Remember that mom? Or, I think I called her This Mom? Yeah, well, This Mom is at it again, and this time she really is on my bad side.
I live in a nice, suburban apartment complex. It’s an overly expensive little neighborhood, but it is managed by a nice company and it is well built, and it has a garage and snow removal, and it’s right next to the subway. So we’re happy here, though we know we pay an exorbitant every month to live here.
When the place was first opened, it was designed for young professional singles or couples, not necessarily for children. But as the economy turned and more and more families delayed buying a home (but not necessarily having a kid), suddenly, we’ve seen a bunch of kids running around here (mine included)! The management company changed hands to what was billed as a more “resident centered” firm that loves to add little creature comforts for residents. Two such creature comforts are a playroom and a playground for the children who live here.
So, the complex has some retail shops in the front of it, and two of the paces are not occupied. The complex decided to “temporarily” turn one of those empty spaces (that has never been rented in the almost 10 years that the property has been opened), into a playroom. I was like “YAY!” because these winter months are so freaking lone, ad my apartment is but so big, and it really is too cold to have the boys out for a long time. The kind of time they need to really get their ya-yas out, you know?
Well, they opened the playroom, and this is what we got:
A big, unfinished room, with bare concrete, ceiling tiles missing, furniture that isn’t appropriate for children, and not a lot of toys or other kid friendly things.
Do you know how much I pay to live here? Upwards of $2300 a month? This is the best ya’ll could do?
Ok. So, I’m a “do” kind of mom. If I see a problem, I try to fix it. That either means voicing my displeasure so that someone fixes it, or putting together some proposals so that someone fixes it, or even just fixing it myself. This hot mess, right here, needs a lot of fixing.
So here I am on Monday, with three other parents, and we’re looking around this room like “this is not appropriate.” For the sake of argument, we’ll give everyone names: “This Mom” is keeping her name (because “Mom” would be replaced by a four-letter word if I wasn’t trying to keep this blog PG). We’ll call the other two Percival and Daisy.
So Percival, Daisy and This Mom were already in the room when I arrived with the boys, and they were chit-chatting about what they thought about the space. I was scowling as soon as I walked in. I’d would describe my feelings as “crestfallen” because I was just so disappointed with the room. The others were in agreement.
This Mom: “I just think that this is not safe. I am worried the kids are going to bust their heads open on the floor.”
Daisy: “Yeah, and the concrete doesn’t look like it’s been cleaned…”
Percival: “We also need places to put trash, and probably some cleaning supplies.”
Me: “I also think that it would be good to establish a budget and a liaison with management, so that way we can easily communicate our needs.”
Percival and Daisy: “That’s a great idea…”
This Mom: “I mean, I’m just so worried about the floor. It’s so dirty and messy and dangerous.”
Me: “Right. Well. We can communicate that through a letter, possibly? Lay out exactly what we need?”
Daisy and Percival: “Great! You write it!”
Daisy, “You seem like you want to spearhead this. And you are so articulate…” <——- ……. really, Daisy?…. Another post for another time.
This Mom: “I think my bottom line is, if they don’t fix the floor, I”m just not going to use this space. I’ll just use the clubhouse. I don’t like this space if there isn’t carpeting and padding.” <—not constructive.
Daisy, Percival and I begin to construct some well articulated arguments for what we need, why we need it, and how we can get it in a reasonable and actionable way. This Mom continues to whine about the floor.
Another woman comes in. I’m going to be racist here, because I don’t know her country of origin. She was Asian, and she did not speak to us, though we addressed her multiple times, so I am assuming that she did not speak English or only spoke a small amount of English. Her son/grandson/charge came in, played for a little bit, and then had a potty accident in the middle of the floor. We were all talking at the time, so we didn’t see him actually do the deed. But we noticed a wet puddle in the middle of the floor as the woman very quickly shuffled the boy out of the playroom.
….uh…. ewww. Cleaning supplies?
No cleaning supplies? Sexy.
I go get cleaning supplies from the front office and bring them back to clean someone else’s kid’s pee from the concrete floor.
Me: “We will need cleaning supplies.” I say with a scowl. “And some signage, in multiple languages, about rules and guidelines for the room.”
