Real adventures in going Julia Sugarbaker with Mother of PittGirl

My niece M. was engaged in quite a battle in her school over a school election and that’s really all I can say about it because God only knows who’s reading this blog.

Needless to say, Ta-Ta the Grand Poobah, mother of M., acted in grand Julia Sugarbaker fashion to show her daughter that she is willing to fight for her when things happen that should not happen.  That meant writing a few strongly worded but respectful emails to the principal and getting results.  Fair results.

This is not a case of “life’s not fair and I should just tell that to my daughter” because sometimes that is the case; this was a case of “adult people who should know better wronged her and I’ma fix it.”

In my family, we ladies refer to it as “going Julia Sugarbaker” when us normally reserved, dignified sisters rip into people that deserve it by using our witty, biting words.

My point is that M.’s situation and Ta-Ta’s response caused Tina Fey to recall:

All this stuff about M. makes me think about the time I got a D in orchestra because I couldn’t make it to a concert for good reason.  It got me kicked off the honor roll.  So one day I go in to the teacher, explain the situation (which she already knew), she told me I was lucky I didn’t get an F and she wasn’t changing my grade.

So I said, “Okay.  Well, my mom is outside and she wants to talk to you.”  (Mom told me to talk to her to see what she said and she’d be waiting outside the room after class in case things didn’t go my way.)

So I come out of the orchestra room and Mom is waiting there.  I said, “She won’t change my grade.”  Mom says, “Okay,” and heads into the room.  About 2 minutes later Mom comes out of the room, says, “She’s changing your grade.  You’ll be back on the honor roll,” and Crazy Orchestra Teacher is in tears.

Good times, people.  Good times.

Good times, indeed.  Let’s hear it for moms who stick up for their kids and go Julia Sugarbaker when it counts.


  1. chrys
    September 23, 2008 10:38 am

    In my family we refer to that as “mamma bear watching out for her cubs”.. :) But I do like the “going Julia Sugarbaker” reference.. awesome.

    God help the idiot that treats my kids unfairly, because I will go “mamma bear” all over their ass. I learned it from my Mom.. so.. Thanks Mom.. you rock!

  2. Ted
    September 23, 2008 11:44 am

    I’m going to have to boo Tina Fey on this one. As the husband of a music teacher, I know how frustrating it is to have kids miss a concert for what their parents deem to be “a good reason.” It sets a dangerous precedent.**

    Do they not realize that the concert is essentially the final exam for their class? I’d bet dollars to donuts she was told about the concerts weight in her grade at the beginning of the course.

    I hope my wife never caves like the Orchestra Teacher.

    **if your good reason was a death or grave illness/accident, then I respectfully withdraw my comment. But the intent still lives.

  3. missingPA
    September 23, 2008 11:49 am

    LOVE the Julia Sugarbaker reference! I’m a first-time mom of a 15 mo. old girl. Last week at the playground I had to defend her against an 8 yr. old boy insisting that the toddler-size slide was the “boy’s club”, so she needed to “GO AWAY!”. All the other mothers took their little girls elsewhere. Nuh-uh. I explained to him that it was for everyone- no way was I dragging her away from her beloved slide. No doubt it was the first small incident in a lifetime of many and I’m totally prepared to go Mamma Bear and/or Julia Sugarbaker when necessary.

    On a side note, maybe the Steelers should replace their O-line next week with a group of Momma Bears. See if Benny still gets sacked 8 times. Throw me some pads and a helmet. I may be 5 ft. 1, but I’ll lay a smack down on someone!

  4. Deutschtown Frau
    September 23, 2008 11:57 am

    @ Ted & the whole darn officious school world,

    In fact, no school employee or official has the authority to make any event taking place outside the official school day a required part of course work. A concert is indeed very important — it’s about your obligation to the group, your part being integral to the whole, etc. — but it simply can’t be required or made part of the grade. Teachers will just have to try administering performance tests within school hours!

    Was the school district providing the transportation to the concert? Can you cite state law to support your contention? I thought not.

