I was nervous the first time I asked a candidate to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich during an interview.
I need some advice about a sticky family problem. I’m in my 40’s, married with children, and my father’s new wife (my mom passed away about ten years ago) is quite a bit younger than him. My stepmother (it creeps me out just to say that, so I’ll call her “Amelia”) and I have cordial relations, but she definitely is not “family” to me the way my dad, my two brothers, and my sister are. Now that my dad is getting older, Amelia has taken over responsibility for some of their household tasks, which my siblings and I mostly appreciate. My siblings and I are annoyed, though, that she routinely answers my dad’s cell phone and responds to texts addressed to him, so we have no way of communicating with him without going through her. They also have a joint email address. Since Amelia sometimes seems kind of resentful, I am not exactly eager to communicate with her. Just recently, I wanted to talk to my father about something, but thinking of Amelia reading the text or answering the phone was enough of a barrier that I did not do it. I feel cut off from my father yet reluctant to just ask her to butt out. Any recommendations?
Stuck With a Buttinsky
You new stepmother sounds like the kind of person who would be cool under fire. When she faces a threat, she grabs it by the throat, wrestles it to the ground, and then dares it to get up. Not the kind of person you want to cross, but perhaps someone you want on your side.
As such, I’m betting that she has a job with responsibility and authority and that your father is retired—am I right? Furthermore, if Amelia holds down a job and still manages to have “taken over responsibility for some of their household tasks,” she must be efficient but also busy—very busy. In addition, she sounds as if she is used to being in charge and doesn’t mind if she steps on some underlings’ (your and your siblings’) toes. Could that insensitivity or disregard be part of why you say she “creeps me out”?
If you were to confront Amelia about blocking access to your father, I suspect that she would bristle at being left out of the mix. Given Amelia’s authoritative personality and the protective role she serves for your father, you can set up some new arrangements that will give you personal access to him without setting off any familial IEDs.
Each September as the new school year begins, academic faculty and staff re-energize and reflect on the challenges ahead. We are pleased to share messages from area school division heads — they provide inspiration and perspective on educating our kids. The following essay is by Christine Szala, head of the upper school at St. Paul’s School for Girls. -The Eds.
As I walk through campus, it feels as though the teachers and students have been in the routine and rhythm of school for months. The crisp mornings and the hues of red and yellow leaves beginning to peak through the trees are a reminder that it is only October and not yet April or May.
I was impressed with how many girls and teachers were engrossed in conversations during the first few days of school as if they had never left for the summer! The sense of community and caring here at SPSG is contagious.
As I visited classrooms, meeting with teachers, and getting to know the girls of SPSG, I found myself pondering why and how I already felt so comfortable here. St. Paul’s School for Girls works to maintain a warm and welcoming environment for all of its families, faculty, and staff. I noticed that everyone had a smile or greeting to acknowledge my presence.
It is the small things that make a difference to our daily lives, and I feel sure that all of our new girls and families have received the warmest welcome from their teachers, advisors, and all the members of the SPSG community.
During the first weeks of school, I have had an opportunity to get to know the faculty and staff of SPSG better through formal as well as informal conversations. I plan to welcome them into my office and to engage in meaningful conversations just as I have been welcomed into this community.
My main message has been consistent throughout all of these conversations: open communication. My door is always open. It is my hope that the faculty and staff of SPSG feel comfortable coming into my office to ask a question, inquire about a frustration or problem, or to simply celebrate a successful lesson in their classroom or on the field.
My open door policy extends to families and the girls of SPSG as well. It is my goal that parents and girls feel comfortable sharing their thoughts, concerns, and celebrations as well.
As fall starts to chill the air and the brilliant leaves rain upon the campus, let me reiterate the support and sense of caring that the entire SPSG community extends as we welcome the challenges of a successful and productive school year.