Tracie Shroyer is my V.A. (virtual assistant) and a great story-teller.
Learn more about Tracie at VATracie.com.
-- Guest post by Tracie Shroyer, V.A.
Judy and I have worked together for six years. I’ve told her often how much her work has influenced my life and the way I look at, and handle, conflict.
A few weeks ago I dropped off our youngest son, age 15, at school four states away. The reason he goes to school so far from us is a longer story than I have space for, but suffice it to say it isn’t because he’s a bad kid. The opposite. He’s a great kid, and it’s really tough for us to drop him off each year.
As the two of us pulled up to the aging dorm, sadness overwhelmed me. His campus is old and beautiful--we love it--but his building is not good. New dorms are going up next door, and this building seems anxious to say goodbye to its last boarders so it can be torn down.
A bad feeling about this…
My son was giddy with excitement. When you go to boarding school, you spend all summer away from your friends--friends who are like a second family. He couldn’t wait to get his room set up and find his buddies.
Arms full of boxes, we arrived at his locked door.
“Honey,” I said. “I have a bad feeling about this…”
The door was clearly marked with a handmade sign labeled “Storage.”
My son, ever the optimist and the family jokester said, “Oh, I bet there’s some really cool stuff in there!”
When the dorm parent swung the door open, I think we collectively sucked the air out of the room.
Although a regular dorm room, enrollment numbers for the previous two years meant this room hadn’t been needed. This room was where two years of lost and found, unmarked boxes and discarded furniture had been stored.
As the dorm parent backpedaled, got on his walkie-talkie and mumbled something about maintenance supposedly having taken care of this, I went through a lifetime of emotion.
- Tears welled in my eyes as I thought about leaving my son in this filthy room that didn’t even appear to have a bed.
- Relief flooded through me as I realized that at least I had one small tub of cleaning wipes in my car.
- Disbelief covered my face. This I know because the dorm parent got away from me as quickly as possible and my son began frantically trying to comfort me.
An hour later, as I was taking a break, picking cobwebs out of my hair and observing the pile of previously discarded items my son had collected because they were “too awesome” to get rid of, another mom saw us through the window and poked her perfectly coiffed head in. She wore an unwrinkled white sundress and no cobwebs. She smelled heavenly. Not “earthy” like me.
“Hey, Tracie!!! How ya’ll doing….” She stopped short as she caught a glimpse of the mess we had. After an hour, we had finally moved enough stuff to determine the room had a wood floor.
When I asked if her son’s room looked the same way, she said; “NO Ma’am! It most certainly DOES NOT!”
Sure enough a quick peek into the room next door showed it to be spotlessly clean. Yep, they were wood floors all right! And there were beds and desks!
An hour of cleaning began to reveal wood floors and pieces of a bed!
It was then that my inner warrior mom kicked in. Still no one had come to help us and I’d had it.
As I began marching my short legs over to the administration building, I heard my son murmur to a friend, “Uh oh. This could be a problem…”
Luckily, the admin building was a block away. It gave me a moment to consider my options.
- I could go to the dorm parent, busy helping other families, and cause a scene. I was steaming, both literally and figuratively, and it would have been very easy for me to lose it in front of all of them and let them know what I thought of the situation.
- I could storm into the office, throw a fit because my son’s room was not ready and ask why maintenance had not taken care of the issue. It’s not like they didn’t realize the room would be occupied. Heck, on top of the piles of garbage was his little packet welcoming him back to school.
- I could walk right past the admin building and go straight to the Head of School. I could see him walking on the other side of campus. Clearly he needed to know of this great injustice.
But the further I walked, the more I realized that there was really only one department to blame and that was maintenance. It seemed obvious the job had been avoided rather than forgotten; and… it was a busy time of year for them and they usually do an outstanding job.
I reminded myself that this is a school we all love. That my son lives with these people nine months out of the year and that they take great care of him in our absence. Most importantly to my pride, I remembered that my husband and I would see all of them often over the next few years and I really didn’t want to be known as that mom.
By the time I got to the office, I had centered myself. With each footstep I remembered to breathe and I was much calmer when I arrived. Of course now instead of angry words, I found myself fighting tears.
It worked. I spoke with the administration secretary, who was appalled at the situation, immediately picked up her own walkie-talkie and started making calls. By the time I returned to my son’s room there was an army of maintenance guys, the dorm parent and a big group of kids my son had recruited to help.
As I watched the group pitch in, I was still disappointed in the situation but was proud of the way I’d handled it. I can return to campus without being embarrassed or having regret. I don’t have to worry that my son will be ostracized because of my bad behavior. And his polite, southern mannered friends will never refer to me as Lunatic Mom.
Besides, I’m pretty sure I got him first dibs on the new dorm when it opens next fall, and he assures me the duct-taped old office chair missing a wheel that he found in a pile of boxes was worth all of the hassle.