*punch to the maternal gut*

I have written both here and on BlogHer about how the best support system is other moms/other mom bloggers. So, I am taking my own advice and looking to you to gage my “reaction” and learn from you. Here is the dealio. (Did I just type dealio? I am so going to have to go to Urban Dictionary and find a new word.)

I have been doing what seems like “battle” with an administrator at one of my kid’s schools for what seems like…well, since I met her. In the last 2 weeks it has gone from doing her job to what I see as bullying. We got a letter sent home prematurely about absences and told that my son’s past 5 absences would be counted as unexcused unless I could provide a doctor’s note. (Not a problem. He went to the doctor and was really sick.) However, this came before the policy states a doctor’s note is necessary and she was going to go back and make what was previously excused now unexcused. Pardon the pun, but excuse me?!

I have mentioned her here before and her very “attentive” ways. Now don’t get me wrong. I think that a kid should be in school when he is able to be there. But if they are sick? Keep them home! And to start with threats? My son makes all A’s with a B thrown in here and there. When he is out, he makes it up. He is a good kid. (And yes, I know all parents say that, but he can back it with grades, too.)

Clint and I talked it over extensively and decided the best policy is to let him be the go-to parent when it came to having to talk to this particular person. (I really want her to bother him at work over some of this. He is not as “nice” as I am when I am telling you off with a smile on my face. He doesn’t smile.) You could say she and I have a personality conflict. But, I suppose her bullying tactics worked. Why do I say that?

Last Thursday night my son stubbed his toe hard on a stack of boards. (Remodeling is dangerous!) It was not just a “say a bad word and move on” stubbing. It was bloody and swollen. When he woke up on Friday, I insisted he take Advil and would be okay and forced him to go to school. (Against what my gut was telling me was the right thing to do, but trying to avoid more harassment and bullying.) After going through 5 bloody bandages and insisting to the nurse that he was in severe pain, I finally got a call. A call that pretty much told me that it was serious and Why was he in school with this kind of injury?

*punch to the maternal gut*

I told the nurse upfront that it was only due to the issues I have been having with said administrator that he was even there. And of all days this was a day when I was not working from home, but was 30 minutes away and unable to get home then. My son was hurting badly and I could not get to him.

*punch to the maternal gut*

I picked him up as soon as I could and took him straight to the ER. After x-rays and exams, we discover he has an open break. That was a new term to me. It meant the cut we saw? That blood? It was from the broken bone in his toe that cut him from the inside. (Go ahead and gag. I did.) Then the ER doctor proceeded to kindly (and he really was nice) tell me that I should have brought him in sooner and he was now at risk for an infection getting into his bone. He should have had stitches. He should have been seen earlier. He should not have been walking on it all day.

*punch to the maternal gut*

Through my tears, I apologized to my son over and over until finally his pain meds kicked in and he looked calmer and was not suffering.

I ignored what I knew to be the right thing to do because of a school bully. (And you thought they were just the kids in school that were bullies. Not so much. They grow up.)

So, now, my son is hurting more than he should and I am angry. Spitting fire angry. And (though I just wrote a long post on banishing maternal guilt) feel guilty. But more than that? Angry.

I have no desire to deal with this woman, but I am sick of her and the way I have seen her bully not only my kid(s) but others. The principal is nice, but is also a “deal with this between the two of you to resolve it” kind of principal. And honestly, I don’t even want to see this woman. There are very few people in this world that can make me this angry, but she is right up there on the top of my list.

You see, if it was just me, this would not be an issue. She would hear what I think and she would have no misunderstanding as to how I feel. But I know this type of person. If I even think about stepping on her toes any further, she is the type of adult to take it out on my son by being even more of a…by being even more “attentive” towards him.

What’s a mom to do?

46 Comments

  1. Call me. There are a few things you could do. This is a fairly serious issue and the principal does need to be brought in on it, but as you stated, it needs to be done carefully. I realize you and your son are both hurting a lot, and anger is also a form of hurt, so give me a call or email me. xxx-xxx-xxxx (edited out by Jenn). yes, that is my phone number it’s already online anyway, so I don’t mind putting it here. Just try to resist the urge to call me and tell me my refridgerator is running…

  2. This just breaks my heart, for his physical pain but also for what you are going through. (Which as a mom, I know is much worse…) It is serious and what you said is so true, the bully just grows up and they never change. It seems as if you are going to have to deal with her though, ugh.

  3. I think you should set up a meeting with the principal, the dean/assistant, you and your husband. Having your hubs there might help you stay focused. One thing I learned from teaching-save EVERY slip of paper you receive from her and document EVERY conversation you have with her.

