in which I fired someone

What a day.
I wiped out my entire blog, for a while yesterday, attempting to insert some code.
I went to the lab for testing for an annual physical. I did the requisite waiting under the too-loud television and got tapped.
Then I went to the supermarket (it was still early in the morning) and ran into my best pal. We shopped together for a while which, of course, caused me to forget a few important items, and then we parted.
Back at home, I sat with Youngest for a bit - he didn't sleep the night before and I kept him home to try to catch up, and then went for my mammo/sono.
All in all, it wasn't so bad. Though I did have a fabric robe (a plus in these situations) and a very gentle technician, they did leave me alone for long minutes while they looked over my films. And I nearly broke into a sweat as a different technician took a long time with the sonogram. But all looked well, or the same - and I don't have to go back for a year.

I stopped at the supermarket (twice! in one day!) for some chicken cutlets. Panninis are one of our fall-back dinners and I had some fresh mozzarella and sauce at home.
Then I fetched Middle.
Middle was very excited about coming home from school and ordering some kind of After Effects program, which we did, and then I drove him to meet his tutor.

In a huge leap of faith, I hired a tutor to assist Middle with his university entrance exams. Buying into this kind of pre-college prep is a departure for me, but I'm learning as I go. I got the name of a man who lives close by and has a career tutoring high school students in our town. He seemed a little flaky on the phone - a quavering, nervous sort of voice, but came with good recommendations and I was hopeful that he could improve Middle's scores. Middle was curious about his personality as our experience with tutors in the past has proved interesting. It seems that the world of professional tutors, here in Tuvalu, is populated with some eccentric types. With some trepidation I dropped Middle off at E's home, scores in hand, and hoped for the best.

I picked him up an hour later and searched his face for clues of the encounter. It wasn't good. Apparently, this guy, approaches students with a strict sort of attitude. He looked over Middle's scores on the practice exams and told him he wasn't sure how much he could do to improve them, as they were pretty poor, but that he'd try. He spent the hour subtly humiliating Middle and didn't have the patience to explain the solutions to several problems that had stymied Middle. Middle looked defeated and depressed.
Well, I said, twisting my hands and fighting off a sinking feeling, did he make you want to say SCREW IT, I'M GOING TO DO WELL?
And Middle said: No! He made me want to say SCREW IT, I'M NOT COMING BACK HERE.
We sat for a long time in the car.
Had I really made a mistake? I had talked to the guy a few times on the phone, setting up the time to meet and getting a list of books he wanted me to buy.
Lots of friends use him...but most of my friends have more academic/less artistic kids, maybe this guy wasn't right for Middle.

Suddenly, looking over at Middle's face, I realized what the sinking feeling was.
It was the feeling I had a long time ago, when I left Middle at nursery school when he was three.
It had been a mistake, he wasn't ready, but it took me a couple of weeks to decide to pull him out. He had cried and cried in the saddest way, but the teachers had convinced me he'd be fine.
And he was fine, sort of. He stood off in the corner and painted quietly. But he never adjusted and spent every second of those 6 days patiently, sadly, waiting for me to come for him. Midway through the sixth morning of nursery trial, I hid outside and looked in on the classroom. Middle was standing near an easel. He was painting but he was crying. Big silent tears. I went to the director and told her I was taking him right that minute. I bundled him up in my arms and told him he never had to go back. I had a car accident on the way home.
We were fine - and I knew I was right.

When I got home last night I knew what I had to do.
I was a nervous wreck over it. K even offered to call and ball the guy out - he had done a good job of humiliating Middle.
But I knew I had to do it myself.
I called the flaky tutor, thanked him for his time and told him he and Middle were not "a good fit."
He reminded me that Middle's scores were pretty bad.
He asked if he had gone too fast.
He told me he could adjust his teaching style.
But I just told him he wasn't the right person, and that Middle would not be returning.
I was so relieved when I hung up.

And then I called my breakfast-friend D and she gave me the name of another tutor.
A tutor who is a musician (french horn) and lives in the city and is young and has a pretty name.
The moment I heard his voice I knew.
He sounded just like Middle. Young, confident, happy.
He isn't available on St. Patrick's Day because he has a gig, but he's going to email me.
He costs more but does 90 minute sessions.
I know we're going to like him.

What a day.


