Tis the season. . .

By Mir
December 10, 2008

… for everyone to LOSE THEIR FREAKIN’ MINDS.

Seriously, I don’t know what it is about December—whether the twinkling lights, much like certain over-the-top animated programs, cause people’s brains to short-circuit, or if all of that GOODWILL and CHEER is just destined to backfire, or WHAT—but this is the time of year when otherwise reasonable people just up and go NUTS.

And I don’t want to cast aspersions, really, I don’t. But I’m pretty sure this is NOT what Jesus had in mind. (Then again, Jesus strikes me as the sort who would find the birthday hoopla unnecessary. Though a national wash-a-stranger’s-feet-and-donate-to-charity day seems unlikely to gain the same sort of popularity.)

Anyway. This insanity has struck many near and dear to me. OF COURSE.

My children are both in the choir at their school. My joy begins to wane with that very statement, as this is an elementary school and the choir membership is by audition only. I think that’s… kind of harsh, actually. At this age, I think the kids who want to be in choir should be allowed to be in choir. But whatever; fine. You have to audition. And then if you get in, you spend two months being pulled from other classes to rehearse for the big holiday concert.

For two months both kids have missed math and other academics to learn half-a-dozen songs and dances, and they enjoy it, and so I’m happy for them that they get to participate.

Last week, Monkey was “kicked out” of choir. Less than a week before the concert. Monkey told me he was fooling around during a song, and pointed in the wrong direction during a dance. (The horror!) Chickadee told me that actually, the choir director announced that there were 83 kids and she only had room for 75 of them on the risers, and anyone who wasn’t perfect was going to be cut. Chickadee reported that at the end of rehearsal, eight kids had been cut. Monkey didn’t seem too bothered, but I’ll confess that I was livid. Make a kid rehearse for two months and then boot them for pointing the wrong way? Uhhhhh. Wow. Filled with the love of Christ, that one.

Because Monkey wasn’t upset, I didn’t intervene, however. And the next day, Chickadee came home and told me that the director asked her to tell me that actually, Monkey was talking through the entire rehearsal, and THAT’s why he was kicked out. Ooookay. Whatever. (Look; I have no doubt my kid talked all through rehearsal. I also have no doubt that he talked all through rehearsal for the previous two months. It’s the timing here that irked me. And also how the kids were told there weren’t enough risers.)

Two days later, everyone the director kicked out that day was suddenly allowed back into the choir! Imagine that! I’d love to believe it was a case of realizing a mistake had been made, but my money’s on the other seven parents having complained. (And perhaps the principal finding an extra set of risers.) Either way, both kids were slated to perform in last night’s concert.

Yesterday afternoon, things started going downhill. There was some Attitude. There was some Poor Behavior. And this was COMPLETELY SHOCKING because it’s TOTALLY UNEXPECTED for this to happen on the day after the kids have spent a weekend living the high life with The Fun Parent. Nevertheless, we do have rules here, and our patience has limits, and as things worsened first I and then Otto warned that if things didn’t turn around, someone would be staying home from the holiday concert.

Things did not turn around.

There was a lot of crying.

But eventually I had to dry my face and take my son to the concert. I sent him off to the prep area and asked him to let the director know that Chickadee would not be attending. And then I went and sat in the audience and watched my son sing, and tried really hard not to feel like the world’s meanest parent.

After the concert I went up to the director to apologize for Chickadee’s absence. I hadn’t even gotten two words out when she snapped at me, “I know you think you’re just punishing your kid or whatever, but you don’t understand that what you did was punish ME and the ENTIRE CHOIR by her not being here. You should’ve thought of that!”

Hey, I’m ready and willing to believe my daughter is super special and everything, but with 80+ kids I’m supposed to believe that her absence ruined the show? And also that THAT takes precedence over raising her to be a pleasant, respectful human?

I shouldn’t complain; the director did me a favor, actually. Up until her little diatribe I’d really felt conflicted about the ramifications of sticking to our guns. Afterward, I had little room for any emotion beyond wanting to punch her in the face. So that was helpful.

