I hate confrontation. When experiencing poor service or rude treatment, I usually say nothing. I envy those people who can banter and spar. The thought of arguing with others makes me physically ill. Instead of participating in a verbal throw-down with a restaurant manager or rude flight attendant, I do what most mealy-mouthed cowards do.
I write a strongly worded letter.
Yet there are certain situations where conflict cannot be avoided. For example, my oldest son has been taught by a wonderful piano master for three years. Dan has learned a great deal from her and has acquired a real passion for music. Over the course of this past weekend, we had to convey the tough news that we would no longer be using her services.
To provide a little background, my husband and I have code names for our two different piano instructors. We nicknamed Dan’s teacher “The General.” She is an extremely organized and disciplined woman. She expects a lot of commitment and hard work from both students and parents alike. Our fear of rebuke and judgment insured that we enforced daily practice. We simply did not want to make The General angry. You wouldn’t like her when she was angry.
Conversely, Jack and Joe’s instructor was christened “Sunshine & Bubbles.” Sunshine & Bubbles is young, light, and airy. She has never spoken a cross word in her life and is planning a mission to South Africa next year to aid refugees. She allows her students to select their own songs and gives the kids “breaks” mid-lesson to work off any residual energy from having to sit still for a half hour.
Both teachers have done a marvelous job with the boys and we value their unique approaches to music theory and instruction.
Sadly, Dan’s schedule required too-frequent adjustments to his allotted lesson time. The General’s jam-packed calendar did not allow for easy changes. Yet we did not want Dan to continue missing out on baseball games, birthday parties, and camps. After much deliberation and debate, we made the hard decision to transfer him over to Sunshine & Bubbles.
The days leading up to firing The General found me increasingly agitated and anxious. Should I write a script? Could I just send her an email? What about a voicemail? How about ordering flowers and a card to break the news? I was a wreck.
My husband was the voice of reason. He reminded me that I owed The General a face-to-face meeting and explanation of our decision. He cited countless examples of Dan’s progress courtesy of his phenomenal music instructor. He talked about honor and doing things with integrity.
I hate when he pulls that stuff.
The day before I had to break the news, I felt sick. I started backtracking on my original plan and told my husband that maybe it would be better if we instead opted out of baseball and hockey and birthday parties. I started offering desperate rationale for not booting The General. I mean, wasn’t it more important for Dan to continue down his current course of instruction without interruption or distraction? Didn’t we owe the teacher a deeper commitment than simply heading off to Chuck E. Cheese instead of music lessons? Shouldn’t we be willing to sacrifice my husband’s football dreams for his son and double down with The General as she worked through Fur Elise?
That did just the trick. I had played my hand to perfection. There was no way Joe would go along with a sports-free childhood simply because I was too scared to can the piano teacher.
So while Joe headed off to deliver the pink slip, I stayed home and read that smutty new mom book everyone’s been talking about.
I will continue living my life without honor or integrity because when it comes to confrontation, I got nothing. Nothing, that is, but a husband who recognizes when he’s been had and still agrees to handle my dirty work.
I love my Terminator.