At this point, Daisy, Percival and I are feeling good about what we’ve brainstormed. This Mom, still simply unsatisfied with the room, but at least going alone with things, decides that whatever we right will be best. She takes Goldilocks and her youngest son home for lunch while we Three Amigos put the finishing touches on our proposal.
and I go home to write the actual letter.
I write a beautifully written proposal. It is reasonable, it is actionable, it asks for some immediate things and makes long term goals. Most importantly, it emphasizes collaboration and partnership to bring the room to its best potential without burdening an already overworked staff.
I circulate it to Percival, Daisy and This Mom. Percival and Daisy read it, love it, propose changes and fixes. We post the letter to the community mom’s facebook page for comment and discussion.
Satisfied with what we have created, we solicit for folks to sign their name to the letter to give it more teeth.
Tuesday Morning, I wake up to find an e-mail from This Mom:
“…at the risk of sounding like i am speaking out of both sides of my mouth . . . i think the tone of the letter is a bit strong. if i were sending the letter/email to [management] i think i would stick to the flooring and leave it at that. all of the other stuff would be great – paint, bubbler, etc . . . but i think those ‘asks’ will take away from the one must – a safer floor. if they truly aren’t going to do anything about the floor, then it’s not a space that my family will be able to utilize. so with that said, the other ‘asks’ are moot (for me). perhaps the space, as is, will work for some other families in the community . . . so that’s where i am right now. if i see [management] and she asks for feedback i will let her know my thoughts on the flooring. if we can get a safer space via padded/carpet flooring it might invite more families to get involved and continue to improve the space. “
She asked to no longer be part of this letter and I told her fine. Percival, Daisy and I continue to polish and lobby for more signatures. Finally, this morning, I sent the letter to our site manager.
Not ten minutes after I sent the e-mail, I get a reply from the manager. The manager was actually forwarding me an e-mail that she had sent to This Mom just this morning. It reads in part:
“…I am so disheartened that the wonderful idea we had to create some type of additional space for you all to use here has turned into a complete disaster. I was very clear that this was just opened and we had additional items coming. Although we cannot carpet the entire space because again it is a retail space that will eventually get rented I had already ordered additional area carpets to fill in some of the voids, however they are still being shipped. It appears that no matter what we do the expectation for that space is too high and until the ownership would allow us to use that space to its full potential where we could carpet it we feel at this time it doesn’t make sense to keep it going. Until I can create a more comfortable environment with owner approval the space will remain closed temporarily to figure things out. As I can clearly see it doesn’t make sense to open the space until we have everything in there that we are allowed. We really take pride in our community and in our residents and were hoping to accommodate the need you all had, but again, it unfortunately is not working out at this time. Please let others know as I don’t know specifically aside from the nannies who else is wanting to use this space….”
So before I could even get my letter out there, This Mom got to her first. The decision to simply close the room was made before I could even get in there with our suggestions. Indeed, whatever This Mom said had the manager so much on the defensive, that I don’t think she’ll even consider what we wrote. I am flippin’ furious.
I understand that there are people who are thinkers, people who are speakers, and people who are doers. I can be a combination of all three–but when it comes to stuff for the boys, I am 100% in the “do” category. No talking, no whining, (sometimes, no thinking, which gets me in trouble), let’s get things done. I don’t ever want to look back on something and decide that the boys could have had something, but they didn’t get it, because I didn’t do everything I could to provide it (within reason). If I can help others along the way (which totally would have happened in this case), then all the better. I really believe in communities and community investment. A community is only as good as the people who choose to put their time and energy in it. In this case, the room could have created a vibrant and powerful parent community, something that would have been very positive for the complex as a whole. So to have this effort thwarted by someone who is clearly a talker/whiner really, really bothers me. I get that motherhood is a pain, that its exhausting, and that sometimes the only energy you have goes simply into getting out of bed and getting the basics done. That’s cool. You don’t have to do everything. But stay out of the way of the people who are capable of making change. She is, pretty much, the Benedict Arnold of the moms in this complex.
If it wasn’t Lent and I wasn’t trying to be reflective, I’d be doing a lot of swearing right now…grrrr….