Back at home, Chickadee and Otto had had a good talk and a productive evening, it seemed like. We cuddled up and I told her again that I was sorry that she’d missed the show—that sometimes being a parent is really, really hard. That it broke my heart to make her stay home, and that I was really sad I didn’t get to see her sing. But that I was just trying to do my job. And that I hoped she knew I wasn’t trying to be mean, it’s just that it’s my job to set limits and enforce them.

She apologized for her behavior from earlier. Though that may have been a little Otto-put-the-fear-of-God into her, I guessed. We wrapped up our talk, and the kids went to bed.

I came back downstairs, flopped down in my desk chair, across from Otto, and cried. “I hate always being the bad guy,” I wept. “It’s not fair. I’m always the heavy. I’m ALWAYS the bad guy. I hate it. I HATE BEING THE BAD GUY.”

Otto let me cry. And then he brought me ice cream and wine. It didn’t make everything all better, but it helped.

This morning Chickadee came into the office—where I sat rifling through my email—and asked me to come see something on the stairs. When I acquiesced, this is what was waiting for me. I teared up immediately, and Chickadee poked me in the side as I bear-hugged her.

“You didn’t even READ IT yet!” she protested.

“Yes I did. You love me even though I’m a big meanie. Thank you. I love you, too.”

“NO!” she insisted. “PICK IT UP. Read the BOTTOM.”

Quite frankly, I’m a sucker. I’m good with “I love you Mama” and a big heart. I wasn’t sure I wanted to see what was on the bottom. It was a lovely, sweet gesture. I just wanted to enjoy it.

So I kept hugging her, and tickled her a bit (for good measure) while she continued insisting that I needed to PICK IT UP and look at the bottom. Finally I let her go and picked up the paper.

And there it was, down at the bottom:

And then I bawled.

It may be the season to lose our minds, but I think I just got a gift more sacred and mystical than a virgin birth.


  1. Julie

    Wow. I’m crying too. What a morning. Gotta love those kids, huh.

  2. Megan

    Sniffle. And that is why we don’t actually wring their precious little necks even though it’s often TOTALLY justified.

  3. JennyM

    Wow, I am the least maternal person on earth and I just teared up there. Bless ’em.

    And what is UP with elementary school choir directors, man? I may just still be bitter, twenty-some years later, because ours was audition-only, too, and I DIDN’T MAKE IT. And freaking EMILY BOONE did, even though she couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket. Clearly, that was a traumatizing experience to a 4th-grader. I’m convinced, though, that our choir director simply had her favorites and I was not one of them. Probably because she realized that at the age of 8, I was already smarter than she was. I’m sure that was it.

  4. annette

    I read this and I thought…Is today Thursday???? Don’t mess with me Mir, I am one of those people going crazy here:)!

    You are a great mom and have some great kids! Choir directors and the like(art teachers, etc) are always a little over the top. That is what makes them good at their jobs.

    And, I suppose if there was a wash someones feet and give to charity, we , as humans would mess that up as well!

    Missed you yesterday!

  5. Em

    Wow. If you can even get a glimpse that someday they will get why you did the things you did and that they will appreciate it, you can move onto the next battle (for them, not necessarily with them). I think you got a glimpse (or a whole eyefull) so for that I am very happy for you. For the fact that you are not in jail right now for decking that a-hole choir teacher, I am happy for the rest of your family. She really had it coming. If I know karma, though, there will be a hair in her fruitcake.

  6. Sara

    Yeah. A bonafide Christmas miracle, that. What a great gift to you. Also, physical proof for later (when you KNOW you are gonna have to jog her memory) that once upon a time, she thought you were the good guy. Enjoy. Also, you have much more restraint than I do. I believe that I might have told that choir director where to stuff her stocking! Sweet cracker sandwich, that’s some nerve she’s got!!

  7. laurie

    big sigh.

  8. MomCat

    She already learned that being the “bad guy” really means you love her very much. What a great mom you are!

  9. Crisanne

    Wow, that Chickadee gets me every time. I can’t even string together a coherent sentence after that one! Have a wonderful day, Mir!

  10. Susan

    I lost it at “Mama”. I still melt every time my kids call me Mama.

  11. crockpot lady

    now I need to go dry my face.
    you are definitely an amazing mom.


  12. Amy

    Wow. I’m totally crying too. That is so wonderful. Kids just sometimes know exactly what to say. :)

  13. Gwen

    I am tearing up at work. What a sweet recognition by your Chickie. That note is one to hang on to.

