. However, based on this and other situations, I have come to learn that while he has the children’s best interests in mind, he often has AWFUL execution in his delivery.

Morale: always be careful of what you say and where you say it. You never know who is listening!

And, yes, I have a follow-up meeting with the principal this afternoon…where I will be requesting a private office for the conversation. 😉

-Susan Kruger

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