A Recalcitrant Wife and Mother Tells All

The Parable of the Principal Pal Predicament – Part 2

When we last left our heroine…

Wait. I’m sorry, I just despise that word. I can never remember if it’s heroin or heroine and then I get nervous that people will think I’m leaving my smack lying around all willy nilly.

(Quick Google check and heroine-with-an-e it is. I know—I’ll create a pneumonic device to help me remember: the e is for extra excellent feeeeemale hero. Got it. Oh wait, is it pneumonic or mnemonic? Shit. And you wonder why I don’t write more often.)

Digression ending in 3-2-1…

Heroine. With an e. That would be me. Hiya!

If you’re just joining us, please read my last post, The thing about siblings… to catch up. It’s about how two of my three children had been awarded the highly-coveted (by me) Principal Pal Award and how we were all dealing with it. Or, long story short: birth control. Kidding! I kid.

So why am I the heroine in this story? Because heroes usually struggle with some kind of epic battle, internal or otherwise, before they triumph over evil, as it were.

In this instance, the battle was whether or not I should say something to my child’s teacher to tip the scales and help her win a Principal Pal Award.

My gut told me to keep my trap shut.

You know those internal tapes we all have running through our brains reminding us of all our shortcomings? When my inner voice isn’t making fun of my bingo wings, she likes to remind me of all the times I’ve intervened and made everything worse.

Like that time I was driving home from a party in high school and noticed my best friend’s cat on the side of the road… dead. I should have just kept driving. Instead, wanting to do the right thing, I pulled over, wrapped the dead cat in a blanket, put her in my trunk, and drove to my best friend’s house. Nobody in her family believed that I just found her like that. They all thought I had run her over. Good times.

Or how about the time I attempted to gallantly defend a friend’s sweet little 82-year-old mother one Christmas Eve when one of her drunk and belligerent adult grandchildren was verbally harassing her? Not good. The granddrunk stormed off, everyone panicked, and I was basically told to mind my own business by the entire family. Check please.

And let’s not even speak of the infamous Kappa Alpha Theta incident of 1992.

chris-largeOr that time I tried to break up a fight in a McDonald’s and got stabbed. Oh wait, that wasn’t me. That was Chris Chambers in Stand By Me. RIP, Chris. You were a good kid.

Regardless, I have this firmly established notion that when I speak up or butt my big nose in where it doesn’t belong, bad things happen.

It’s one thing to mar my own relationships with my big mouth, like I do every day on Facebook, for example. It’s another to negatively interfere with my children’s lives. I know better.

So when we last left our heroinE, I had pretty much decided that my kid was on her own. There were six months left in the school year. That would be six more chances at winning a Principal Pal Award. If she did it on her own, great. If she didn’t get it, it would build character. Win-win, I thought.

Until my mom suggested I call the school, “Maybe they don’t realize she’s never won. Maybe if they knew that, they’d try harder to look for the good in her.”

Now we had a problem.

Because in addition to my long history of being a big Buttinski and making everything I interfere with turn to crap, I have an equally long history of ignoring my mother’s sage advice, and then regretting it. Always.

My mother may be the world’s WORST scrapbooker, and physically incapable of correctly pronouncing most words, but it just so happens she was right about everything else in my life from that-no-good-Frankie-Cappelletti, to my college major, to my questionable taste in permanent body art…


It’s only taken me 43 years to figure it out, but “Mother’s always right” is a cliché FOR A REASON.

So instead of following my gut—for once—I listened to my mother. 

Shortly after Bucket Head won his award, I stopped by Mini-Me’s classroom after school to say hello to her teacher and check on how things were going with my daughter (and of course to casually mention the Principal Pal situation per my mother’s advice. Der.)

We had a great conversation. Turns out she has three kids just like me, and her middle child has some of the same characteristics as my middle child. That’s when I told her what was going on at home and that my daughter was struggling with her self-esteem and wondering why she has never been chosen as a Principal Pal.

Her teacher was SHOCKED she had never won it. SHOCKED, I say.

The next words out of her mouth were, “But she’s such a great kid! I can’t believe she’s never gotten it! She has really shown so much improvement since the beginning of the year. I’m so glad you told me this.” Followed by, “You should give this feedback to the Principal. There is no way for us to know who has and hasn’t won it before and if we knew there were kids like your daughter who have never won it, we could make more informed decisions.”


My mom was right. As usual.

And guess who was named her class’s Principal Pal for November?

Mini-Me as Rosie the Riveter 2013

“We Can Do It!” Indeed WE can, little one…you, me, and your Grandma – go team!

She was so happy, she cried great big tears of relief and pride and belonging.

And Bucket Head’s response? “Is that your first time? As a 5th grader?!” The little shit. Oh well. Can’t win ’em all.

