Feedback Smackdown


Today I got a smack in the face. A burning red one whose sting will last for a while I suspect. No it wasn’t a real smack in the face but the pain and subsequent wake up call felt very real. The virtual smack was delivered without knowledge by the mother of a disabled 8 year old boy who  I sat next to a 4 hour flight.

24 hours earlier I had been delivering some confronting news to my 8 year old’s self-confessed disciplinarian ballet teacher. My daughter had voted herself out of the class on the grounds of harshness of the teacher and I knew exactly what I was getting myself into in my effort to provide constructive feedback to the teacher.

Feedback is like a hand knitted cardigan that your mother sends you in the mail. Mostly they go straight into the bottom drawer and are never gazed upon again. Sometimes the said cardigan is paraded out when mother is in town, but secret gazes in the mirror remind us it is neither our colour nor our size. But feedback is never worn until it wears out.

Lots of denial followed by some disrespectful sharing of my conversation with others and the ballet teacher started to grow horns – or did I draw them on ? Anyway 3am I’m awake wondering if this will harm my child if the word gets around and what my next overly mature step might be with the she-devil.

The next day the potential resolution scenarios boil in my head all the way to the airport – to the point I can’t remember most of the route – I do remember driving past the ballet studio and wondering if I could get the car through the front door.

Anyway in my rage I’m now at the mercy of Qantas. This in itself often has a humbling effect on me – Qantas’ cardigan is a lovely rainbow wool with silver buttons. In the boarding queue that stretched almost to my destination city I find myself behind a family of 5 with an obviously disabled boy. I mentally cross myself and count multiple lucky stars. I spend an inappropriate amount of time looking at the boy and feeling pity for the family members who carry the burden of a disabled family member. Mum looks after him as Dad has been put of child wrangling duty with the other two. As I sit down I find myself next to mum and her boy. I’m in the window seat and spend quite a bit of time gazing downward at the sea wondering if ballet teachers float or sink.

I’m roused from my daydreaming by sweet words of love and care being exchanged between my neighbours. I look at the mothers face and she is smiling. Her son moves over so he can sit on her knee and they hug for what seems an eternity. They kiss and laugh.

SMACK !

This mother is clearly one of the luckiest women in the world, and she knows it ! She is lucky because through being challenged she has realised what is important and what is not. She has the love of a beautiful child and he has hers. The image of a ballet teacher in a straight jacket disappears with a magic “puff” in my head and I am left shameful.

I call my daughter when we land – just because I can. When I get home tomorrow we will dance together in the living room and praise that blessed ballet teacher.

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2 Responses to Feedback Smackdown

  1. Thank you so much for this. I shall go kiss my daughter and put things back into perspective. I do exactly what you do when I see families like this one (watch, thank my lucky stars, pity etc). There’s clearly more I could take from it. Thank you. xx

  2. Tanya says:

    Nice work…love the feedback story…

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