    I’ve had athletic coaches call last-minute, pre-season scrimmage games, not notify the parents via e-mail or flier and then ream out and bench my kids for not being on time. It happened last month, before school started; we had one car available for three different events. The (parochial school) coach informed my son, in front of the team, that his regular-season eligibility was in jeopardy and that his parents needed to improve their car-pooling efforts!

    I say he can shove it up his arse — in the name of Jesus, of course.

  5. JP
    September 23, 2008 12:04 pm

    **if your good reason was a death or grave illness/accident, then I respectfully withdraw my comment. But the intent still lives**

    That is fair, I think those would be really good reasons to miss a concert. Maybe a couple other ones but hard to think of many.

    Otherwise I think you have to show up. I certainly would be embarrassed as $hit to have my mommy run in and defend me, but that is how kids roll nowadays to stay on honor roll.

  6. SteelyMcstupid
    September 23, 2008 12:08 pm

    I agree with D-Town frau….requiring someone to attend an off-hours concert for a grade is saxual harassment.

  7. Sue
    September 23, 2008 12:08 pm

    I love the “going Julia Sugarbaker”. You’re right, kids do need to know that there are going to be disappointing times in their life, but as a reasonable parent, you know when someone has done wrong by your kid. Every kid should have a Julia Sugarbaker in their corner. Teachers/Schools are not always right! Way to go Mom of M, and well said Deutschtown Frau.

  8. Bulldog
    September 23, 2008 12:15 pm

    I get Ted’s point, and not knowing any of the other pertinent details its kinda hard to come down on one side or the other. It does seem extremely hard to believe that a single concert can be weighted so heavily as to move an otherwise honor roll student to a D that the teacher feels so generous about giving because it could have been an “F”.

    It seems that the teacher in this case was suffering from a serious lack of perspective.

  9. captain dummy
    September 23, 2008 12:16 pm

    “**if your good reason was a death or grave illness/accident, then I respectfully withdraw my comment. But the intent still lives.”

    …maybe find out the reason first before you start “booing” anyone… otherwise, i think you’re just stating the obvious… just a thought.

    plus, not that it means much, but i dont remember anyone saying these events took place “outside the official school day” at all… maybe i missed that part somewhere.

    i want to see missingPA beaut up those ravens this week! call up tomlin, maybe she’ll actually stop the blitz! and those weten’t 8 year olds… that was me and my 30 year old friends… we just picked a bad place for “boy’s club”… just goes to show you i have the worst judgement! haha

  10. MiamiShyner
    September 23, 2008 12:38 pm

    Hooray for Mom of M. Sometimes, there is no talking to a teacher in a rational manner for the kids. This I know from experience as I recently had to have a chat with a teacher at Kiddo’s school. She said that he was mean and wouldn’t let her explain herself. Now, she’s 15 and she’s my child so I know she’s got a mouth on her, but she also knows when to keep it shut. I talked to the man over the phone and received the same treatment so I know she wasn’t exaggerating. He got some Julia Sugarbaker as did his direct supervisor because NO ONE speaks to me in such a disrespectful manner and thinks they’ll get away with it.

  11. ic lion
    September 23, 2008 12:49 pm

    ya ya woo hoo mom’s defended the little kid and all is right and fair and just in the world. Horray, woman power, etc. But what about what Hotty McTomlin just said (or whatever you ladies are calling him). . . Parker and Hampton both out for MNF vs. the Ravens?!?!?! Did I miss something on Sunday?!?!

  12. CMU_phi_mu_alpha
    September 23, 2008 12:54 pm

    I was a music major in college and if you played in the symphony and missed a concert/performance without a valid reason, you failed the class, period. Valid excuses were outlined in the course syllabus which you received at the beginning of each semester. Everybody knew up front what the deal so there was not really any real wiggle room. That was college, I do not remember high school that much but I am pretty sure I would have never voluntarily missed a concert as I really dug playing.