  14. Kelly

    Okay that make me cry.

  15. Nichole

    Awwww… what a nice note!

  16. joaaanna

    Okay – now I’m bawling too.

    You really are making good decisions with your kids. It’s got to be so hard. Stick to your guns.

    Gotta go touch up the make-up now – crying at work is hell on mascara.

  17. Melissa

    Man, I would have wanted to punch that choir director too. What a butthead.
    And I totally teared up at the picture. Kids are awesome. Except when they’re not. But times like this make up for the other times…right?

  18. Half Assed Kitchen

    That is perfectly adorable. Write it on the calendar! Things like that make it all worth it.

  19. jami

    Mir – I love you and read you religiously, and am always so impressed and inspired by your parenting. However, as the child of a choir director, and a teacher of music on the college level (mostly teaching kids who are going into music ed) I sortof have to side with her. What if lots of kids misbehaved that day and were punished by being kept home from the concert? It really might tank the whole thing, and would adversely affect the kids who did come. Teachers do get over the top about this stuff, but when music and arts are the first areas that get hit with budget cuts, and when you feel like you have to put on a good show to justify your job, it’s easy to go a little over the top. I expect that like most musicians who go into education, she started because she loves it and feels like it’s an important part of a child’s education, but the bureaucracy is just hell for these guys, and really wears them out.

    On the other hand, trying to kicking kids out because of space issues at the last minute is pretty crappy. She should have been aware of the space she had before the auditions and only accepted that many kids. Duh. Bad planning.

  20. Leandra

    Dang it, Mir! You need to put a warning on posts like this so I’ll have a tissue ready.

    And clearly, the Choir Director is the Bad Guy in this scenario! WTF? If Chickie had had a solo, that’s one thing, but one kid out of 83 is missing? Bless her little heart (the Choir Director, I mean).

  21. Marissa

    I am crying right now, at work.

    The choir director needs some perspective, elementary school choir is NOT Broadway or even a small town orchestra. Relax!

    I have been feeling like the big meany bad guy for weeks, and keep telling myself it is for the best, it’s my job to be his mom not his friend. Your post made feel less alone in that struggle, thank you.

  22. bob

    this would’ve been a perfect love thursday post.

  23. Keyona

    Gosh, that just made me cry! Oh how I know it’s tuff. While me and my husband both raise her I am always the one dishing out the punishments and it’s nice to hear those kind words when we don’t feel so hot as parents.

  24. elizabeth

    I had to re-check the calender too, thinking it must be Thursday. but then, I’m easily confused.

    great story and more proof that even if you’re not the “fun” one, they know how much you love them and that is what counts.

    (and unless Chickie had a solo, the music lady should just suck it up, I’d bet a dollar no one noticed one kid missing)

  25. Lori

    You are most definitely the better parent and it shows!

  26. RuthWells

    That Chickie is one special kid, and I think her Mama can take lots of credit for that.

    And I feel the choir director should be spanked. Hard.

  27. Lucinda

    Man, I already had my make-up on and now I’m crying. Good job for sticking to your guns. Not sure I would have been able to.

  28. getsheila

    Please tell me when the choir director snapped at you about punishing THE ENTIRE CHOIR by keeping Chickadee home that you responded with something like, “I’m sorry you are upset I kept the child you favor home rather than the one you tried to boot out of the choir. Frankly, when you decided to let the students you cut from the choir back in, you sent the message that a few missing singers would not make a difference. After all, if you had it your way, you would have put on a show with eight less singers. Before you booted eight children less than a week before the concert, you should have thought of that.”

    Then you accidentally tripped and pushed her into the hors d’oeuvres table.

    No? You are too nice, Mir.

  29. Burgh Baby

    Thanks for making me teary after a GOOD sort of moment.

  30. Laura

    I can only assume you are framing that. The ‘mama’ thing kills me too- I’m hoping my nine year old doesn’t outgrow that any time soon.

    I really applaud you for sticking to your guns and following through on the consequences- that’s not always an easy thing to do. And I guess if lots of kids had misbehaved and had been kept home, then… it would have been a much smaller choir. And the world would not have ended. You did the right thing, I think. You hear parents threatening consequences they have NO intention of following through on all the time, and then see those same children acting up because they *know* their parents won’t go through with it.

