A few days before our spring recital I received this email from a parent:
An obnoxious question: can Samantha be the lead-off hitter (I assume recital lingo must be the same as baseball?) for the recital? That is - would it work for her to play 1st or early in the program so we can rudely rush out?
Sorry / thanks,
Are you expecting me to tell you how angry this made me? To go on a tirade about how soccer is ruining my piano teaching business with its scheduling conflicts and constant matches.
I thought it was funny. I loved how the Dad had just put it out there. And anyway, haven't we all needed to leave something early? It's not like a piano recital is the only thing to do on a Sunday afternoon in spring.
The Dad's email was followed up by one from her Mom:
Thanks for considering our late request! Samantha has a soccer game that starts at 4:30 Sunday that she is hoping to make some of. She would normally skip but the team is heading into the playoffs and short-staffed.
This helped me understand their situation.
Here's how I responded:
First, thanks for your ridiculously straightforward email. OK, so this one is really awkward.
Theoretically, Samantha could play on the first half. But this recital is quite formal, in a big private house and leaving will be extremely noticeable and frankly, pretty rude (as you said;-) I think she's probably going to have to pick between the two to make this work.
The only thing we could do would be to put her on the first half and you could leave at "intermission" and it wouldn't be super noticeable. As it stands now, Samantha is in the middle of the second half, but I haven't printed the programs yet..
That would mean you would get away from the recital at 4:45 pm at the earliest (since we'll probably start late) and the parking is ghastly around there.
Let me know if you want me to move her up, but my real preference would be to just let her enjoy the recital and the potluck afterward.
The next email was from Samantha's mother:
Samantha will be at the recital the entire time. Her Grandparents are coming down to see her performance so there'll be a group of us.
There was a time when I would have tried to control their decision. I would have tried to persuade them one way or the other, or even guilt-tripped them about how much work their daughter had done to prepare for the recital. Which she had. But they already knew that.
It's easy to let a situation like this turn into a conflict. There was no conflict. There was a scheduling question, but there wasn't a conflict. I could have easily made it into a conflict - and they could have too. But we all kept it at the level of, "How can we work together to make this a good afternoon?" instead of, "Why is that piano teacher so bossy and thinks that the world revolves around piano?"
Parents are doing the best they can. If Samantha wants to play in her soccer play-off it doesn't mean she doesn't like piano. It means she has an important soccer game. If everyone just says what they mean, we can make good decisions. I think that's why I found Lee's initial email so charming. It was obnoxiously honest. I'll always take that over a parent who doesn't say what they mean.
Here's a picture I snuck of her mom and little brother watching her play at the recital. I love the look on her Mom's face. I think they were glad they came.