Hell hath no fury . . .

. . . like a mama scorned.

I’m not sure I’ve introduced most of you to my alter ego, Cuckoo Mommy. In recent years, I’ve banished her for the most part. She tends to overreact, extrapolate too far into the future and generally worry about things beyond her control. Sound familiar? Any of you with the slightest Tiger mom tendencies–and you know who you are—are tracking with me.

Both of my sons attended a small school for gifted children. My youngest is still there, in his last year. Because of attending this school and good academic performance, my younger son was invited to attend an online year-long symposium of sorts by a Big University. Not a university like Stanford, but a well-known competitive university nonetheless.

We filled out his application, got the appropriate recommendations, etc. We moved heaven and earth to arrange our schedules for the intro broadcast—only to be told it was full. Big University made a Big Mistake. They seemingly forgot to tell their tech people to up the quota for the broadcast to accommodate the number of students who would be attending online.

I was displeased they had dropped the ball. We tend to be pretty tightly scheduled in my house. I work long hours. My youngest is involved in school and a variety of extracurriculars. Big University assured us we could watch the replay and all would be well.

Only all was not well. It seems there was an enrollment contract due, despite the fact my son was already accepted into the program. A contract that was mentioned in one email sent to us. One. Out of the hundreds of emails I get each day, I was supposed to be paying attention to just this one? My son got the same email. Neither of us was tracking.

When I emailed the school to let them know we missed the contract deadline by two days—and could my son still make things “official” with them, I received a polite but firm email telling me enrollment was now closed.

Sigh.

I guess it’s ok for Big University to make a Big Mistake. We are expected to forgive them simply because of their apology. So how is my son making a Big Mistake and missing their deadline by 48 hours unforgivable? I’m not quite sure that makes sense. A university that is loosey-goosey enough to miss an online quota by 1,000 people seems like a university that would forgive a 48-hour lapse. But I guess not.

Fast forward. After tabling the decision to contact a connection on the board about the lackluster start to this program, I wrote said BU a scathing reply. In it, I mentioned that my son had been training diligently for his tae kwon do black belt test, one it’s taken him roughly four years to earn the right to take. I mentioned his recent gold medal at the state science fair, his poem’s upcoming inclusion in the America Library of Poetry anthology, his angst over the fact that the doctors still have not taken his father’s chemo port out after a year of being cancer free. He knows what that means. He has, to put it mildly, a lot on his plate. And then I began to mention the number of elite boarding schools that were courting him, the fact that he works a full year ahead in school, makes High Honor Roll, etc. Yes, Cuckoo Mommy was in full force.

I was tempted to mention my schedule as the divorced mom who brings home the bacon—all the bacon. Ghostwritten bylines for a few Major Magazines. Conference calls in the wee hours of the morning with Europe and with Asia when I should be in bed. Fielding calls from my eldest’s dean because his recent bout with senioritis has included doing a doughnut in the school parking lot and skipping his last afternoon classes because he was “tired.” Trying to figure out how I’m going to foot my health insurance bill next year, as it’s already far too high and I’m getting early predictions of an increase of at least 40 percent in my premiums—despite being healthy. Thanks, Congress. Stellar job. BU may think its program should be a Priority, but honestly—in the big picture—we’ve had bigger fish to fry lately. It’s called Life.

And then I stopped. And realized I was doing what I call other parents out for doing—I was making excuses for us.

Yes, Big University made a Big Mistake and should be more accommodating.

Yes, they’re missing a great candidate in missing out on my youngest. And I promise you—when he is a titan of industry, or medicine, or government—he will not forget what he perceives as their high-handed attitude. It is truly their loss, despite the hundreds of other bright students I’m sure are in their program. This kid has it in spades. He may be in his head far too much, but it is a wonderful head to be in.

Motherly bragging aside, he missed a deadline. This is just the way life works. Many other families are busy. Many other students have worries in their personal life. To this BU, right or wrong, this deadline is written in stone. None of those worries and other obligations matter.

If I push my advantage—contacting the board member, venting with a scathing email—I hurt my son. Because I don’t let him feel the consequence of his lack of action. Unfortunately, I feel it too. I was the kid who made it into some elite schools but could not go because my parents could not afford it. Education and what it provides runs deep for me.

