Our au pair, Lola, has been with our family since the beginning of June. She is lovely and has been working so hard for our family since day one. I have been thinking about her sitting in her training class the week before she got to us in Petaluma, telling her classmates, who were heading to homes with only one or two children, that she would be headed to California to look after four. She told me there was an audible gasp in the room that day. But Lola wasn’t worried; as the oldest of five children and experienced with kids, she was more than equipped to handle our brood. Or so we all thought….
The past several weeks have been challenging to say the least. Lola was getting met with much resistance from three out of four of the kids. Harper, the youngest, is too little to give anyone a hard time really, but even she was starting to show signs of rebellion. Trouble was mostly brewing with Olivia and Georgia and I was frustrated beyond belief with them, resorting to some of my old behavior of yelling at them and getting physical as I dragged limp bodies into multiple time outs.
Last Thursday night, it all came to a head when I returned home one night to learn that my sweet girls had told Lola to “Go Back To Germany!” and had her in tears. I was distraught and although I had seen and experienced some behavior rising that I would rather have not seen, I really could not believe my ears on this one. Nor could I turn a blind eye to it.
But just what was I going to do? I though about it long and hard, we had already taken away iPhones, iPads, birthday parties, and favorite toys, and it seemed that the behavior wasn’t improving. And then I remembered being at Back to School Night on Tuesday, listening to our new school principal say, “You’ve got my back and I’ve got yours” He proceeded to add that if there are problems at home “I want to know about them so I can help you”. Ah-ha! Light bulb!
When I first heard him say that I thought a couple things: on one hand I remember thinking, “Oh, he’s asking for it” and on the other, I doubted his sincerity. Despite my reservations I did what any desperate mother in my position would do…I sent my children to the principal’s office.
That night I emailed our school principal to clue him in on what was going on at home and begged for his help. His response was not only immediate but it was beyond supportive. Not only did he say he would speak to the girls right away, but he included a strong message to me about being consistent by not allowing for one ounce of leeway with the children. He said, “The reason they are behaving this way is because it is an option. It needs to not be an option. If not, your middle/high school years are going to be hellish”.
And with that my children were in his office on Monday…
I was doing morning read-and-greet with Georgia when her teacher got the phone call from the office asking for Georgia Blaustein to go to the principal’s office. I got those funky butterflies in my stomach; you know the ones you get when you are up to something. I was so nervous because I really wanted this to work. It was my Hail Mary.
Because our principal is a really amazing guy and the kids really like him and look up to him, Georgia was skipping with excitement as I took her to drop her off at the office. I said goodbye to her and high tailed it out of there.
Later that day, when I picked up the kids, I didn’t want to ask, “Hey how did your visit to the principal’s office go?” But rather, I wanted the girls to honestly offer up this information to me and tell me they were sent there. After asking a dozen round about questions about their day, they both told me what had transpired in his office.
“We are cheetahs,” they said (their school mascot), and “Principal said that we have to be kind and listen to mommy, daddy, and Lola” I smiled to myself but it turned out that both girls knew that I had talked to him. Their principal had told them about my reaching out to him for his help, that they were with him for a sad reason, and that they needed to improve their behavior at home or be back in his office again to be met with much disappointment.
Since my girls are so eager to please and really want to be on their best behavior for authority figures (unrelated of course), I believe this tactic might have worked. Several days later and the kids are behaving exceptionally well. They haven’t given me reason to serve big consequences and they are being pretty kind to Lola. I think we still have a ways to go to be completely out of the woods, but I have seen so much progress from all of us, that today I am filled with hope.
I am so grateful to our wonderful new principal and his courageous message to our school community. He probably didn’t expect someone to take him up on his offer right away, but then again he probably didn’t realize that the Blaustein’s were in the audience. I’m so glad I swallowed any pride I had left at that point and reached out to him. You never know what form help can come in but I am truly grateful that I got to feel the full effect of being buoyed up by my “village”
So far, the kids haven’t had to go back to his office and I am even more convicted that if I stay firm and consistent, it will work out so that I don’t lose my cool, or worse yet, actually lose my wonderful au pair back to Germany.