Anonymous said…
Good on you!
But, you broke your blog temporarily, and that durned code is still not appearing. I got it to work on my son's site (hate the evil blogspot), but it took a few tries to appear. Blogger was being extra evil last weekend.
robiewankenobie said…
gah, i just hate that "is it me?" mothering conundrum. sometimes it is, you know, so i have to take a bit sort things out. 95.5% of the time i'm right, though. it's the 5% that kills me. good for you, and your gut, for getting it right.
Anonymous said…
You have excellent management skills. Trust your gut. Unload unproductive people/processes. Support your workers.
Seriously, bb, will you run for president in '12?
Wow, what a day, indeed. You listened to your intuition, which is wise. I regret not listening to my own a few times over the past few years.
MsCellania said…
Aw, you guys had a hard day yesterday.
I'm so glad for you and your family that the right fellow has appeared. How can that mean bastard be a good tutor for anybody?! 'Adjust his teaching style' my ass! Poor Middle would've died a little more with each session.
You are such a good mother to your fine sons, bb. I know you know it, but I know how hard it was for you to fire that man.
Lauri said…
I so admire your ability to trust your instincts. I ignored mine for years as I was told not to rock the boat, I was too nervous, don't worry so much, etc. Now I try to listen all the time and much more often than not, especially involving my children, my "gut" is right. Middle can count this as a life lesson and when he kicks butt on entrance exams, he'll know in his heart that you both got him where he needed to be. Your whole family is blessed to have you.
Fannie said…
Many, MANY, of my stomach sinking moments have been over issues involving my children’s welfare. You did what you needed to do by listening to your gut and your boy.
Jennifer said…
I really enjoyed reading this post. Thanks for sharing.

I was thinking about your snowball today. I wonder how long it will take for my snow to melt.
RW said…
My heart ached while I read that post.
You are a fine mother!
Geggie said…
I LOVE making the right decision and knowing immediately that you've done the right thing.
Anonymous said…
Did I ever tell you I worked for the Princeton Review for, like, several years? I am the SAT wizard. Next time I am in NYC, I'll totally teach him some tricks.
Bravo Mom! I've always found that as far as my kids are concerned, trusting my instincts has been the right thing to do.

Someday, each of your boys will have a moment when they realize that Mom always had their back.
Unknown said…
Good for you for standing your ground and doing what you knew was right, although not easy.

And Middle is so obviously bright and talented, perhaps his test scores, however poor they might be, won't preclude him getting into the school(s) of his choice. I mean, it's not as if he's trying to get into an engineering program, where test scores weigh much more heavily in the decision-making balance.

His dedication to his film work and other extra-curriculars (like band) may more than make up for test scores.

And now you've found what we all hope is a much better tutor, too. You're such a good mother!
Anonymous said…
You are much more than a mother.
Which is virtually impossible.
But you are.
Grandma Cebe said…
Oh, I can relate to Middle's learning style.

My youngest is a gifted musician and standardized tests were his nemisis all through school. We did the tutoring, resourcing, evaluation route for years with him. His college entrance scores were dismal. I had to write a letter of appeal to a small state college just to have them accept him on a provisional basis. That was 3 1/2 years ago. He's now in the music education program at large state university and on the Dean's list. It makes me want to go back to that first college and go "Neener, neener, neener. I told you so!"

Standardized tests are not one size fits all.
BabelBabe said…
the new guy sounds good, I hope he works out. I find it encouraging (not sure why) that he has a he has a real job he's good at and can pass on that being-good-at-something to others...
Anonymous said…
Very well done, bb. Some things are not meant to be endured, and that first tutor is surely one of them. I'm so relieved, right along with you and Middle.
barbra said…
Good for you! I am a firm believer in "trusting your gut." I am impressed that you made the call -- I'm sure I would have taken my husband's offer since I am a chicken when it comes to phone calls. Sounds like a hard day to be in, but a good one to look back on.
Badger said…

Someone with kids older than mine told me years ago that parenting gets easier physically as the kids get older, but it never gets easier emotionally.

This is proving to be true.

I hope Middle loves the new tutor. And that your boobages are okay. And that the pannini was good.
Olga said…
I'm glad you shared this today, I needed to hear your resolve and to read the comments-so encouraging! My daughter was accepted into a AP art class but is bearly passing all the other'important' classes, I was feeling really bummed out wondering what to do to help her do better.
Sinda said…
Yet another example of how you rock at your job. Good for you.
Anonymous said…
Sent the first off to college last year. He was accepted at all 4 schools he applied to AND turned down a $46,000 scholarship to one. Keep in mind NO ONE really cared about his standard SAT's etc that much. He was not applying to Harvard or MIT and they are far less weighted then we thought. Some schools have done away completely. with using them. He had a well rounded resume, had done SOME great long term volunteer work and had enough ACE courses to enter school with 9 credits already. Oh and he was exempt from Frosh English and Math due to ACE credits! Screw AP, ACE is the way to go!!