Maybe she would have gotten it on her own sometime this year without my intervention, but then again, what if she hadn’t? Would she have always thought of herself as a loser? As someone whom teachers don’t like? This was not a gamble I was willing to make.

So I think maybe it’s time I retired my internal “Shut Your Trap” advisor and started advocating for my kids more often, when appropriate of course. I’m not saying I plan to do their college applications or anything; I’m just saying don’t be surprised if Steve Buscemi and I show up at school a little more often from now on.

Thanks Mom. For everything. I love you.


  1. Keesha

    This is probably one of the happiest endings in the history of heroinE. Sometimes you do have to be that parent. It’s the ones who do it all the time that ruin EVERYTHING.

  2. HouseTalkN

    YAY! She is an amazing girl. The apple does not fall far from the tree!

  3. Ann

    Way to go mini-me!!! And Mama Buscemi! (You so funny.)

  4. L. Hewitt

    I have been waiting on this forever! She is awesome. You are awesome. Your mom is awesome. (you will do college applications, btw, just a heads up)

  5. Allie

    Very cool. As I read, I was preparing myself for disaster. SO glad it all worked out wonderfully.

  6. Famous SpokesGoat Pricilla

    That is wonderful. I am sure it is difficult for the school to know who has won and who has not and I would be willing to bet a barn full of goat gas that MANY parents have done exactly what you have done – only more forcefully.

    Goat hugs all around!

  7. OnOneCondtion

    It’s really cool that you not only recognized the need to advocate for your daughter, but that you ignored the inner critic and just DID it. The reaction from her teacher is so precious and demonstrates how right you were. Great story.

  8. Snappy

    That’s great news! I’m so glad you listened to your mother – even if she can’t say edamame correctly. 🙂

  9. Bernie Bickers

    Hate to be a Debbie Downer – but when she finds out you had a hand in it (since it is posted here for all creation to see), isn’t that going to come with some blowback to her self esteem?

    Also, I’m sorry, but is this school located in the Town of Bedrock – they have now way of knowing who has and hasn’t won?!?!!? WTF?! Are they at all familiar with the revolution in personal information processing that has been going on since Steve Jobs was stinking up his parent’s garage? Also, may fine 18th century inventions like the pencil and the index card are very good at keeping track of information. Perhaps these are hidden behind their stacks of McGuffy Primers and dunce caps?

    9 months in the school year, I’ll guess 30 classrooms in the school across K-6, means 30 winners per month and 270 winners per year. I could keep track of that list with a chisel and a stone tablet….

    • The Bearded Iris

      Dude, you don’t hate to be a Debbie Downer, you LOVE IT. You must love it, because you are SO good at it…probably from all the practice. Damn.

      Yes, of course I thought about the ramifications of sharing this and how she will feel someday down the line when she knows that I intervened. Ultimately, I decided that she will feel cherished and be glad that her family loved her enough to advocate for her. And particularly because the teacher’s response was so positive, and it sounds like she was probably on the short list anyway, I feel confident that I have done the right thing (for once).

      Now as for my Town of Bedrock, I totally agree with you. There has been a change in school administration and I’m not sure how/if they have kept track of this in the past, but I’m thinking you could invent an app and make tens of dollars. I want a cut though.

      • Bernie Bickers

        You’re on! Will you accept payment in rolls of pennies?

        And personally, I think you are a rock star mom and like Mookie, you consistently “Do The Right Thing”. My biggest wish for you (other than a PowerBall win that you liberally share w/ your dear old friends) would be for you to stop being your own worst critic – though that does make for entertaining posts!

        More importantly, when is the Elf on Myself going to appear?

  10. Jane

    I just knew this story would have a happy ending! I still am so proud of Mini-me for being happy for Bucket Head even though she wanted it so bad. She’s a great sister! And just think- someday she’ll be a great mom too. You’re the best!

  11. lisa thomson

    Awww, nice work Mom and Grandma! I’m happy for mini-me. I’m wondering about this award, if it does more self esteem damage than good? I’m saying that cuz my kids probably wouldn’t have gotten the award if they had it in their school LOL.

  12. Linda G

    Aw, what a wonderful ending to the story. I’m so glad for Mini-Me and her Mama.

    You have to remember that “Mom always knows best” refers to you, too, since you’re also a Mom! The “Keep your trap shut” is still good advice, but for Bucket Head. You may choose to phrase it more delicately; your choice.

    I hope your daughter won’t mind that you intervened. It’s about time someone called attention to the fact that no one keeps track of this “award.” If they’re too lazy to pay attention to it, maybe they should stop giving it out, because the kids _are_ keeping track!

