make a-hole of yourself, week one

There’s a checklist attached to the application forms for the Nadel Center Early Childhood Education (NCECE) program at B’Nai Israel in Boca Raton. Under the masthead, “Making the transition easier for your child,” read some of the following suggestions:

{Insert big blank because I lost the paper}

Among the list, it will surprise you to learn, that it makes no mention of MAKING AN ASSHOLE OF YOURSELF, WEEK ONE.

This school has a carpool operation you’d imagine at an airport, with its specific procedures, lanes, and traffic directors, all with very specific instructions. So specific in fact, that parents are required to sign a form acknowledging that they were aware of said rules, lest they try to plead ignorance. I associated carpool with busy moms, trading days, whisking one another’s children to school in an effort to benefit the environment, saving on gas, and more important, sleep. But at B’Nai Israel’s Nadel Center forces are deployed at strategic locations, moved into position, ready for effective action. “It’s done for efficiency and safety,” that parents are asked to remain in their cars, sign their children in via clipboard, wave TA-TA, then a few hours later, rinse and repeat.

To ease their transition into a new school—they’d be starting Pre-K come Fall—we took the summer to enroll the taters into camp, which has nothing to do with camp. There is no flagpole lineup, no walks to the lake, lanyards or braiding beneath a tree. Horseback riding, canoe, negative. What this is is Pre-K “Prep,” that is preparing your child for pre-Kindergarten, before they’ve even officially begun pre-K. Signing our loves up would lead to a smoother transition once the school year began. They’d be familiar to their surrounds, have met some children their own age. But here’s what they weren’t counting on… their parents being dicks.

I was at the DMV living the universal hell that is the DMV. It’s just a hideous ordeal with hideous lighting and hideous people. My number was about to be called. I was next… but it was 2:38PM, and carpool pickup at the school is from 2:45PM to 3PM. The DMV is a ten minute drive, but I’d give myself fifteen because you never know what ‘pa or ‘ma you’ll be stuck behind in Florida. I hammer down the highway, over 80 mph, then rolled into the B’Nai Israel parking lot just as the 2:58 clicked to 2:59PM. There were my kids with their teacher, Miss Amanda. She works Tuesdays and Thursdays only, alternating with Mrs. Brown.

Miss Amanda says that carpool is closed, that I’ll need to sign them out. She says this sweetly, but she’s now also walking away. I say I thought carpool line ended at 3pm. She doesn’t say much, but is smiling and very nice… in that sweet people nice way, not in a false way. But it was Thursday, and she probably wanted to get the hell out of there.

So, I walk up to a clipboard, instead of someone handing it to me, as always, and I sign it. I wish her a good weekend, thinking she’ll help me load the kids into the car, since I’d pulled right up to where she was standing. But after I signed them out, she simply began to walk away, smiling, wishing me a good weekend. I felt like the inept parent, like I did something wrong, but I was on time, if only by a minute. And to not help the kids into the car, I dunno, struck me as uncaring, disconnected. So, I snapped the kids in and was off.

That night, over wine, I unloaded about my day, and when I came to the school carpool incident, said mostly in passing, how it felt strange and awkward to me, Phil lost his Matzo. “I’m calling there.”

“No way. Don’t you dare.”

“That’s just unacceptable.”

“Don’t. It wasn’t that big of a deal. It was just the straw, you know. I was just being sensitive.”

“Bullshine,” Phil says without the shine. “Our kids know what a mitzvah is, and even if you were five minutes late, they should still help you.”

Phil calls the Director of Education, Rebecca, on Friday, telling her how Miss Amanda was smiling the whole time, was very nice, but he didn’t think she should just bye/leave make me feel like I did something wrong. Then, he proceeds to tell the director that the kids “Really aren’t inspired by her as a teacher, and they really much prefer Mrs. Brown. I’m telling you this because we really don’t want Miss Amanda as either of their teachers this coming school year. She’s nice and all, but nice isn’t very inspiring. Mrs. Brown is fantastic, and the kids think she’s phenomenal.” The director tells him that she’ll take care of it.

