Struggling with Guilt and Feeling Used

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The last week of school and the kids are getting ready for their Christmas concert. Seeing them huddled on stage, fidgeting under the lights, peering out for mom and dad in the audience. This should bring happy feelings but instead I have a knot in my stomach. My insides are battling between guilt and feeling used.

For many, school is a place the kids go to learn, they are dropped off and picked up but unless you have an issue with the teacher you may not have ventured into the school halls. The Christmas Concert may be the first time. It is time to see your child interact with his or her peers and perform in the school gym; a time to see parents you’ve only talked to via email or telephone; a time to celebrate the start of the Christmas season with joyful song and happy tears.

Christmas concerts used to be a welcoming place for all the family, come in and sit and listen. Now it’s turned into a fundraising venture like so many activities happening at the school. At first I took issue with this but this year when the order form arrived home I bit my tongue. My kids are teetering on the edge of still enjoying the school performances and finding it a waste of time, reserved for the love of tiny kindergarten kids. I didn’t want to add to their excuse of not attending and I do love seeing them performing with their class. I love seeing them stand on the stage, scouring the audience for the faces of my husband and I. I placed my order for the one evening performance, cancelling another commitment so I could attend. That was done.

The school called to say they had no room for me to attend. I’ll admit I was annoyed. I realized the person on the other end was just conveying the message so I bit my tongue, asking her to return my ticket money to my oldest daughter and that we wouldn’t be attending that night.

As I walked to school I prepared myself for telling the kids I wouldn’t be in the audience to see them. I walked faster, feeling my neck stiffen as I thought about taking the kids to school for the show and walking home only to walk back again in two hours to pick them up. Perhaps my kids could read my displeasure as they responded they didn’t want to attend the nighttime show since we weren’t going to see them.

To make matters worse I discovered a parent in my daughter’s class handed her order form in that very day and was granted tickets to the evening show, the show I was informed was sold out. When I confronted the office staff about this confusion they obviously apologized for the oversight and didn’t know how such a mistake could have happened. They explained how they would look into this confusion and correct the situation, providing me with the tickets I had ordered should another parent have been granted mine by mistake.

That’s what should have happened. That’s how I expected the conversation to go. Instead it was sloughed off, that the tickets were handled fairly, that I must be mistaken. So of course I did the logical thing and said none of us would be attending the evening performance, parents or kids. That my daughter, the only student organizer slated to help the kids get from class to stage and one half of the MC team, would not be attending.

Then we left. My daughter was angrier than I about the whole ordeal. She seems to think it was done on purpose. She thinks we were excluded from the evening performance because my daughter is not following the school’s French program, the principal’s pride and joy. My husband feels we were excluded from the evening performance because I work from home and could easily make arrangements to see the rehearsal during the day versus taking a valuable spot away from a parent who works out of the house.

There is no proof that either of these reasons are valid but no one has been able or seems interested in explaining why tickets I was told were unavailable were made available to another parent.

So Friday night we resolved that we weren’t attending the concert and tried to move on, putting my displeasure aside.

As we prepared to head out the door to school I reminded the kids to let their teacher’s know they wouldn’t be attending the evening show. I think it’s unfair to mislead anyone and didn’t want the individual teachers waiting for us to show up prior to each class’ performance. I felt much better, not angry anymore. It was just a matter of not going. I’m sure we weren’t the only families not attending. I’m sure the school was grateful to not have to deal with me on the ticket issue.

Then my daughter called me from school at lunchtime, just as I was about to take another call.

It seems she was being told she had to go since she was playing a pivotal role in the show’s production (as a runner and MC). I could feel it, my anger welling up again. I called my daughter’s teacher to fill her in because obviously she was never told the backstory from Friday.

My gut was fighting itself.

GUILT: But your daughter loves to be behind the microphone, why are you talking this away from her.

ANGER: If her role is so key why wasn’t I told about it before hand? Why didn’t the school hold at least one ticket to the side for me or stress how important it was to confirm my attendance right away?

GUILT: But it’s not the teacher’s fault or that of the kids your daughter is suppose to help organize.

ANGER: No one has even bothered to look into the ticket mix-up. They think that they can pressure me by simply stating how important she is and how it’s too late to replace her.

GUILT: But what if the school holds a grudge and makes things difficult for your daughter? She will be applying to high school soon and recommendations from a school principal can add weight? You could be jeopardizing her school choices.

ANGER: The principal’s response to the scenario is that she can’t make exceptions. If she makes an exception for one parent she’ll have to do it for another.

And with that last point anger won the argument. The school wants me to help them out by bringing my daughter to the show to participate but they don’t want to help me. How can I not feel used or disrespected by that?

I’m sure many people think I’m being petty about the whole ordeal, I mean we are talking about a school Christmas Concert. You have to learn to pick your battles right? But at the same time I’m tired of school authorities thinking parents are stupid or expecting them to jump. We teach our kids to question authority and stick-up for what they believe in but how can we preach that when we don’t do it ourselves?

So yes perhaps my anger took over. Perhaps this whole scenario could have turned out differently. Will the school understand my point when my kids don’t attend the Christmas Concert? I don’t know but I do know they won’t acknowledge any responsibility if I do give in and let my kids attend.

I’m not a fan of negative content but some parts of parenting aren’t all smiles and happy moments. There’s anger, frustration, and guilt. Writing this is partly cathartic but it’s also as a reminder to other parents that sometimes we have to stand up against the school and make our displeasure known.

You may disagree and that’s completely your prerogative. That’s what makes parenting interesting. We all have to make choices and decisions that work best for our circumstances and family. What I deem as the right decision for me may not even enter consideration for you but I respect that.

For now I’m thankful that this school term is coming to an end and hopefully things will start again fresh in January.

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2 thoughts on “Struggling with Guilt and Feeling Used”

  1. I don’t think your petty or that your feelings are wrong on any level. To be quite honest I was getting angry FOR YOU while reading this. I think it absolutely disrespectful on so many levels that they EXPECT you to bring your child to something that they should know every child takes pride in and even parents heart melts to see such a thing radiating from their children. I would have done the same as you but I probably would have told the school to shove if as well, as I am not very good at holding my tongue in regards to my family and what j believe is right!

    • Thanks Amanda. Yes it was tempting and I did try to hold my tone when speaking with people. And then my daughter told me the principal made an announcement telling all students it was their obligation to attend, even if their parents didn’t get tickets. “We are a team”. Ha! Insert eye roll. So glad the concert was last night. Hopefully we can put this behind us and get back into happy Christmas mode. Enjoy your holidays Amanda!

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