  13. missingPA
    September 23, 2008 1:13 pm

    CD- So that’s why that boy wasn’t in school at 1:30 on a Tuesday! :) And you have no idea how much I’d love to beat up on some ravens. Put me in, coach!

  14. pittgirl
    September 23, 2008 1:14 pm

    While I won’t divulge the exact reason for privacy sake, I can assure every single one of you, even the haters among you, that you would agree that it was an absolutely valid reason and you would be aghast at the gall of the music teacher. And it was after school hours.

    That is all.

  15. TK
    September 23, 2008 1:32 pm

    Because sometimes when you think you’re going all “Julia Sugarbaker” on someone, you end up sounding like “Suzanne Sugarbaker”.

    Imagine Delta Burke’s voice:

    “I don’t know why anyone wouldn’t think my excuse wasn’t valid. I think I’ll give her a piece of my mind.”

  16. Christine
    September 23, 2008 1:37 pm

    Great story! Love the Sugarbaker reference and will use it! Makes me think though, about the fine line between defending your kid when they really need it and being a helicopter parent. Seems like a lot of parents don’t understand the distinction, hence the current trend toward kids who can’t do anything for themselves without mommy and daddy stepping in. (I’m of the generation where mom and dad butted out, assumed the teacher was always right, you had it coming, etc. — I would have enjoyed a little Sugarbakering now and then.)

  17. Kathy
    September 23, 2008 2:09 pm

    This can be a tough one because there is a very fine line between defending a child who is in the right and covering for a kid who was wrong. In our society WAY to often it is parents covering for kids who were wrong. But when needed, I am so glad that the moms of this generation will step in and help. Reminds me of a situation a friend of mine had recently. Her daughter and best friend were both in the spelling bee, the winner of which would go to a regional bee which was scheduled on the same day as another school event that both girls wanted to participate in. The two girls beat out every other student in the school, but neither wanted to win the final bee because of the other event they wanted to attend so they both threw the final words. The teacher decided that neither one should receive any prize at all (even though they had beat EVERY other student in the school) because they threw the last words and she wasn’t going to even give them their certificate of participation. My friend, the mama bear, had to go to the school and pitch a fit. It worked – the little girls got their certificate and small prizes(boy that must have really put the teacher back a lot). Go MAMA BEAR.

  18. pittgirl
    September 23, 2008 2:14 pm

    TK … Oh, never mind.

  19. lovesthenorthside
    September 23, 2008 2:40 pm

    agreed, pg. it’s a rule in our house that the child must first try to correct the perceived wrong (as mom of pittgirl did), then momma will step in if the teacher/adult won’t budge. you’re right, kathy, there is a very fine line between mrs. sugarbaker and the helicopter parent. a helicopter parent is raising a child who may grow up expecting the world to be handed to him/her. we other parents are teaching conflict resolution and the power of love.

  20. workingmama
    September 23, 2008 2:49 pm

    It’s clear from PGs story that the teacher knew up front of the reason the sister couldn’t make it to the concert and then decided to lower her grade after the fact. I’m not sure how it was for others when they were in school, but when I was in school (and I can vouch that I know of at least 2 teachers who would have done this – my parents!!), most teachers, knowing that there was an extenuating circumstance would then offer a make up of some sort (in this instance, maybe make PG’s sister play a solo during class or something like that). And then if she didn’t do the “make-up” a lower grade could be warranted. But to know of the situation (which it sounds like was a personal & private matter)and to just lower the grade without prior notice…in this case, the Julia Sugarbaker-ing was justified.

    Trust me, I’ve heard some of the stories my folks have told me about requests for grade changes from parents (but Suzy deserves an A – I mean, I know she failed the exam and didn’t do the assignment, but she deserves the A so that she can have the same grade as her friends – and yes, that’s a true one!) – please don’t lump PGs parents into this category. You go Mama of PG!!!