    While you do have to be the adult and try to keep an adult perspective, you are your child’s greatest advocate.

    Also, if there are any other teachers, counselors, administrators that you feel could represent your child well, invite them to the meeting as well. If they have a class at the time of the meeting, a sub/stand-in teacher can be arranged. Been there, done that (as a teacher, thankfully not as a mom).

    Remember that each and every day you are doing the best you can for your children. You will make mistakes, but your children will always know you were trying your best.

  4. My husband says that you’re husband should wait for her husband in his work parking lot.

    Just thought you should know.

  5. And that was supposed to be “your” not “you’re”…oops. πŸ™‚

  6. This is so sad. I thought admin were supposed to be on OUR side – the parents and children’s side. I come from a parent’s point of view along with a teacher’s point of view. And this is moronic.

    We get one chance to get this right, as parents, and I know that you are a wonderful advocate for your child. Make sure that this bully loses some of the power over your child by being put in her place while making sure that others, like his teachers and principal really know what is happening.

    It’s not healthy to live like this. I wish you the best. Keep us posted. And I hope your son gets better soon!

  7. Heya Jenn,
    Tough, tough situation. It is hard to keep your dignity AND set a good example for your children when dealing with a person like this. I have seen this happen to many people, had it happen to me, and if I am honest, have done it to a few people myself. The best response to the bully I have ever seen is when the target responded based on how the bully SHOULD HAVE acted. In most cases (unless the person is truly evil,) it disarms the bully and calls his bad behavior to his attention.
    For example, in your situation, one of the many responses could have been a letter as follows:
    Dear Administrator,
    Thank you so much for your concern for my son. As you can guess, he has been quite sick the past several days. His doctor says the illness must run its course and he should be feeling better over the next few days.
    If he is not feeling well enough to come to school by x-date, I will be sure to send a doctor’s note in compliance with the School Absence policy in the handbook.
    I have (or will) spoken with his teachers about his classwork so he does not fall behind in his studies. He is very concerned about keeping up his A average.
    Thank you once again for checking up on my son. It was very kind of you.
    Sincerely,
    Jenn
    It may take several times, but stand your ground. When she sees she can’t get to you, (again, unless she is truly evil,) she will move on to someone else. When she does move on to someone else, be sure to help her new victim. There is strength in numbers. Plus, it is the right thing to do.
    Best of luck to you. It is a hard situation to be in. But, on the bright side, it is a wonderful opportunity for you to teach your sons & daughter how to deal with people like this. We don’t always do the right thing, but we never give up!
    You ARE a great mom! No more guilt- it is a wasteful emotion.
    Barnie

  8. Jenn-Barnie’s advice is really good. However, the principal can not get away with not getting involved. This person works for the school your child attends and the principal is in charge of that school. This administrator cannot be allowed to bully the parents. Does your school have a P.T.A. or some kind of parent organization that might be able to help? Your poor son’s toe, you must have been devastated. I hope you both got some ice cream after that hospital visit.

  9. Strength in numbers. See if you can find other parents who are disgruntled by the admin. person. And if you prefer, as you already said, send your husband in your place. Between him and the others, you ought to be able to accomplish something. Good luck.

  10. I’m so sorry! I know how terrible it must have been to learn he had something that should have been treated. I agree it’s time to meet with the principal, the teacher, and the parents. The administrator caused you to place him in minor jeopardy and everyone needs to know that.

  11. I’m sorry that I don’t have advice for you in this situation… My oldest is in Kindergarten… We haven’t had to deal with school administrators much yet. *fingers crossed* But I did want to comment to say that I’m sorry you’re going through this, it doesn’t feel good. Its one of those “Icky Stomach Situations”, as I like to call the, where they make your stomach feel icky. And I’m also sorry about your son’s injury. As parents, we just want to take all the pain away and make everything better, but its not always possible. Hope he recovers quickly.
    *~Erica Cake~*

  12. I think the things advised by both Chrisanne and Barnie are really good. Keep ALL correspondence. I would add just one thing…as you correspond with the administrator, send copies of your responses to the principal.

  13. Two things. Stop giving this woman so much power in your life. She is just a person. She has gas, gets food stuck in her teeth, and tries to hide her skin flaws, just like the rest of us. She is not your mother. Don’t give so much power to the “school system”. Who are they anyway? I don’t feel anyone should have more control over my kids than me. I gave birth to them afterall! He’s your kid, keep him home when you need to. I do hope I am not coming off as mean or cruel, please forgive me if I am, but I want you to take your control back. I have read your blog for a while now and you are a good mom!