Relax, take a breath and he will be fine. I must say in defense of the tutor though. My child's version of encounters has not always been QUITE how it was. I take things with a grain of salt. While it may have been a bad fit sometimes a child's perception of being downtrodden is more a reflection of their frustration. Let's not all show up with torches to lynch the man!
Shelly Kang said…
Good for you really listening to and reading Middle. Also good for you doing such a calm no-fuss job in firing the tutor. I would have had a harder time not reaming him out.
Jess said…
1. I live in terror of Blogger breaking irretrievably and losing everything I've blogged. It's true.
Imagine what a wasteland that would feel like!

2.Ah, but the dread of the racking of the boobages? ALL DONE. FOR A YEAR.

3. Panninis sound wonderful.

4. I learn from you all the time about parenting older children.
blackbird said…
I need to add: I don't think the tutor was in any way nasty with Middle - but his approach was to motivate with negativity. I know that works for lots of kids, but
not Middle. When I called him to say it wasn't going to work out he said: I hope you realize that with scores like his he's going to need a lot of help!
That approach doesn't work well with me either...
I wasn't thrilled with him when I spoke with him over the phone, but figured he might be good for Middle and had a proven track record.
And yes, I'm hoping my readers won't condemn him...he doesn't deserve that for having a different teaching style.
Robin said…
I'm with Sinda. You have wonderful communication with your kids. Your children are very fortunate indeed.
Eliane said…
An artistic tutor is crucial. We had a very very extremely eccentric lady for O a while, she helped him with his spelling. She used to be a literary agent, speaks in a heavy NY accent, which sounds funny in Canada. We once had a very unartistic guitar teacher for O, and O hasn't touched his guitar ever since he quit there. His grandfather is doing maths and science with him now, I hear them through Skype. O has to catch up in his advanced program, his grandfather is the perfect tutor.
Anonymous said…
You did good, Mom. And look--it is getting easier. No car accident this time!
might I add...? said…
Your description of Middle at nursery school left me in tears. Thanks for sharing this and for being a courageous example to the rest of us.
Anonymous said…
My mother pulled me out of preschool because I was so unhappy. I can remember hanging onto the door handle and her having to pry my fingers off, one by one. Everyone told her that I would adjust and it would get easier - and I think she maybe lasted two weeks before pulling me out. Eventually she found a playschool that I loved and I went there until starting kindergarten.

I can still remember the fear and misery of going to that place, and having Mum leave, and the relief of never going back there. I was about 3 but I remember. To me it's a memory of how much Mum loves me, that she didn't bow to outside pressure but instead did what she knew was best for me. I bet Middle feels the same.
Anonymous said…
Your nursery school story brought tears to my eyes. Your boys are lucky to have you.
Mary said…
This is the sort of thing I would agonise over and I admire you for following your gut instinct.

That feeling of relief when you know you have made the right decision is very sweet indeed.
Ellen Landrum said…
Seriously, BB- remember these stories and the comments above when you have your doubtful days as a Mom, as we all do. On days like today, you are my Guru.
jenny said…
there are times that I've regretted not acting quicker or more strongly on my children's behalf. It's not easy...kudos to you and your parenting.
Anonymous said…
Good choice -- and good for you for acting quickly.
Anonymous said…
Almost as good as the airport....

islaygirl said…
the nursery school paragraph had me crying like a baby. i did that too (the taking-right-this-minute, not the accident, thank God).

i love you BB.
Rae said…
Oh, your description of the nursery school incident hit me straight in the gut. I'm so glad you knew just what to do. I have a brother who could have used having his parents on his side rather than his teachers' sides more often.
halloweenlover said…
My stomach hurts a little bit just imagining that little boy standing at the easel crying big fat tears. Oh my goodness, what a sight. I have to keep this in mind when I start looking at nursery schools.
KPB said…
Ok, so this made me cry.
And think of you all day.
Anonymous said…
That was an incredible post. I was crying at the preschool part.

First time visiting your blog, but I will be back, for sure.

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