  31. Libby

    For a moment I also thought it must be Thursday. What a lovely post. It made me all mushy and weepy. If I were you I would totally frame that note.

  32. exile on mom street

    She really will remember that you are the good guy in her life. It won’t seem like it most of the time while she’s a tween/teen, but she will.

    And an A++ for Otto!

    And a D– for the choir director…

  33. Colleen

    I’m bawling too and unfortunately I’m not in my pjs working from home today. Just hope the guys in my cube don’t see my mascara running. I love that Chickie!

  34. tori

    This is beautiful.

    And for a second I freaked out thinking this post must mean it is Thursday when I thought it was Wednesday.

  35. Mama Bear

    Sheesh, way to go Mir. Now I’m crying too. I thought for sure it must be Thursday though, and had a bit of a panic moment that I was so far behind.
    Gotta love those 10 year olds. One moment they are making you want to tear your hair out, and the next they make you realize why we don’t want them to grow up. They are stuck in that see-saw of childhood and pre-teen. I’d rather they stay in the childhood part.

  36. Aimee

    WAAAAAAAAAAAAAH! Okay, that just killed me. SO sweet. I’m crying in my office, and very glad there’s nobody else here to see me.

  37. Karly

    Oh, that made me cry! You have such great kids. In fact, maybe you could come parent mine? I’m nowhere near as great a mom as you are.

  38. Momsy

    sobbing. That’s a good kid you have there. She probably gets it from her Mama.

  39. Jill

    Oh. My.

    Why do you want to make me to cry at work, anyway?

  40. angela

    Ok seriously that choir teacher is messed up. It is great though when kids get it and understand or at least accept why we do what we do.

  41. Lylah

    I’m not a crier, but that last bit has me swallowing hard and wiping my eyes at my desk right now. I know it’s hard, but I think you’re succeeding at the “raising her to be a pleasant, respectful human” part.

    Oh, and “anyone who wasn’t perfect was going to be cut” should totally apply to choir directors instead of elementary school kids.

  42. Jennifer

    I am bawling too.

  43. Headless Mom

    Wow. What a cool kid-even when she makes you do the hard stuff!

  44. Ladybug Crossing

    As a music teacher with kids who don’t show up for performances, I totally understand the lady’s angst (I only have 10 kids in my group so if 1 is missing – YIKES!). But it is a VOCAL group of 80, so really… it didn’t matter one iota — unless the kid had a solo… in which case, I would have brought said child, watched her sing, and then hauled her butt home and grounded her for a reasonable duration.

    I love the note! So sweet.
    You did great!

  45. liz

    WHY do you make me cry at work???? Do you just somehow KNOW when I’m going to be more emotional in public? Sweet, sweet girl.

  46. Randi

    First of all, the choir director needs to be smacked. Severely. With a wet noodle across the eye, preferably.

    Second of all, you definitely did the right thing when it came to disciplining Chickadee.

    Thirdly, Chickadee is either a really sweet child (I’m sure she is), or a master of manipulations (I’m sure she is LOL)

  47. Ann

    Absolutely beautiful! Get that paper laminated, and bring it back out whenever the need arises!

  48. Anna

    I’m with some of the others- clearly she didn’t need *everyone* if she cut them last week!

  49. Jessalyn

    Aw! Better keep that one!

  50. Heidi

    First I have to say that choir director was terrible! And what a beautiful note, I am still teary after seeing that!!

  51. Melisa

    Insightful, that one.

    P.S. You totally should’ve punched the choir director in the face.

  52. dad

    Hang on to that note.
    I have one from you which begins “There was a little girl, who had a little curl…”
    It’s been in my office desk drawer for over thirty years and I still cherish it.

  53. The Other Leanne

    (I love your Dad)
    Let me see if I get this…
    If somebody is screwing up, the choir teacher has the right to eliminate them from the performance, but you don’t have the same right?
    Interesting perspective on her part. I’m going to go write that down in my Book of Crap.

  54. TC


    Also: Sniffle.

  55. beaux kyle

    How sweet. I have two daughters who always seem to go neck and neck at things, and getting to the bottom of it usually means somebody is getting sent to their bedroom. We get those hand written notes quite often, but I’ve never seen the, “You are the good guy” one yet. That is so precious.

