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October 5, 2015

My sitter crossing the line



My sitter crossed the line Saturday.  He picked my kids up from Irish dancing class.  He inadvertently stepped over the invisible line that separates our comfortable, mainstream universe and the alternate, Irish dancing school universe that my kids drift into regularly.  In this unpredictable universe, dancing teachers dictate the actions lowly people are allowed to make and create unique, unsettling rules that they expect their subjects to live by.  And we pay for this service.

Perhaps I should have warned him.  I did not know if he would necessarily pop his head into the studio, or if he would just wait in the parking lot for the dancers to scurry out into the light of day.  Allowing the picking-up-dancer adult to remain safely in his or her car is always preferable to crossing the boundary.  I suppose I should have described this scenario when I wrote out my pages of instructions for him.  Coach and I were going to be out of town, and I made every effort for the dance class portion of the weekend to run smoothly. 
 
The friendly atmosphere of dancing school has changed over the years, but what aspect of Irish dancing hasn't?  Years ago when I was an Irish dancer, parents sat at tables in the rented halls, gymnasiums, school basements, or wherever else we danced.  Their quiet conversations served as the background sound to our dancing.  Since being banned from observing classes long ago, moms today gather around open car windows and chat in the parking lot.  Not all conversations focus on dancing drama.  Enough friendly banter exists to convince one another that Irish dancing hasn't consumed every thought we process.  I usually remain in my car blogging or napping, or I run errands during class.  Tonight I shared with another mom the nonsense that has ensued since Saturday.  

You learn something new every day.  Since Saturday I have discovered that one of the dancing teachers MUST have the last word, her dancing teacher sister probably needs to be medicated, their dancing school-founder teacher brother keeps his distance to avoid any upheaval and maintain his sanity, and the one non-sibling teacher is literally incapable of apologizing despite the fact that most of his actions are reprehensible. 

The nonsense started about a month ago when I dragged my kids to a class taught by the non-sibling.  I do mean drag.  While his classes may provide dancers with a competitive edge, they are far from pleasant.  My kids were registered for a competition over Labor Day Weekend, so I encouraged them to go to the studio for some fine tuning.  During that fateful two or three hours, the non-sibling told my kids that they 'dance like special kids with their tongues hanging out of their mouths' and proceeded to inform the entire class that my offspring 'dance like crap'.  My dancers who endured this assault are 7, 9, and 11.  They are far from crap.  Mini cried most of the lengthy drive home.  

We all make mistakes.  Perhaps mine was not sending an email directly to the non-sibling.  Instead I chose to address the three sibling teachers.  I assumed that they would handle this awful, unacceptable situation.  Because I grew up dancing with them at Dennehy School of Irish Dance, I thought I knew them.  That was a long time ago.  A lot can happen in 30 plus years.  I wonder if the siblings' mother is disappointed in how her children conduct themselves.  If she isn't, then she should be.  Her mission to raise good people failed.  Maybe she is unaware.  Kind of like I was unaware that they were capable of being completely nuts.  My other mistake, admittedly a bigger one, was that I transferred my young children to this dancing school a little less than two years ago.  I was guided by trust.  'Misguided' might be a more suitable term.  I believed that I could trust the sib teachers.  The school I pulled the kids out of was run by a pair of the rudest sisters you could ever hope to encounter.  Favoritism was the name of their game and they robbed you blind while you attempted to figure out how to level the playing field.  In hindsight, I see that being raised with honesty and integrity, as I know the siblings were, doesn't necessarily mean that those values win out over other influences.  

The sibs probably recall that I was a quiet, tall, awkward kid.  Remember, a lot can happen in three decades.  Most people who know me now, don't want to tick me off.  I'm not the mousy, subpar dancer that they remember.  I suppose I am still a b-list dancer, but you get the idea.  When they chose not to respond to my email, I chose to stop sending my kids to the non's classes.  Dancers file into his class each weekend despite incurring an additional fee and the guarantee that most in attendance will be screamed at, ridiculed, or both.    

The email detailing the team schedule for the upcoming Midwest Championships held over Thanksgiving weekend arrived in my in box just weeks after my email was ignored by the teachers.  The schedule of when the kids needed to be at the mandatory ceili and choreography practices was accompanied by a threat.  Any dancer who did not participate in the Thursday and Saturday classes each week would not be allowed to attend the non-sibling's classes for that weekend.  Non's superior lessons tweak the dancer's technique and perfect the steps for competition.  I know no one at our school who attempts to compete over Thanksgiving without attending as many of these draining classes as possible.  The sisters don't have the same impact on the dancers.  They need Non like a dancer needs a knot in her laces.  

I recognized right away that we would not be able to attend every team class.  Mandatory or not.  Dancers at our school are prohibited from competing in solos unless they agree to represent the school on teams.  Most schools enforce this rule now, because no one would volunteer otherwise.  Team dances are just one more commitment in the already busy life of a dancer.  These mandated classes also come with a hefty price tag . . . of course.  