  21. jp
    September 23, 2008 3:59 pm

    I guess you can argue rationally it goes both ways, but really in all my years of schooling I can not remember of any instance where I received a mark that I did not deserve more or less. Maybe I was lucky or too meek to stand up for myself or whatever, but I can’t help feeling suspect when my co-workers, friends etc go on and on about all the injustices heaped upon their kids in school. I just did not see it growing up aside from the occasional a-hole gym teacher or whatever the overwhelming majority of teachers I had were fair and professional who wanted you to succeed rather than fail. Although I agree they are human and not perfect. Not a hater PG just agnostic.

  22. nel
    September 23, 2008 11:06 pm

    There are some jerks that happen to be teachers out there. Some seem to go out of there way to be unreasonable. I think they like the rep they get as tough. (Thinking somehow this makes them a better teacher?)It doesn’t.
    Just the same, there are just as many jerks as parents out there. When the parents are always running into their office saying “not my kid” it is usually their kid.
    Unfortunately,I think your niece has a jerk for a teacher. But as my mother always said: “she’ll live to tell the tale”
    When my son was in second grade he got a D in Art. The teacher(A frustrated ex-nun)wrote a note that said he was coloring in the wrong direction. I wanted to ask her “coloring in the wrong direction, according to who?” What the hell does she mean by that.But I didn’t. I just let him color in whatever direction he damn well pleased.

    Deutschtown Frau,
    If a child wants to play sports,they have to show up for every practice. It’s not up to the coach to make sure everyone has rides, it’s not his problem. He has every right to bench the kids who consistently show up late or not at all and play the kid whose always there and on time, ready to play. It’s only fair.

    My son’s coach had a rule. Late one time run laps, late or miss second time–bench.
    Show up for practice ready to play and on time, or the kids who was there all week takes your place. Period.

  23. Ted
    September 24, 2008 7:21 am

    @PG – not a hater, I qualified my statement as I didn’t know the full details. My point was to bring up the minor issues that some helicopter parents think are valid excuses to get their precious snowflakes whatever it is they want.

    @D. Frau – if a student is informed of all the requirements ahead of time, including after school committments and agrees to them, a teacher absolutely has the right to fail the student for not completing the requirements. By your “after school” critera, one could use that as an excuse not to do homework!!

    However, your comment about playing tests is true. My wife does administer singing tests, in class, in front of other students in order to distribute grade weighting and comply with No Child Left Behind. This often times results in poorer grades for the student, because they actually do get graded on their ability, rather than getting that coveted ‘A’ just for showing up for 2 hours after school once a semester.

    Its also worth noting that I am a father, and I am prepared to go “Papa Bear” as needed. But I am also prepared to let my child deal with the negative consequences of her actions.

  24. beaner
    September 24, 2008 7:48 am

    Just from my own perspective, when you are the parent of a child with special needs, who is struggling just to SURVIVE in school, and the administrators just want the kid to go away, you become the Mom from Hell and it’s not a choice…not that I’m bitter…

  25. Teacher
    September 26, 2008 7:45 pm

    Hey! We teachers aren’t all bad! I have many a time made accomodations for kids with special needs and those with extenuating circumstances. I’ve gone to school 45 minutes early to meet with a parent and stayed 1-2 hours later. I’ve helped parents with project questions in the middle of Wal-Mart. I’ve been to several ball games, concerts, recitals, plays, etc. to support my students and given up my lunch time to meet with a former student at the HS having a rough time (our elementary and HS are about 150 yards apart). I’ve bought materials for kids who didn’t have much and brought in outgrown clothes and shoes for the nurse to give to kids. I’ve ALSO been jumped on by parents without prior warning or a chance to defend myself. Little Susie and Johnny do not always go home and tell the truth to mom and dad and they come to school or call fuming. I am not in any way stating that I am perfect or saintly. Yes, I do make mistakes. However, I am more than willing to correct them if given the chance. Some people don’t want to do that and/or will never admit that it is entirely possible that the parent or child might be in the wrong. I teach my 6th graders that a mistake isn’t a mistake anymore if you fix it. They know when they break a rule or are disrespectful that they have to figure out a way to make it right. Maybe some adults could learn that lesson. Sorry for the rant, but sometimes it’s hard to deal with the teacher-bashing.