  56. Linda Sherwood

    As a parent who just this year forced her oldest child to miss her freshman homecoming dance AND back out of a band trip to Chicago, I totally agree that parenting IS HARD. And I’m glad I’m not the only parent that does the hard work instead of taking the easy road.

  57. Jess

    Okay, seriously. It’s a Christmas Miracle. That’s the sweetest thing I have seen, and I get a ton of notes. ;)

  58. Kristen

    Wow, I don’t even have kids and that made me tear up. You guys are raising some good kids.

  59. ChristieNY

    Happy love Wednesday, Mir. I think we all needed that. Big hugs to you, Chickie, Otto and the Monkster. You’re doing an amazing job with those kiddos.

  60. Shannon

    Now you have me crying. I have to be the bad guy in my house too. My ex generally tells me to discipline the kids, and when I ask him to come over to talk to them , he lets them off the hook. I am way beyond tired of being the bad guy, but if I’m not who will? We just have to believe that we are doing a great job, and hopefully one day the kids will thank us for it.

  61. the planet of janet

    i usually pass on commenting when you hit 60 of ’em (heh), but this one i couldn’t let go.

    aside from the fact that you are totally right for sticking to your guns, and that chickadee is the best …

    that choir director should be taken out back and shot. when z-man was 12, he was in a grown-up barbershop chorus with my husband. a right-talented little snot he was too, and he loooooved it. however grades? not so much. and so as the carrot to get him to live up to his potential in school, i tied his chorus participation to his grades.

    right before their big contest, he got a progress report with a D on it. he knew what that would mean.

    but the chorus had lost a lot of members and he was one of only two tenors. i agonized over what to do and finally called his director.


    your choir director is an ass.

  62. emily

    This post needs a disclaimer – do not read right before a big meeting with your boss. Totally crying. How am I going to explain that?

    I’m glad that you had this to find this morning – you totally deserve it.

  63. Carrie

    Great! Crying at work. Now all my co-workers are going to think I’m nuts!

  64. Meg

    Teared up a little here. (And not just over the kids getting pulled out of academics at the whim of a wacko choir director)

  65. Debbi

    Ok, I am crying at work too. I was going to comment about a few other funny things in the post but the ending was….spectacular. You really are the good guy and the way your kids show their love for you proves it. Ok, need some tissues.

  66. stephanie

    Wow…from one bad guy to another, congratulations on raising that Chickadee. You’ve got a keeper there.
    (I’ve NEVER cried over a blog before…)

  67. K

    Thank You for posting this. I am crying now, but it is totally worth it.

    You may not always be the good guy or the fun guy but you know your children respect you and your feelings and they love you very much.

  68. Dave

    Awesome post, Mir. My daughter is only 2 now, but I know these kinds of days will come.

    Extremely touching post. That note *definitely* gets saved for the memorabilia box. Thanks for sharing.

  69. carrien

    Why [sob] would that [hiccup] make you cry? [sob] [sob] [sniffle] I don’t [choke] get it. [honk]

  70. Traci

    Big tears here too. My son is looking at me like I’m crazy because I’m crying looking at the computer screen. You have a great daughter! (who you are obviously raising well)
    She makes you laugh (Dude. Exactly HOW LONG is that movie, anyway?!) and cry. Just perfect.

  71. Wendy E

    Awwwww, that totally made my tear up. The nerve of that director. Even in middle school here choir does not have try outs. There are try outs for all-state, for a children’s choir in the area, but they don’t even have choir at the elementary level, everyone takes music and is in the program. Although around here if you miss the big concert, you flunk the class, so that would make it even harder to stick to your guns on that one. Go Mama though, that Chickadee gets me every time also.

  72. Katie in MA

    I hate you, you made me cry at work! Okay, I don’t really hate you, but you knew that (even without a note). What a tremendously sweet way for Chickie to apologize…even if it meant she was listening to your conversation. (Not that I ever did that. Ahem.)

    And I’m with everyone else – for a minute, I thought today was Thursday and panicked because I thought I forgot to write my own LT post!

