When Parents & Executive Directors Suck: A Mama Bear Speaks Out!

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I promised to write about what triggered me last week, and here it is.

I apologize if you find this post boring, especially since I quote email exchanges to explain what happened. But I wanted to keep my promise! 

Most importantly, I wanted to read your comments to see if you have any insights you wish to share. (Be gentle, dear readers – I’m still a bit sensitive from this bullmerde!) 

I know this is a minor problem compared to what many of us with bipolar suffer with, but even ridiculous, stupid crap has the power to cause a setback in my mental health.

Blogging about these kinds of things helps me.

However, please believe me – I never forget how lucky I am to be living in a different reality, warts and all.

Finally, I’m sorry this post is too long (although if you’re a regular reader you’re probably not that surprised!) My in-house editor Lucy went to the beach today.

Lucy Soul

In any case, you have my blessing to skim it and/or skip this post! 😉 

The people involved:

My daughter

Yours truly

My daughter’s former friend

Former Friend’s Mom 

Former Friend’s Mom’s Buddy: The Theater Employee 

The Theatre’s Executive Director

Last week I emailed a message to the Executive Director at my daughter’s summer theater program.

My email was clearly marked “CONFIDENTIAL” and (this is also important to note) contained no specific names.

Dear Executive Director,

Unfortunately I have disappointing news.  My daughter will no longer be continuing with the play. We’ve given a tremendous amount of thought to this decision, and we’re sorry to let you down; my daughter most of all.

Her experience hasn’t been the one I hoped she’d have; this is
absolutely not your organization’s fault.  She hasn’t taken to singing and dancing the way we hoped she would. She isn’t enjoying the experience, which would be reason enough for her to discontinue.

However, she signed up for your program after being strongly encouraged by a (now former) school friend. This child was also her best friend who “dumped” my daughter from their friendship literally just before this production began. 

Over the past two years my husband and I found our daughter’s former friend to not only be verbally abusive to our child, but alarmingly destructive to our property whenever she visited our home.

DYANE’S NOTE: I want to give you just a little idea about my child’s former friend’s behvaior. I was home when the following things happened, but at first I wasn’t watching every moment of their playdates. In a flash this kid ripped off all the heads off my daughter’s dolls and she threw them over our deck into the forest. WEIRD! She used a white-out pen to mark up my husband’s work computer monitor and desk. (If she did that to my laptop, I  would have had her wealthy parents buy me a new computer.) She also damaged my daughter’s Santa Barbara Mission model that my child worked on for hours with her Dad – she did it when my daughter was briefly out of the room.

Of course we alerted this child’s parents about her behavior. My husband spoke directly with the child and asked her to please stop the behavior, etc. Her parents gave us empty promises and put far more energy into attending Bay Area 60’s revival rock concerts than helping their kid get the psychological support she desperately needed. I’m leaving out MANY other details about this child’s behavior, but you get the gist of it….so, back to my email to the Executive Director:

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As you can imagine, it has become increasingly difficult for my daughter to be around this child at rehearsals, and between this situation and her
primary reason for leaving, I absolutely cannot in good conscience have her continue with the program.

Thank you,

Dyane Harwood

——–

Now, here’s what happened after I sent my confidential email to the Executive Director. I know this might be confusing, but please stay with me – it’ll make sense! 

Dear Executive Director,

I am so upset while writing this to you that I’m shaking.

Today after I emailed you, someone from your staff had the audacity to read my CONFIDENTIAL EMAIL and contact my daughter’s former friend’s mother – my email DID NOT EVEN NAME ANYONE. Your staffer communicated erroneous information to this woman as well.

After that breach took place, my husband and I received numerous texts
from the former friend’s distraught mother. As a result, my daughter and I have been extremely upset.

The person at your organization behaved unethically, to say the very least; for him to interfere in such a way and not pay me the courtesy of a simple phone call FIRST is beyond me.

I can’t wrap my head around this gross breach of confidentiality,
disrespect….and frankly disturbing, meddling behavior.

I am deeply sickened  over what happened today. I have a severe, chronic
medical condition for which I’ve been hospitalized seven times since my girl
was born. She has been through HELL because of this. She has been
through things that no child should endure. I’m so furious over this
bizarre incident that I can barely think straight.

I never in a million years would expect something so heinous and
slanderous from your organization.

