Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Power of the Pathetic Email

It was all my fault; I'd totally screwed up.

There are details, there are ins and outs, there are explanations and excuses. But the truth is, I'd told Em a year ago that I'd sign her up to be an independent Girl Scout--a Juliette--so that she could be a Program Aide at a one-week "twilight camp" she's been going to since she was in Kindergarten. And I never filled out the form. Another mom tried to save me a month or two ago, and the second I hit the teensiest roadblock, I dropped the ball again.

It really was my fault.

Yesterday afternoon, Em called to tell me that she was going to a friend's house so wouldn't be home when I got there; she sounded sort of off, so I asked what the matter was.

"Oh," she said, reluctantly, "it just looks like I won't be able to do Twilight Camp, since signups are tomorrow."

Immediately, tears sprang to my eyes. Shit.

I told her how sorry I was; told her I was at fault; apologized up and down. She kept saying, "It's OK. It's OK." But I could hear the tears in her voice.

"Are you crying?" I asked at one point.

"No," she said. "I just have a stuffy nose."

It was right then that my heart broke apart, because, you guys, she was totally lying. Lying to spare my feelings.

I tried calling the Girl Scout office when we got off the phone, but no dice. So when I got home--when we had a few minutes to ourselves--I pulled Em aside.

"I'm not going to be able to do this without crying," I said, already starting. "But stick with me."

First I told her that what she'd done on the phone that afternoon was a remarkably generous thing, and I couldn't be prouder of her. That started her tears.

Then I told her that it was really important to me that she understand that I took responsibility for what had happened. "I screwed up," I said, and yes, I use that kind of language with my kids, sue me. "I didn't do it on purpose, but it was my responsibility. I have a million balls in the air, and I knew one or more of them would drop, but I didn't want it to be your ball...I hate that it was your ball."

"But I don't blame you," she said.

I stopped her then, told her I needed her to understand that it was OK to be disappointed with me, because whether I'd wanted to or not, I'd disappointed her. By now we were both sobbing.

"It's OK to be upset with me," I said. "It's OK to love me and be upset with me. And now that I've said that, it's also OK for you to then forgive me."

"I forgive you. I'm not mad at you. Really, I'm not."

And we stood there in the middle of the kitchen, a scene out of a freaking prime-time melodrama, hugging and crying and crying and hugging, rocking back and forth.

But I couldn't let it go. We were fine, but damn. That kid just doesn't deserve to be the casualty of my screw up.

Which is when I decided that that was what I needed to tell the Girl Scouts. After a sleepless night, this morning I looked up the email address I needed, and essentially threw myself on the mercy of the court.

The email I sent read, in part:
Hi, L:

I'm trying to reach whoever is in charge of the Twilight Camp Summer program, the one through LocalScoutHouse, to throw myself on their mercy...

Here's my sob story (and my daughter's): Last year, her then-Juniors troop disbanded after bridging to Cadets. Because Em was going to be spending this year training for her bat mitzvah (which requires lots of lessons in addition to practice), I suggested she take a year off from scouting. She was against it for only one reason: Every single year, since her Daisies year, she has attended Twilight Camp, and ADORES it. Last year, she was a Program Aide, and it was seriously one of her favorite weeks EVER. She didn't want to stop scouting this year, despite lack of time, simply because she wanted to be a Program Aide at Twilight Camp.

I promised to sign her up as a Juliette so that she could do that, but for a number of reasons (mostly my confusion over the forms), I just never got around to it. And now her friends are talking about how Twilight Camp signups are today, and she came to me last night absolutely in tears, so disappointed. She's not mad at me, just sad.

And all because I screwed up.

Any chance you can help me? I made one simple promise, and I messed it up...Any chance I can get her signed up to be a Program Aide?...I don't mind paying the GS membership fee or any other fees necessary. I just need to undo my own mistake so my kid doesn't pay for it.
When Baroy called this morning to tell me someone from Girl Scouts had called, had sent him some paperwork, and that all we had to do was show up at signups this evening with a check and it would all be OK, I was actually shocked. It had been a Hail Mary pass, fueled by Jewish guilt. I never thought it would work.

"You're kidding," I said.

"Nope," he said. "They basically said it was the most pathetic email they'd ever gotten, and so they decided to take pity on you."

When Em called this afternoon to squeal in excitement (and, as an aside, don't you wish I worked for you? I swear that I actually do occasionally do my job...), I said, "Well, those were a lot of wasted tears."

"Not really," she said. "It was good. It was a bonding moment."

And it was. And now that it's turned out OK, it's one that I'll actually treasure. Me and my girl. Bonded. Over my screwup.


Anonymous said...

You're an amazing mom (mistakes and all). And she's an amazing kid. Happy scouting!!

Meg said...

Wow, she is truly an amazing kid! Glad you were persistent and able to fix the mistake.

Emily said...

That is a wonderful girl Scout you've got there.

Ambre said...

I did the exact same thing, only I used a lot of guilt. I'd been such a flake this year. I had to make up for it with vegan marshmallows and a hellish day at the Derby Days (and a less hellish day with you), but I sent some pathetic notes to my girl scout leader telling her I was so sick and my grandma died and my daughter shouldn't suffer either.

And mine also was such a trooper,

Anonymous said...

Poor sweet Em, poor sweet you.

And what an email!

I hear you, though. I made a mistake two years back when I signed AC up for gym camp, and she bore the consequences of it, the first day of gym camp remains "one of the worst days of [her] life", it was sad and humiliating and out of her control. So yeah. I hear you. (My "pathetic email" was my beloved spouse who went to the bat for his daughter and stood up for her and did not back down.)

Niksmom said...

*sniff* I'm simultaneoulsy kvelling and welling (up). You rock and Em's, well, amazingly generous-hearted and loving. None of which surprises me.

Jordan said...

What an amazing girl you've got. And what an incredible mom she's got! You're quite a pair!

AB said...

WOW,my great niece is sure put together! Proud of her. Not sure I would have been so understanding although at her age I so disliked camp I use to beg to say home but NO, because my sister wanted to go and one could not stay home. I lost!

You handled it so well, so you remain my perfect niece.

Love ya

Magpie said...

Throwing yourself on their mercy was a good move. And your kid sounds great.

Roni said...

You both never cease to amaze me. Glad it all worked out.