    ANd a true story… When my son was 17, he was goofing off with friends and fell on his right wrist. It swelled up and was stiff. He told me several times in the following 3 months that it still hurt. My response? C’mon, you’re fine!
    Long story short, it was broken. Badly. Requiring two surgeries and a year of rehab, requiring us to drive to Duke University Medical Center 2-3 times a week for a year. For a long time we thought he would not be able to join the USMC like his father and grandfather before him. But he did. A year later. He’s fine now, but still has pain sometimes. It was awful, and all my fault. But he’s FINE. I have to keep telling myself that.
    Everyone gave really good advice. There’s alot of smart moms in blog land! Take care!
    Mary

  14. Pingback: Musings by Melinda

  15. As a former high school administrator from California, I am so sorry for your issues, but unfortunately not surprised. I used to receive the same letters about my kids to the point where I too questioned my decisions regarding their health and safety. I have known way too many administrators who have either never had kids or apparently have children with immune systems of steel!! I would definitely take it to the principal or higher and express your concerns and your concerns that this will be taken out on your son…they have to take steps to fix the problem.

    Please, please always trust your instincts about your own child. An administrator doesn’t see your child everyday and would be the first to throw you under the bus if you sent your child to school sick and they were affected by it. It’s sad but true..one of the huge reasons why I am not in administration anymore…that and my family moved to Texas. You have a special place in my heart and I don’t envy your position. Stay strong and know you are doing the right thing!!

  16. Is this the same wannabe power-monger who went to town on the hair violations last year?

  17. I definitely think you should go to the principal. It’s his(her?) responsibility to oversee the entire staff, most particularly the other administrators. Just as you would go to a store manager when you’re having an issue with a clerk. Try to be calm :), write yourself a little list of points you want to bring up, be specific in your examples, and then straight out tell him(her) that you no longer want to deal with this woman as things stand, and what does he(she) plan to do about it. This is the principal’s problem, not yours!

  18. I have been to the mat so many times with administrators about my kids. As long as you are persistent you can pretty much get what you need, including an agreement that certain people are not allowed to initiate conversation with your kids. I am serious. You must stress to the people in charge that above all school has to be a physically and emotionally safe place for your child. Learning comes after that, and if this school employee does not create that kind of atmosphere she needs to stay away from your kid.

    The end.

    Just keep sayign the same thing over and over and eventually they will bend. Guarantee. Be strong.

  19. I’m not American, so forgive my ignorance, but what was the big threat with the unexcused absences? Clearly there was one, but I don’t understand why they matter. And I say that as a teacher.

    Ignore the bitch. Do what you know to be right by your son, and she can suck it. Not that you’ll tell her that; you’ll just be ignoring her. And if she causes problems? That’s not the principal’s problem–it’s the SUPERINTENDENT’s.

  20. Fly me out. I’ll put her in her place. Ha ha ha!

    She is not his mother. She doesn’t know your son as well as you do. You are his best advocate and I will back anything Devra advises – she has helped me a few times and I wish she lived closer.
    Good luck!
    xoxoxo

  21. Punch her lights out.

    No seriously, this whole post makes me so sad. I’m sorry your son broke his toe and I’m sorry this woman made you go against your motherly instinct, but we do the best we can and that is that.

    In the mean time…punch her lights out.

  22. Nothing to add to the good advice you’ve already received here, just moral support. All of us have underestimated the seriousness of our children’s illness or injuries at one time or another. We run the same cost/benefit analysis when it comes to our own well-being; the difference is that we can feel way worse when another person is involved.

  23. Aww shucks Karen. Ya made my day!

    Jenn, Love to hear the update and what you chose to do. And I’m glad you used my phone number before you edited it out. I really don’t mind being accessible if folks need me. Happy to help!

  24. Get your school handbook and find out what the policy actually is. If it allows excused absences with a doctor note, there is no reason the note shouldn’t be allowed retroactively.

    I think you need to write a letter to the principal outlining your concerns, not only about your compliance with the doctor’s note policy, but also about the dean’s overly aggressive attitude toward your son. Emphasize that you respect and wish to comply with the policy, but express concern that this administrator appears to be valuing rule following over common sense and public health. You wish to make sure that your son will not have his credits threatened. Request a meeting to discuss. CC the administrator in question and the superintendent.

    This forces the school to act.

    Let your son know to keep his nose clean around this person. He needs to respect the position, even if his parents are fighting the person. This is an additional reason for he and his buddies to stay out of trouble – someone is clearly watching them.

    Depending on what state you live in, schools may be judged by the state on their attendance levels as a measure of adequate yearly progress. That’s part of the reason some of them come down hard about it.