However, at my son’s school, I’ve seen too many parents make things smooth for their children. Run back home multiple times to retrieve the homework Junior forgot or the lunch left on the kitchen table. Rewrite the competitive school admission entry because they didn’t like what their son or daughter had written. Mold an archetype instead of allowing a child to blossom into a unique individual. When I realized who I was mimicking in that moment, I stopped short. Deleted the email. Did not complete the call to the board member.

Life is life. Money and academic advantage can get you so far. But eventually, you are judged on your own merits. Your actions—or lack thereof. My son is learning a painful but extremely important life lesson before the stakes get even higher.

And I’m standing by, biting my lip, watching him do it. It is painful.

I will not lie to you. My least attractive side hopes he graduates Stanford or MIT, Harvard or Yale, and never looks back. This BU will appear as but a brief blip in an otherwise stellar academic career.

But my wisest self knows life sends us what we need. Perhaps he required a reminder that he must take more responsibility for what is on his plate. That I can nudge and support—but it’s his ball game.

Even scorned mama bears know enabling their kids is not the way to true success and happiness.

Today, I am honest enough to tell you I wish it was. I know I could make this happen for him. I’m just choosing not to do so.

And in that is the lesson for me.

Ouch.

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37 Comments Add yours

  1. My mom wouldn’t be stopped at this time. She would call, fight and claw and somehow get things done here

    It was during my visa process that we realized fighting gets us nothing, better to live with the consequences

    1. candidkay says:

      That is sometimes a very hard realization to come to, isn’t it? At least you know she has your back!

  2. That would have been a tough call for me too, but I think you did the right thing by pulling back, as hard as it was to do so.

    1. candidkay says:

      It sure was hard! But thanks for the kind words:).

  3. I do not have children, but I can certainly understand your fury, Kristine. I can see myself easily unleashing the tiger in me in similar situations. I have actually — in my younger and unwise years. And I look back now and realize I could have — and should have —- held my tongue and rein. It sure does help to know that, as you said, “my wisest self knows life sends us what we need.” Insight, of course, is always in hindsight. 😉

    I so enjoyed reading this, Kristine. Thank you for sharing, and thank you for your candor!

    Much L ❤ ve & Brightest Blessings!!!

    1. candidkay says:

      My mother used to say hindsight was 20/20. Oh so right:). But that tiger has a place in the mix!

  4. I was with you all the way and blood pressure rising even from here ha ha. Then I read SRBOTTCH’s response and slowed right down….something else is waiting for your son, this was not for him. xx

    1. candidkay says:

      I have to believe that also! But I was right there with you on the blood pressure. It certainly was a frustrating, disappointing experience.

  5. What an honest and wise post you’ve shared with us, K. I am a former and sometimes-still Cuckoo Mommy too, and I was empathising, sorrowing and cringing and Aha-ing at the sequence of events, your wrestle with yourself, and the ultimate conclusions that you reached. You’re right, it’s a tough lesson for your son, and seems a steep price for him to pay, but sometimes these disappointments happen to prevent bigger ones down the road. Keep doing what you’re doing, kiddo.

    1. candidkay says:

      Thanks for the encouragement, Cynthia. These things do have a way of working out. I appreciate you taking this journey with me!

  6. srbottch says:

    Whew, I’m exhausted reading this. Wish I had a shoulder for you, you sound like you could use it. When the kids come
    Rushing to my crossing post and tell
    Me they’re late but we still have to wait for the light, I tell them there are worse things in life than being late. Maybe I’m wrong because being late really was a downer for you. Take care. Something tells me that your kids will be fine.

    1. candidkay says:

      MUCH worse things than being late! Thanks for the reminder:).

  7. George says:

    Your sons are very lucky to have the kind of role model they have In you. Yes it hurts and yes you want to make it better for them right now but by doing that, maybe you make it worse down the road. He will remember this much longer than he would have remembered you “fixing” it for him.
    You DONE good…be proud. 😊

    1. candidkay says:

      Aw, thanks George:). I do need to take the long view. Hopefully he takes more away from the lesson than he would have from the program!

  8. Doesn’t that bring back memories Kay. I wish I knew then what I know now…and I too would ‘let it all go’.
    We are designed to do the best for our children…it’s just the ‘which best is best’ that gets in the way. Let alone the ‘atrocities’ that get dumped on us from ‘educational empires’.
    The parts that rocked my boat was when, after much discussion with the individual concerned, an agreed course of action was determined…and then they are offered something else, or fall in love, or buy a car, or…and out the door wobbles another plan…and on it goes 😀
    Who wouldn’t want to be a parent Kay…and I be thinking that is where the grey hair comes in 😀

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank God it’s silver and white in my case. The hair, that is:). As for plans B through Z, those are up for grabs.