  13. julie gardner

    This is so very awesome. Which ends is E. As does Rosie (as in Riveter).
    I don’t think you’ll ever forget if heroine ends in an E again.

    You rock, Mamacita.

    (Steadee? Oh crap.)

  14. Jenn @ Something Clever 2.0

    I’m so happy to hear that she won! Pizza party at my house!

    *Airfare and hotel accommodations not included.

  15. Darcy Perdu

    such a funny description of the events! — and I’m so happy it all worked out so well!

  16. Kim Jordan

    Have I missed something? What is the story about Steve Buscemi?

  17. Kim at Let Me Start By Saying

    Sometimes the solidly-good kids end up under the radar, with people assuming they’ve been rewarded for being so reliably good all the time. I’m glad you spoke up!
    Also? She’s a doll. I love that you two have one another (and your mom).

  18. WhenCrazyMeetsExhaustion

    Listen, Steve looks like a carp that has been swimming in water laden with radiation. We’re going to have to get you another muse.

    That said, I think the way you handled it was tactful, respectful, and super-sleuthy. Which I love. I remember reading Part I thinking, “Leslie, do not call that principal and go ape shit and be THAT parent!” You handled yo’ bidness like the pro that you are, and regardless of your conversation with the teacher or principal, I think your twinner won herself November’s accolades all on her own. WELL DONE, women!!!!!

  19. Menopausal Mother

    I absolutely, 100% say that as a mom, you totally did the right thing! Young kids are not going to speak up for themselves–they just assume adults remember all these little things. We don’t. We all suffer from some form of A.D.D. or parent-overload-dementia, and in the process, the kids can fall between the cracks of our forgetfulness. Teachers have enough to keep track of–easy for them to forget things every now and then. I had to drop “hints” to my kids’ teachers when it came to things like this, too. When my oldest son was 12, I got tired of seeing him miss out on the solos in the boy choir. I knew no one had heard his voice, so I made a recording because I knew how good he was. I took it to the new director and all I said was, “Listen to this,” and left. Next thing I knew, they auditioned him and he was the lead soloist in the group–traveled all over the world because of it and had some amazing experiences. It changed his life, and he is now one of the conductors for the very same boy choir. It NEVER would have happened if I hadn’t handed that tape to the director. Did I feel guilty for stepping in? HELL NO. Just being a good parent, and so are YOU. You have made your little girl feel very special & proud–nothing wrong with that. Ever. XO

  20. Nicole Leigh Shaw

    Good on ya! I remember in high school I was the shittiest player on my varsity soccer team. When state semi-finals happened, my coach called up promising JV talent to sit the bench and watch. When we started losing terribly, and had no hope of victory, he began putting in the benched girls. Even the JV ladies. But not me. I was so close to tears—I just wanted to belong—when a teammate said, “Coach! You forgot about Nicole!”

    He put me in, I sucked, per my usual, and learned that everyone just needs an advocate sometimes. Made me the kind of person who advocates for others.

    You did that for your daughter. Brava, lady!

  21. Kristen

    Happy endings are the best!

  22. Kelly Fox

    Awwww, I love it! I got all teary-eyed and everything.

  23. Teresa

    This is wonderful!!! Your Mini-Me is such a fantastic person that I was surprised that she had not been recognized, and now she has. Perfect! 😀

  24. Andrea

    This is awesome. And now I feel like a big dumb mother for not speaking up for my son when he got overlooked for all those Good Citizen Awards in elementary school.

    Oh well. At least he’ll have something to talk about at group when he gets to prison.

  25. Rachel

    I love this! I could relate so much to your first entry, and it’s good to remember this advice in the future.
    Also, maybe you could volunteer to make up a database or spreadsheet so they can remember who got what award when. ‘Cos seriously, they should track that.

  26. BadSandy

    one time i was stopped at a red light only to look at the car to the right and see that the very elderly man slumped over on the steering wheel, dead. like a buddy who sees a dead cat on the side of the road, i leaped into action and dashed out of my car to search for signs of life in the old guy. just as i leaped out of my car, the door shot and the car locked itself-with the keys in the ignition, the car running. this was also the time the traffic light turned green, the old guy woke from his NAP and drove away leaving me stranded in traffic with my car locked on running.
    glad you listened to your mom and that intervening worked out better for you than it did for me.
    btw: shouldn’t a school keep track of who gets this shit so everyone can? isn’t 5th grade a little too early to feel like the odd-gal out?

  27. Allysgrandma

    There are certain things are children need never know about. Your blog being one of them!!! It must be in the air. Ally is child of the week this week! PS I think they probably pick names out of hats. Haha. Congrats mini-me! And hurray for grandmother’s instincts. I can say that because I am going to be a grandma again!

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