    School employees work for the taxpayers. You don’t have to remind them of that fact, but do keep it in mind.

  25. {hugs}
    This sucks. But you’ve got to go to someone higher than this idiot. Calmly, rationally. With documented replays of your conversations with the dumbass.

    Even if the conversations were documented today.

  26. I’m so sorry you’re going through this. I agree with what Mary says about not giving her so much control.

    When we’re really pissed off sometimes it’s hard to see that people like this woman can be our biggest teachers. One way to get yourself centered again and feeling like the great, empowered mom you are is to write her a pretend thank you letter (don’t send it!)

    “Dear X” or “Dear Situation…. Thank you so much. Because of you this is what I have learned…” and then write until you can truly feel grateful. (This may take a few times. πŸ˜‰

    Once you do that, poof! She loses her ability to make you so upset and then you find strangely enough that she also stops paying so much attention to you and yours.

    All the best to you! Love your blog!
    Alora

  27. I am new to your site. Maybe you could link some of the other examples of how she has “bullied” you if you have blogged about them in the past. I am just confused if this letter is the only issue or have there been others? I was a teacher and I know that when I child was absent a certain amount of times automatically a letter would be sent home from the school office. I had a mom that would make up stories about their child being sick and then I would later find out they went shopping or to the zoo. Unfortunately there are some bad parents out there who ruin it for the rest of us. Good luck with your situation.

  28. Even Building Administrators have supervisors. Take your concerns to the district level administration. Director of Education Services, Asst. Superintendent, Superintendent; whatever is in your district. Request a meeting with the principal and their supervisor. Your son’s health should not suffer because of *her* behavior.

  29. I read this post the other day and keep thinking about it. I’m not really sure what I’d do in your shoes, but thank you for writing about the experience so the rest of us can learn from it.

    The upside to your story (for me) is that this is just more proof that the Mom instinct is always right and that we need to trust it. I recently had a situation where I let my son go days without seeing a doctor for an ear infection. I was unsure what he had, but I knew something was wrong. Just wish I had listened to my “maternal gut” sooner.

  30. I’m sorry that you felt the punches in your maternal gut; a better target would have been in the administrator’s. I’ve had such run-ins in the past. I ended up talking with the head of the school about the problematic person and thankfully, she was gone after that year.
    I don’t know if changing schools is an option for you or how serious you feel this is, but I would suggest (as one who’s had similar experiences) to first soothe your anger so that you can think clearly about your options. I don’t know also if talking to this person is an option. Sometimes kindness opens doors that we think are locked.

  31. I am new to blogging as I am so thankful to have stumbled upon your site. You are an excellent writer. Kudos on a job well done!

  32. I am new to blogging as I am so thankful to have stumbled upon your site. You are an excellent writer. I love your ABOUT section and ELSEWHERE section. Kudos!

  33. Jenn – does your school district have an ombudsperson — someone whose job it is to help parents through the red tape and other issues?

    It sounds like your principal doesn’t want to get involved. I worked at a school with a principal like that, who refused to see what a bully the office manager there was. In cases like that, it might be necessaryto go over her head. I don’t know how large your school district is — but a letter to the principal’s supervisor or the school board can be a useful way to get someone’s attention (all you would have to do is rework this post a little bit). Do you think you have grounds for a lawsuit? Even if you don’t, implying that legal action may be taken can als make tem sit up and listen to you.

    I’m glad you’re angry. Anger is a much more useful emotion than guilt.

  34. A wise friend of mine says, “Often it has to get worse before it gets better.”

    On the bright side, you’re certainly going to have more respect for your momma instinct – as well you should.

    Please keep us updated on this!

  35. I remember school personnel like that admin person. I almost quit school because of someone like that. Sheesh. They shouldn’t be working anywhere near kids.

  36. Wow, this whole situation just sucks. As a former teacher, it makes me sick to hear that people at your son’s school are doing this to your family. I can’t add to the stellar advice you’ve already gotten – but I just want to say that whatever you decide to do, DO IT. Don’t keep quiet and don’t let this administrator get away with the bullying. As for the punches to your mommy gut, ((((hugs))))! I can only imagine how it must have hurt to see your son hurting and feel responsible. Just remember that you did the BEST you could with the information you had at the time. You’re a great mom and he’s a great kid. It will all work out – the toe and the school situation. πŸ˜‰

  37. The administrator seems wrong headed, but bureaucrats can seem that way from the outside. There is probably some internal logic to her actions that has little to do. So once you let steam off, which you did, I agree—don’t waste any more time on her.