  9. Maura says:

    My mother always says, “when God closes a door he always opens a window but it is hell in the hallway.” Yes, I have spent much time in the hallway with my children. It is difficult knowing I could pry that wi ndow open in a heartbeat and make things easier for all of us. The times I have done that have never ended well. All in due time. We must enjoy the “hallway”.

    1. candidkay says:

      Oh, I absolutely love that! Yes. The hallway. Your mother is one wise woman! Ask her how she passed the time without climbing the walls:).

  10. A tough choice, but the right one. I don’t think you should be so hard on yourself for missing the deadline. I see life working for me all the time, and truly believe there are no coincidences. You were never going to make the deadline and I would say there is a good reason he isn’t going. You will never know why, but you can trust its for the higher good for both of you. When I open a door and the universe closes it. I listen. No more pushing for me. I do my bit of course, I open and show up, but I never try and control my circumstances, it requires much less energy and always works for my highest good. 💚

    1. candidkay says:

      You are right as usual! And, if I am true to my word for 2017, then I need to “allow.” I do believe he is meant for other things. Just hard to keep that in mind today. Thank you for the reminder!

      1. I look forward to hearing the next chapter of your story when you say “thank goodness we forgot registration ha” 💕💚💕

  11. Kate says:

    LOVE this . Its so far for us to let our kids “fall forward” but falling forward is a life lesson that must be learned….. hugs to you momma bear….

    1. candidkay says:

      You’re so very right. But why don’t we get to completely envelop them in bubble wrap before we let it happen? 🙂 That just seems like it would feel better.

  12. From one lip-biting mother to another, it’s painful, yes, but you still have the same gifted, insightful, hard-working son. You’ve done the right thing, the response that makes motherhood so challenging at times. This course, not the one you wanted, may in the end open him up for more discoveries or creative achievements than he might have realized as part of that program. On to another frontier!

    1. candidkay says:

      I love your last comment. Yes, on to another frontier! I think life shows us where we are supposed to be–sometimes in painful ways. I have to believe he is meant for something else at the moment. And that it’s better, once he gets beyond the lesson.

  13. Dale says:

    Brilliant, dear lady. I am in a similar boat to you (except my boys are not scholarly – at all). That said, when they miss deadlines or other such things, I just look at them and let them know that if it is/was important to them, they will/would have do(ne) what is necessary to get in, get out, do whatever is necessary to obtain whatever it is that is important.
    It drives me crazy when I see how many 16-17-18 + year-olds who don’t even know how to fill in a form. Mommy did it for them all their lives. I’m not saying we can’t help them fill it out but they must learn how to do it when we are not around. That is our job. To teach them to be responsible.

    1. candidkay says:

      I completely agree on our job. So why is it so darn hard?! Aargh. You are a wise mama and you know those Canucks you’re raising will be stellar men:).

      1. Dale says:

        I’m definitely hoping! As will yours, I am sure!

  14. It’s so hard, isn’t it?! And mine are only 10 & 9. I’ve had so many situations already this year where I’ve been torn about what to handle because we live in a climate where other parents pull strings right and left for their kids. Ugh. I commend you. Your boy sounds like an amazing kid. He’s gonna be fine. And so will you, Mama…in a day or so.

    1. candidkay says:

      Oh boy, You have the most interesting years of mothering ahead, don’t you? And by interesting of course I mean challenging:). Thanks for the reminder that in a day or so, we’ll be on to other things. Today, I’m still ruminating on it.

  15. I like your choice and process. Good job Kay and best wishes for your son. It seems he will be fine. 🙂

    1. candidkay says:

      Thanks so much. A bit of a messy process this time, but it got me there. I know he will be fine. It’s the one thing I seem to know for sure:). Thank goodness.

  16. I think you made the right choice. He’ll learn from this and be more mindful in the future. Besides, The Last thing this world needs is more entitled people. It’s good to be humbled sometimes. It makes one more hungry. 😊

    1. candidkay says:

      You pegged it with the word: entitled. Just because you have an advantage doesn’t mean you should use it, right? But the way they handled this angered me. Easy to lose the North Star when you’re upset.

      1. It is indeed. And don’t feel bad. There’s a mama bear in my house too. Do. Not. Piss. Her. Off! 😃

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