Phil tells me this, and I want to die. He’s not the one who sees her. In fact, he’s never even met Miss Amanda. He is right though, we don’t want her as their teacher because she’s very mousy and blah, especially compared to the awesome Mrs. Brown who tells it like it is, who pays attention and right away knows if a boy needs OT. She knows the best books with the best lessons. We love her and have an instant connection.

Monday arrives, Mrs. Brown is in the classroom. I’m dropping off the kids, talking to her, asking about her weekend, etc. And she asks, “Are you the one who complained about Miss Amanda?” Uhh, well, me, no. My husband. I was telling him about my day, and he went overboard. “I just thought you’d find out anyway, and I’ve debated telling you, but it’s a funny story,” she says… “You know who Amanda is right?” I am a deer in headlights. At this very moment, I want to break all protocol, abandon all safety rules, and stand in the oncoming carpool traffic. Miss Amanda is the daughter of the Director of Education, Rebecca.

“She’s nice and all, but nice isn’t very inspiring.”

Phil went on and on saying how much he didn’t want her daughter to teach our kids! Called to complain about her, the purpose of his call. And now, the director has to think we’re incredible assholes. What do I do? Do I say something to the director or to Miss Amanda? I have a pit in my stomach and am dreading taking them to school today, seeing Amanda for the first time since “the dreaded call,” Do I say I want to apologize, that I had a nightmare at DMV and was particularly sensitive, and was venting about my day to my husband, and that I feel MORTIFIED that he actually shared my irrational rant? What do I do?

Okay, so I walk into their classroom to drop off the kids, and who’s standing in the doorway? Director Rebecca. Only she was talking to others and didn’t say hi, but I saw her yesterday, for a moment, and she said hi. Anyway, there were other parents around, so I didn’t say anything right there. So, I’m saying goodbye to the kids, and I see out of the corner of my eye that Miss Amanda is getting up, clearly to come speak with me. I ask her if I can talk with her for a moment, privately. Sure, sure, of course. We go out into the hall, and I proceed to tell her how mortified I am. That I had such a nightmare day at the DMV and then hauled it to school so I’d be there by 3, and then I show up and am told it’s over, even though it’s not 3, and I go home and vent all over my husband, who gets so protective, that he makes a phone call, despite my plea that I just had a bad day, and that I’m new and trying to get adjusted and don’t know that 3pm is late when the instructions say pickup runs through 3pm.

Miss Amanda says, no no, she’s felt terrible all weekend thinking she made me feel like I did something wrong, that she always wants to be nice to everyone and that she’s so sorry if it came across otherwise. I tell her again that I had a bad day and that I’ve already heard from several people that she is just that, soooo nice and great to everyone. Blah, blah. Then we hugged, and she told me how great the kids are blah blah.

Needless to say, neither of our kids had her as their teacher for pre-K, which was for the best. Abigail had Mrs. K, and Lucas had Ms. Rachel, both the right match for each child. I think the big lesson here is to speak to everyone assuming that they are the parent of the person of whom you are speaking. To assume your conversation is being recorded for all to hear. To assume everything you do is up for public consumption. My Hebrew school teacher once told me to behave as if God is in the room. He sees everything you do. Every time you act, every time you write a comment on someones blog, every time you gossip privately, assume it will get back to people with your name on it. Behave in a way that you can own proudly.






  1. To clarify, the day before the school sent a long email speaking about community and giving then the most basic thing that could have been done wasn’t. Especially as we had just moved from Austin where everyone goes out of their way to be nice.

  2. Perhaps I am missing something crucial in this story, but I’m not sure why you expected Ms. Amanda to help you get the kids in the car. It sounds like you came in at the tail end of pick up, signed the kids out, and went home. Why is there an expectation that the instructor help you get the kids into the car in the first place?

    I don’t have kids, and I am not asking this question to be rude or snarky. I am simply wondering if helping kids into the car is an expectation that warranted this type of reaction.

  3. I live In Boca and this story is great. Bnai Israel has this type of reputation. One of the reason my children did not attend pre-school there. Thanks for Sharing.

  4. I totally disagree! If Miss Amanda was blah & uninspiring or otherwise disengaged, it doesn’t matter whose daughter she is. She’s a teacher first when she’s in that building. If her mother couldn’t handle someone speaking their feelings about Amanda in the context of her job then it would be a huge conflict of interest and Amanda shouldn’t have been working under her mother.