    The fact is that you did let the encounters with her cloud your maternal judgement. We do make mistakes. We can’t help it. It sounds like this mistake has steeled you to follow your instincts on the big things, like this. And that’s what you can salvage from the whole mess.

    Now you’re giving your son the best medical care that you can get. ER Dr’s pronouncements of “at risk of” can be overly dire, keep that in mind.

    Don’t apologize to your son any more. It puts the burden on him to forgive you, bolster you. His focus, along with yours, should be devoted to healing.

    I’m saying this bluntly, I know. It’s advice to myself as much as to you; lessons I am learning.

  38. I definitely think you should go to the principal.

  39. We DO make mistakes. So, don’t blame yourself. Your reactions have been natural. Now, that it’s been established that there is a problem, a big problem, keep following your natural instinct and have a talk with the administrator’s superior. Have you considered moving him to another room? I wish you the best. Thanks for the great blog!

  40. I ran into a similar situation at my sons school at the elementary level. After several years of dealing with this woman, I cracked, called every name in the book, and demanded that she no longer even looks at my kids especially my son. The principal went along with it and I never had to deal with her again. She would make it a point to ignore me when I was at the school. No skin off my nose. She ended up being placed as principal at one of the new elementary schools , I feel for those kids…..

  41. Jenn,

    Definitely bring the Principal in on this – it’s time the three of you settled this to YOUR satisfaction. Don;t let this person and her position make you second guess yourself anymore. It’s time the principal did his job. You are doing yours just fine.

    Shash

  42. Lots of great advice here! But if you can stomach one more comment from a mother/teacher; if you leave a message for the principal (e-mail, phone, letter, or what ever you choose) and he/she doesn’t reply in one or two days, then contact the Superintendent’s office. You WILL get what you need, especially since you are clearly the reasonable adult here. The district administration needs to know what is, or isn’t going on with the administrators in your school. Sorry, but I felt an an urgent need to pony up my $.02

  43. I agree with the majority. The principal is just going to have to step up to the plate and be a leader for God’s sake. I have no patience for these types of administrators but as you said she/he could take it out on your kid and that is not fair. I say, if the principal can’t control this person then take it to the head of the district. They need to know how their employees are behaving.

  44. I can totally relate since my oldest son and I had similar problems with his 2nd grate teacher last year. My suggestion is to set up a meeting with the principal…by the time we got around to this the school year was 3/4ths over and had been a total misery for us all! It was so surprising and refreshing to finally be heard and supported! And comforting that somebody else was paying attention when I wasn’t there! It was a terrible feeling to send my kid to school for 7 hours a day and know that he was miserable. Having my husband be the “go-to” person didn’t really work for us since I was still the person who dropped off/picked up every day but it was good to have a united front. It’s also a great idea to document every encounter so that you don’t get flustered in your meeting and are unable to back-up your claims. Good Luck!!!

  45. Oh my dear! I’m so sorry I found this so late — been traveling and deadlining and not on blogs much.
    First DO NOT FEEL GUILTY ANY MORE! THIS WAS THE REACTION OF A HOSTAGE TRYING TO PROTECT MORE HELPLESS HOSTAGES. That’s the first thing. OH – and a hostage is different from a victim. Do NOT confuse them. Why do you think those guys in Sudan cut off the hands of children? There is no greater horror than torturing people’s children. This woman is one in a long line of sick wielders of authority. Even if she were correct in the issues she was raising (and she obviously wasn’t) this is not a educator’s or childhood professional’s or even plain old human’s way to manage it.

    SECOND: You may have read my post for the nurse-in. Basically my son lost a lot of weight while I was nursing and blindly following the “but you have to use only breast or he’ll never… etc.” advice. The reason he was crying so much wasn’t colic – IT WAS HUNGER. I was devastated. I called a friend with 2 boys a couple of years older.
    HERE’S WHAT SHE SAID: “You can apologize to him when he’s 21 or make him completely neurotic by getting hung up on it now.” That’s the truth. You have an amazing track record as a mom. You are wonderful and loving and lyrical and lovely and fun. Everything a young boy would want. Oh and smart. So understand that this was one of those times when the power of those who care for your child shoved you into a corner. And that your bank account of good parenting is rich and full and will support you through this. And that just saying “I screwed up because I didn’t want them to be unfair to you in school” to him – well – he’ll rise to the love in the offer and you guys can work past it and get him a new WII game just for being such a good kid.
    As far as remediation at the source – I think the counsel above is so good there’s no reason to add to it. OH and doesn’t this woman remind you of Dolores Umbridge?

  46. Hey Jenn,
    How is your son’s toe?
    Barnie

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