Mid September I sped off to Notre Dame with Reggie and Curly in tow.  As I set up my tailgater I received my first irate text message from Ms. Medicate-Me-Or-Keep-Your-Distance teacher.  I called Coach at home, who steers clear of all things Irish dancing, and begged him to intervene.  He forwarded me more of her messages from time to time, and later clued me in that the texts continued all afternoon.  The week prior I had allowed Curly to skip ceili in order to play in her soccer game.  I offered no email or text explaining the whereabouts of my children either weekend.  This choice was met with much frustration.  How does some of your-own-medicine taste?  Bitter, is my guess based on the reaction.  

Last week, I suggested that Mini share with Ms. Last Word teacher that she was going to miss the Saturday ceili.  She would be at the ND game with my dad, and Kevin and I would be there overnight with his family.  She climbed in the car after class, and told me that Last Word wanted an email anyway.  I told Mini that Last Word could bite my ass.  Mini was appalled.  She likes the rules to be followed.  Last Word emailed me to tell me that Mini claimed she wouldn't be at the upcoming ceili class.  I confirmed.  Last Word followed that up with a last-word email stating that she would need to cancel the class because it was not possible to practice teams with one person missing.  I've witnessed many a practice where the missing kid is either subbed with another dancer, or treated as a ghost -invisible hand clenching and all.  I recognized her threat as a lie, which believe it or not still strikes me as odd because I know her parents.  This is not how they raised her.   Other mothers confirmed that the practice had not been cancelled.  Lie.  Caught.  In.  It.

So last weekend, I gave Sitter a brief overview of the cast of characters and the new ceili schedule that came out.  Class was from 11:30-12:30.  Curly would have to miss another soccer game, but they could bolt from ceili and get to  Reggie's 1:00 game.  The studio is a 30 minutes hike up the expressway.  Coach and I were enjoying the tailgater when our phones spit out another irate text from Medicate Me.  Coach responded.  I didn't bother.  Drinks were flowing and a good time was had.

Medicate Me was upset because Sitter arrived to get the kids from class at 12:20 instead of 12:30.  Rather than just ask him to wait until class was over in 10 minutes, she told him that class technically ended at 1:00.  Upon hearing this the next morning when we got home, I raced to my computer and pulled up my email.  Nope.  Medicate Me needs a higher dosage.  She lied.  Class was ending at 12:30.  The sitter was not about to stay until 1:00 and force Reggie to miss soccer, so he yanked the kids.  Ten minutes.  Curly cried in the car as Sitter drove away because Medicate Me shouted at her to get out of class when Sitter insisted that they leave rather than stay until 1:00.  After all, he had a tight schedule to keep.   

I chuckled that Medicate Me had texted that our 'sitter/brother' was attempting to pick up the kids early.  I firmly believe that she would have spoken to him in a different, more acceptable manner if she had realized he was not part of our family.  Instead she assumed by default he was a peon in the universe she bravely rules.  

The ten minute early departure issue escalated.  Coach and I were called into a conference with Last Word before class on Monday.  She explained that neither she nor her siblings could respond to my email because they couldn't speak to what went on during class as they weren't there.  I was quick to point out that I wasn't asking her to 'speak to what went on'.  That wasn't in question.  I knew what words Non spoke, because my kids told me.  I am raising my kids not to lie, and I expect that will stick.

I didn't hold anything back.  I pretended I had never set foot in her universe.  Last Word even created a new lie.  Sitter didn't drop the kids off until noon.  They only danced for 20  minutes.  After Sitter assured me via text that he delivered the kids to the distant studio at 11:35, I drafted another email.  I pointed out the discrepancies in the timing-lies I was hearing from Medicate Me and Last Word.  This email was not ignored.  I shared Sitter's number so they could offer him the apology that he was owed.  Last Word had to be heard.  We went back and forth until she finally stated that she would not be apologizing to Sitter.  That was a given.

During the meeting before class on Monday, Last Word instructed me to reach out to Non myself via email.  She stressed the obvious talent in our children and therefore their need to be at more practices each week, aka Non's class.  I suspect that my refusal to play by the rules of the alternate universe impacted Non's response to my email.  I told him that belittling children is never a motivator, and that we would need him to change this behavior if he wanted our kids to attend his classes again.  He emailed back from his throne in the alternate universe.  Rather than apologize or admit fault, he simply told me not to send them to his classes.  The message was clear that I had crossed a line by speaking up. 

I'm assuming that Sitter misses the days when the worst part of his experience with our children involved dealing with dirty diapers.   How does the saying go?  Same shit different day?  I'm guessing for our sitter this was different shit and he wishes he hadn't crossed the line and stepped in it that day, or ever!

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