Dyane

————————-

My Response from the Executive Director

Executive Director here,

I am so sorry for what has transpired and I would like the opportunity to discuss it with you either in person or by telephone. Unfortunately the staff member who noticed your email to me guessed which child you were referring to and overreacted with well meaning intentions, though apparently the request for confidentiality was missed. We sincerely apologize for what followed. Please know that the impulse was not malicious, just impulsive.
OF THAT, DYANE MUTTERS, “YEAH, AND SERIAL KILLERS ARE JUST IMPULSIVE TOO. WHAT THE HELL, LADY???! PLUS HE NEVER APOLOGIZED TO ME!” 
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I would like to discuss this further if possible. I take this very seriously and am so sorry that this situation has escalated to this degree. Please let me know a good time to contact you or when we can meet.
Sincerely,
 
Executive Director
 ——-
I replied (please excuse the messed-up font!):
Thank you for your email...
After working at three nonprofits (Friends of 
Santa Cruz Libraries, Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks, 
College ofBotanical Healing Arts) I learned how 501(c)3 staff, both paid and volunteer, are not exempt from ethical business practices.

I would've been fired for doing what the person who read my email 
did.

At this point, while I thank you for the invitation to speak via phone or in person, email is the best way for me to communicate.

I'd like for our family to receive a full refund.

Too much damage has been done to myself; I've suffered a health setback because of the person's well-meaning intentions, and damage 
has been done to my sensitive girl as well.

From the Executive Director:

Thanks for responding, of course we will give you a refund…Again, I am so sorry for the pain this has caused you and and your family. I do regret not being able to reprimand our staff member accordingly, but I too want your family to be able to move on. This staff member has a personal relationship to your daughter’s former friend, and I can not promise the issue would end if I discuss the repercussions that occurred as a result of his unprofessionalism.
 
As you can see, this is a dilemma  for me.
(DYANE THINKS, “CRY ME A F*CKING RIVER! IF THIS HAPPENED TO YOUR KID, YOU’D GO BATSHIT TOO!)
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I believe that learning from this act of poor judgment and irresponsibility would be such a useful lesson.
(FROM DY: WE NEEDED A LESSON LIKE THIS LIKE WE NEEDED A HOLE IN OUR HEADS!)
As much as I love our small and close community, sometimes the closeness leads to unsafe, unclear boundaries. Again, I welcome further discussion, but understand your wish to put this behind you.
 
Thank you for your understanding.
Sincerely, Executive Director
——–

Okay, so that’s the exchange. 

 

Here’s What I Might Have Done If I Was Manic When This Happened:

  1. Tracked the “well-meaning” person down in public so I could yell at him and make a real scene worthy of his production. I inherited a bit of my mom’s acting talent; she won awards for her acting and worked as a television & stage actress in Los Angeles! I starred in my sixth grade play which was produced by a professional L.A. theater company. I won my audition by having to get angry – it was a modern-day “Taming of the Shrew” and I was Kate. I won’t lie to you – I was VERY good at doing that, long before I was diagnosed! 😉

Suffice to say that I could put on a show and then some for our little, podunk town and our “well-intentioned” meddler!

2) Picketed the production performances and call the local papers and television stations!

3) Threaten legal action complete with a letter from my “mental health advocate”

4) Leave post-its with relevant sayings where he’ll find them, i.e. his car window:

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What I’d Still Like to Do

Unknown-1Write this person a letter and let him know the damage he caused, because I think he is clueless. I’d add that when I run into him at the market which we frequent, he best be ready to meet Dyane “Mama Bear” Harwood!

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The best news of all is that my daughter is doing well. She’s taking this in stride, and her father and I are supporting her 100%. She feels loved and reassured that we’ll be there for her when she returns to school and sees this former friend. We will be involved parents; we won’t care more about seeing freakin’ Bob Dylan than helping our kid navigate a bully – yes, a passive/aggressive bully!

My problem, which I’m discussing with my counselor today, is how I’ll feel when I run into the former friend’s parents and the kid.

I want nothing to do with them.

Yes, I realize that none of these people work for Satan (as far as I know – there ARE some weirdos up here!!!), but I consider them toxic to my mental health.

Lucky for them, I’m TERRIBLE with confrontation, unless I’m manic! They aren’t going to get a happy ending out of this from me – I don’t want to “hug it out” granola-style with them, or smoke a doobie together, or go to Dance Church ! (That’s how they allegedly roll….)

The mom (who texted me that she and I could discuss what happened while hiking together in my happy redwoods place – um, NO WAY!) is quite aware I need space from her.

I texted her I need space, and she wrote back she’d honor my request. So that’s good, yes? 

All I can say at the end of the day is this:

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Big, big thanks for reading if you made it this far…

See you next week!

love,

Dyane Mama Bear

 

 

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Dyane’s memoir Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder will be published by Post Hill Press in 2017.