  73. Lori

    I hope the Fun Parent realizes that fun lasts for just a minute. By setting boundaries and enforcing rules, you’re not only raising pleasant, respectful humans, you’re also building a lifelong relationship with those humans!

    Oh, and that Choir Director is a complete moron.

  74. Alice

    I’m all kinds of weepy right now, and it’s not because I disagree on the missing group events as punishment issue. Chickadee sounds a lot like I was when I was a little older than she is – my mother often says that I seemed to know just when she was about to give up all hope, and then I’d pull out something wonderfully sweet. I don’t know if I ever did something this good, though.

    As someone who also hates being the bad guy, I am so, so happy that you’ve got such great kids.

    (still weepy)

  75. jennielynn

    Yeah, Chickie’s gettin’ a pony for Christmas.

  76. jennielynn

    And FYI? My ex was the fun parent. Drama Queen now calls Mr. Clairol (my Otto) Dad and my ex by his first name. Fun Parent backfires quickly when your children are smart.

  77. Melanie

    Thinking mean thoughts in the direction of the music teacher… ;)

  78. Sheila

    She’s a keeper,that girl.

    Also? Your Dad? Totally awesome as well.

  79. Dawn

    So, you holding Chickie back hurt the entire choir AND the director, but the director kicking out Monkey AND EIGHT OTHER KIDS didn’t?

    Yeah. That there’s some real fine logic, Ellie-Mae.

    Control. Freak.

    And you are the good guy. The guy that’s going to help them turn out to be good people. AND you’re pretty! Two for one! I think your kids got a pretty sweet deal.

  80. nil zed

    she is one great kid!

    and your dad is right, make sure you hold on to that. You’ll need to be able to lay your hands on it when she’s 15. Or 27.

  81. margie

    damn kids, making you cry!! lol. good guy indeed.

  82. megs

    I need to wipe the tears off so I can type. I have a 14 month old and I hope one day to be that strong of a mother and have a daughter that knows how to be kind even if she doesn’t show it all the time!

  83. Paulla

    OMG – precious. I literally gasped when I read the bottom. What a precious gift. Merry Christmas!

  84. Melanie


  85. liv

    crying! and yeah, choir director is a total ass. complete and utter.

  86. Anna

    She’s a love, that girl.

  87. The FringeGirl

    What a range of emotions. She’s a sweetie.

  88. Melody

    I can hear the little voice in Chickie’s head saying, “Will you love me if I do this, will you still love me if I push harder, will you still love me if I keep pushing?” And then when the consequences come, the little voice in her head says with a grateful sigh, “Yes, she does love me.” And she makes you a heart card.

    My parents made me walk the line, and I am so thankful. I’m now 40 with two girls of my own.

  89. Dyan

    Wow! That was awesome!!!

  90. Ash

    OMG, I am going through a divorce with 3 girls ages 6 to 3 and I am ALWAYS the bad guy. When I went and met their dad to get them and was driving home, the 4 year old told me she didn’t love me and wanted to live with her dad. I guess it’s because he lives with family members and she has cousins to play with and rarely gets in trouble. I just feel like I’m always going to be the bad one. I have rules that I enforce and they hate it and me sometimes it seems. Please tell me it will get better with time!!!

  91. Jen

    stop making me cry, Mir.

  92. Damsel

    Oh, my. I got all choked up. WTG, Mir and Chickadee!

    I’d laminate that puppy and keep it FOREVER.

  93. Laura

    Snif, snif!

  94. ImpostorMom

    Awww, that is so sweet. Got a little teary eyed.

  95. shannon

    i, too, can’t believe i have tears in my eyes…..never, unless a post is about death or disease, never do i cry.
    oh, and about that director and you punishing her??? did you throw it in her face that it’s not so different than what she did to monkey, for less of a reason??

  96. Asianmommy

    Aww…how sweet!

  97. Rachel

    I cried. Honest to goodness tears. Your little girl rocks and you do too.

  98. Nicole in WI

    Holy Cow! There should have been a disclaimer on this one! I actually hitched out a sob on that note. It is amazing that we beat ourselves up for being the MOM and they are the ones that show us how worthwhile it really is and that we really are doing a good job.

    As for the director…auditions, in GRADE SCHOOL? Are you kidding me? I don’t think I would have restrained myself with that little diatribe. You are a bigger woman than me! :)

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