December 13, 2011

Broken Boundaries? To Tell a Friend

Recently,  I invited a friend to bring her family to listen to a concert. Our son was in an intimate venue with other students,  at his teachers house. 

I was not prepared for my friend to judge the caliber of my son's teacher at the end.  The expression on her face said it all. Then she collected herself and said, "Have you heard of Thomas (another teacher, who is on her side of town)?"   She'd hatched, on the spot, a plan to bring my son to a "better" teacher, a male, who would be a great fit for our son!

 Yes,  I'd heard of Thomas before.  

I stayed open and listened. With each sentence my friend uttered I so wanted to use my defenses. Etiquette kept me civil.  I stayed thoughtful and the farther we went the more surprised I got!   It took some time to articulate part of the problem--my friend had found our piano teacher inadequate, and was saying so in the teacher's house!  It was not until the end that I decided to  take my friend out on the porch to tell her how uncomfortable that made me feel.  I chose to not state the obvious:  I am the parent and did not ask for her advice. 

In hindsight, I recognized that I was feeling alarms in my gut, that told me I would not be helped by her words, as soon as I saw her face, and watched her preparing to speak.   Why do I allow folks to say what they need to say, and not stop them so I can articulate my own boundaries, first? Maybe because I don' t necessarily like my defenses, not in a public setting. Maybe because I am just plain curious.

All along the merry path she tried to forge with her words, I was ready to burst. I'd wanted to smart back and say, "You think I have not thought about working with another teacher?"  I felt bad because I'd been trying to get my husband on board with this same plan, to find a different teacher....  It was like she was getting right into our family underpants. Like I was not doing enough for our son. Some folks have radar for that.  

I wish I had played teacher, or the older wiser sage parent that I am. (smile)  I'd have said immediately.  "You noticed that there is a range of skills this early in the year."  I'd have used my intuition and my empathy to take care of myself and my son's teacher, said,  "It's natural to want to compare the kids. Yet they are incomparible and you have no idea how hard this teacher works with them. Let us go meet and talk with her."

Had she still continued with her aside comment,    "Have you heard of Thomas?  I can get your son together with him."  I'd might have said, "If that is a serious issue for you, let us discuss it later."  Or more boldly, "I'd like you to let me bring that up, when it is  more appropriate. Not in his teacher's home." 

But by letting her be, I got to see just how far she would go.  

Only yesterday, I discovered my friend went up to my husband, to present the same idea. Hubby, bless his heart, took it a lot less seriously. He told her that was up to our son. Thinking she would get the message,  to let it go. 

But, she  took the next logical step!   When she saw my son again, she asked him  (he was lounging bored in a chair), wouldn't he like to try out a new teacher ( right in the same room as our teacher, who thankfully was deep in conversation.).  I was there and my natural snarkiness came out then.  I looked at our son, and said drily, "He doesn't look very interested, does he?"   All the words that wanted to come out of me before that moment had been on hold because I did not want to be rude!!!

I had to laugh when hubby told me about his part in our drama. That is when I realized that my friend had  heard DH say to her.  "Ask our son."  The logic of persistence.   If I had only been able to laugh, then.    Instead, the whole situation left me anxious and ashamed. Two attitudes I did not need that night.  

I analyze and re-analyze when my self-esteem takes a hit.  I got myself in such a tizzy, I even wished I had been completely honest and set a boundary for the future.

( I like to think I can prevent future problems, by educating and speaking my mind, using every inch of my 5 foot 4 and eyes of blue to take charge!)
I imagined myself confronting her, saying,   "It feels to me like you are assuming my parental duties."     

Ah but let go, Smitty, my HP would say. You've struggled long enough with using your brain on this one.

Now I have to vent, so my HP (and you all) can know my truth.    I can't stand it when I sense people  try to fix me (or my family):  as if I don't have the wherewithal to do our life right!   F  is not a musical professional , she was intimating she would be a  go-between with this new teacher.  She may have been acting out of concern, but she "forgot" about some important concerns our family has right now about moving.   I am not exactly comfortable  switching teachers mid year,  as we could be moving as early as May of 2012.  It is not fair to take press our son towards a more lofty goal, I don't think, and leave two teachers in the lurch.   I'll give her the benefit of the doubt, perhaps she does not "get" the etiquette of the music community.

And perhaps there is something for me to learn from this interaction, that involves me taking less responsibility for others behavior and more for my own.  Hmmm..

To tell a friend, or not?


  1. I'm not sure if your post is more interesting because of its content and how I sooo relate to it; or because of the timing of it.

    I experienced a similar interior hell yesterday in the aftermath of a conversation with someone I need badly to trust... and found or imagined grounds not to. It's often impossible for me to turn off barrages of reactive alarms, thought and feeling, rationale, scrutiny, and defense, etc. Point being, I'm testing a solution that seems to be working for me.

    Last week, my higher power clearly answered my plea for a simple yet consequentially informing way to turn off the battle in my head, to conclude things, or to let go. Al-Anon slogans help, but right now they're not divisive enough for me, not sharp enough to cut away the nonsense. They don't stop me enough.

    Well, an hour or two after my plea I had occasion to drive a distance and inexplicably tuned into a Catholic radio station I like. Well, within a few moments I found myself listening to discussion of the term amen. Its meaning depends on the user and its use and the context of course. It may mean: I believe this, or let this be so, or so be it, or I concur or approve. Or it may be mindless habit on the part of the user. What got my attention is that it can also mean: I'd stake my life on it.

    That's what I was looking for. Being able to say amen in that light to the things I think or feel, has helped me turn off the interior noise and focus on what's relevent and true. When I catch myself fretting incessantly and unproductively, I've started asking if this (my view) is something I'd stake my life on. Or ask myself if I can say amen to my view. It's particularly useful against projecting or assigning motive to another person. I've found it useful in dividing what I know from what I don't know, or dividing what's important from what's not, or dividing what I can't accept from what I can. Trusting and acting according to my conclusions without apology are important also for me to practice. Still testing... :) .

    In answer to your question, to tell a friend or not, or whoever... In my case, I've ranted unchecked out loud before. Sometimes it's called for and productive, but not usually. Today I say it would depend on whether or not I have reached conclusions for myself and whether or not I could amen my friend's insight and loyalty.

    I appreciate the prompt for thought your post has served. If I've written too much, as I often do, please accept my apology, and inform me... :)

  2. I am so glad for your stopping by again. I was trying to find out if I would be able to correspond with you, after your last comment!

    Rest assured you have not "over" shared. I took in each word. It was timely for me. Let us continue conversation as we can. Feel free to use my private email as well. Would love to hear how your once or twice a month trips to your EA group work out. As well you know, the culture of each meeting depends on who shows up. Don't give up if renewing your commitment to attend, has you finding your first meeting not meeting up to your memories. Keep coming back!

  3. Thanks, timbre, particularly for the simplicity of the Amen.

    I tend to over-analyze. Amen resonates, and says, "It is enough."

  4. Smitty, I think that perhaps your friend does not understand that she is trying to control a situation that is not her business. I find that happens a lot among people who don't have the benefit of a 12 step program. Sometimes all I have to say is "I will think about that." And then I make a decision after consideration. If a person persists, then I will state that we are happy with the current situation or something to that effect. Controlling people try to help but really ego is running the show. Looking at motives helps me to mind my own business.

  5. I don't like people telling me what to do when I didn't ask for their advice. I'm not always good at deflecting it though. If I can remove myself from the conversation, I will. I like what Syd said.


I welcome your thoughts. Keep me honest~