    If you knew ahead of the call would you have just sucked it up and let one of your kids have her as a teacher, knowing she wasn’t really a good fit for them or you? I doubt it because you care. And your caring for their well being and education is stronger than your fear of mortification. It’s one thing to just get a teacher in a lottery in public school. You can’t just be complaining & trying to switch teachers. But in preschool where your kids are little and it’s their first exposure to school and learning, I think it’s fine to have an opinion. And no relations should prevent you from speaking up on the behalf of those who are too little to speak up for themselves. You weren’t emotional from the dmv experience, you didn’t like how you were treated. Period.

  5. I’m a bit stunned. You’re back in Florida? I remember you weren’t too thrilled about living there the first time around. However, I know you will overcome and rise above all the stupidity that makes parenthood a trial. You’re a wonderful mother and your little ones are living proof of that; they’re smart, funny and of course, adorable. Wishing you the best!

  6. This is truly one of the nuttiest stories I have ever read (but I am not a long time follower of yours so maybe there are more!) What was the sin here exactly? That your own kids were not handed to you? That a teacher after a hectic day did not roll out the red carpet? This was not even a story worth retelling over dinner and your husband’s reaction is just insane. Without knowing the teachers, to deliver that type of feedback is so thoughtless – there are careers that are impacted by this type of feedback. While I understand the morale of your story, Stephanie, I think the true morale is – marry someone who understand what battles are worth fighting, always represents you well, and is a true MENSCH.

    1. Agreed. Just more evidence from seven years of Phil overreacting. Stephanie deserves so much better. Makes me so grateful for my husband, who treats everyone with respect.

      1. One more thing. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about this because this is VERBAL ABUSE. If Phil is like this with random strangers/teachers or people who he supposedly would like to impress, imagine what he’s like with Stephanie!!!!

  7. Also confused about Florida…however :) Funny story really….Listen, at the end of the day, she didn’t inspire the kids, so it all worked out and they had a different teacher, but I can totally see why you would feel the way you did :)

  8. I ought to have been more clear that this is about something that happened in the PAST.

    The teachers all scooped the kids up and helped get them into the cars. At that young age, getting kids into the car is a long process of straps and safety, tightening, pulling, clicks. With a carpool, where there’s traffic and you want the cars moving, kids safe, the teachers and aides always put the kids into the cars. My kids didn’t have the hand strength to buckle their own seat belts, or to unbuckle. To tighten themselves into their own seats. It was a process. They could have offered to help with one child, while I loaded the other one. Instead, they walked away, and you’ll just have to trust me on this, it was very out of the ordinary.

    The kids are now 7 years old and about to be in second grade, not pre-k. We are very happy in New York!

  9. God bless Phil. I think he did nothing wrong. He’s not happy with the handoff, he’s defending his wife, he’s sharing his concerns – I think that’s wonderfully supportive.

    Sorry that director had to hear that feedback about her own kid, but since you agreed it’s true, too bad. He said it in the nicest possible way. You have to advocate for your kids.

    I have more of a problem with your behavior, aplogizing for your big, bad husband, but I’m guessing you did that more to make the greetings less awkward, so that’s okay.

    1. God Bless ‘im… defending his wife? This is extremely trivial.

  10. I miss your writing, your real writing, your voice. Where did you go? I don’t want to give up reading this site, but these posts have been awful for a long time. I keep hoping you will get back to what made this blog so great for so many years.

    Do you think about just not writing anymore at all and ending this blog? I feel like I am watching someone at the end of a long illness. It is kind of sad.

      1. I’m so sorry to hear that. Truly sorry. I hope things get easier soon. Family and health are obvious priorities. Wish you all the best.

        1. Author

          Thank you. Yes, we are all heartbroken. We have been for a long time. I was asked not to write about any of this, so for a long time, I just didn’t write anything. Even now, I feel like I can’t sleep. I’m up crying in the dark. I want to write but I feel guilty about writing anything public because for a long time it wasn’t my story to tell.

          1. You can write it down privately, no? Perhaps that would help you feel a little bit better? I’m sorry to hear that you’re going through a rough time– hope you feel some relief, soon.

      2. I am so sorry to hear that, Stephanie. I have missed your writing (and, well, YOU in a way) – I hope the sadness in your life quickly dissipates. Take care.

          1. No wonder you’ve been so depressed. Hope you will find some peace soon.

  11. You seem to spend a lot of time apologizing for your husband.

  12. This just reads of Entitlement… can’t we ALL just have more compassion for each other? Considering this happened a few years ago, the ‘dis’ seems to be simmering inside both you and Phil. Let it go, and try to be kind to others, even when you feel so strongly that YOU’VE BEEN WRONGED (not really)

  13. I have taught various elementary grades for the past 15 years. The entitlement of parents today is outrageous. Parents who make requests for specific teachers are the perfect example of why children today are incapable of making their own decisions. Please know that when you criticize teachers in the slightest way when it comes to placement, you are forever tagged at the school. Who are you to judge whether someone is inspiring? Pick up your kids on time (not a very difficult task) and let teachers do their job (a very difficult task). Our job isn’t to help a stay-at-home mom who’s running late get their kids into a car; it’s to deliver curriculum and help children socialize (particularly when their parents don’t know how to).

  14. Oh Stephanie, I’m so sorry to hear things are sad. I hope things get better for you and your family.

  15. My heart is with you – and I’m sending every bit of courage and strength to you and your family. I love how you call her your ‘bonus mother’…I just met my lovah’s grown girls and hope they’ll view me in the same sweet light.

    Looking forward to hearing/reading you again.

  16. My thoughts to you and your family through this difficult time. I’ll be here when you get back.

  17. Thinking about you and praying for you and your family, Stephanie. xoxo

  18. Sending some love from Austin. I miss your writing -and loved this story of the twins pre-K experience.

  19. Searching (late) for preschools for my 2 and a half year old. He’ll be 3 in November so he may not go this Fall anyway. Long story short as soon as I saw the huuuuuge parent handbook one school has (including a similar arrival and dismissal procedure) I was on to the next place. Why can’t things be simple?! Love a good throwback post, thanks for sharing!

  20. I do wonder why you continue to write posts that are confusingly from the past yet not mention they are from the past in the post title or a one-liner at the beginning of the post. We learned in a blog writing workshop they put on for kids at my high school that this is done on purpose by people looking to drum up comments. In the 7 or so years I’ve been reading this blog, I’ve noticed you use this tactic over and over again, and with the amount of confusion each time you do this, one would think you’d have learned this small lesson. Unless of course that is the entire idea, to drum up comments…. But I would have thought you were beyond that at this point………..

    1. Author

      There was no reason to write “THIS IS FROM THE PAST.” This was never posted before. This was not a re-post. Anyone who is a regular reader of my site knows that my children are no longer pre-schoolers. If someone isn’t a regular reader, they wouldn’t find the content confusing. Honestly, it has been hard enough for me to post at all, so the very last thing on my mind is trying to drum up comments. If I cared about that, I’d write more regularly about hot topics. If anything, I do it because I assume that most of my readers will either pick up on the fact that it’s past-tense, or quite frankly, that it won’t even matter. That the content can stand on its own. That it shouldn’t matter when it was written. If there’s insight there, if it entertains, if it’s out there, let it stand, let it fly. Thank you for letting your comment stand and fly, too.

      Clearly it confused people, though, and that’s never my intention. They can’t all be winning posts. Oh, well.

      1. “I ought to have been more clear that this is about something that happened in the PAST.”

        Pretty sure you wrote this earlier after 3 other comments stated they were confused too!!

  21. Sorry to hear of your difficult time. Hope you find peace and healing soon.

  22. Not really trying to attack you with this comment, it’s not necessarily directed at you….not exactly….but I am so tired of hearing about New Yorkers complain (and I was born in NY) and compare South Florida to how things are “back home.” If NY is so wonderful, then why’d ya leave in the first place? And maybe everyone in Austin really is so nice, but this isn’t Austin. South Florida is not for everyone, and it’s congested enough as it is, so I thank you for writing this post. Maybe it will deter people from moving here.

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