I’m now officially “that” Mom in the eyes of my children’s school. I just burst into the main office, sputtering and gasping for air, all the while holding my daughter’s backpack up in the air like baby Simba from The Lion King. I had on my best “I’m late because I didn’t have my shit together this morning” look, and I didn’t even need to explain myself. Everyone just sort of nodded knowingly as they gently pried the backpack from my hands before patting me on the back and ushering me quickly back out the door. I think they prefer it if the crazy parents stay outside so as not to scare all the children.
This morning as we were getting ready for the first day of school, my son (who is going into grade 1) came up to me and said, “Mom, I feel a bit scared about today. Maybe a bit sad too. I don’t know what it’s going to be like, or if I’m going to like my teacher.” He said it quietly, as if the softness of his words would somehow blur their meaning.
“That all sounds perfectly normal to me,” I said thoughtfully. “It’s a new school year with a new teacher, and new classmates. I would imagine that a lot of kids are going to be feeling exactly the same way you are.”
“I guess,” he said, studying his hands. “Everyone keeps asking me if I’m excited to be starting school, but I’m not.”
I nodded as I gently wrapped my arms around him. “There’s no right or wrong way to feel about the first day of school,” I said, reassuringly. “Whatever you feel is perfectly okay, because your feelings are yours to have. I’m glad you told me about them though, because my job is to help you understand those feelings and to figure out what to do with them.”
And that is something we all need in life, isn’t it? Someone who will tell us it’s okay to feel what we feel, and who will still love us anyway. Someone who will listen as we talk, without necessarily trying to fix whatever it is we are trying to work through. Someone who isn’t going to tell us that we can’t or shouldn’t feel a certain way, or try to convince us that we are just fine in spite of the fact that we are clearly not. We need people who will press their shoulder up against ours when we need someone to lean in to. We need people in our lives who will say, “I get it, and I’m here for you, so go ahead and feel all the big feels.”
I am not a morning person. I used to be, but then I had kids; three of them, to be exact. Now, my morning brain functions at about the level of a cold bowl of leftover oatmeal, and, as the adult in charge of getting the kids off to school in the morning, that’s not a very useful brain to have. Trying to coordinate breakfast, clothing, morning chores, backpacks, and all the other things that need to get done in order to get out the door on time is ridiculously exhausting, especially when the children are about as useful as a litter of newborn kittens. Super adorable to look at, but they spend most of their time climbing on each other and walking into walls.
I wrote the following a while back after a particularly torturous morning that ultimately left me wondering how I would ever be able to show my face at the boys’ school again:
Morning school drop-offs are chaotic at the best of times, and today was no exception. The boys’ school has a drop off area where parents can pull up along side the school, deposit their kids on the sidewalk, and drive away while one of the teachers then walks the younger kids into the school yard.
We were running a bit behind today, so I was in full on Crazy Mom mode when we pulled up to the school. I jumped out of the van and frantically began piling all the boys’ belongings onto the sidewalk. Mittens, jackets, bags, children; one giant blur of hurried insanity. In my haste, I stood up from hugging Isaac and turned to the teacher next to me and said, “I love you,” then turned back to Isaac and told him to have a good day. It wasn’t until I had driven halfway down the street that I realized what I had done.
PARENTING: If you’re not confused, you’re not doing it right!
My son came home today with a giant piece of paper with his name written in the middle, surrounded by several incredibly kind words and phrases that his friends had used to describe him. He was beaming with pride when he showed me. It was, by far, his proudest moment in school to date.
To be recognized and appreciated for who we are, and to know that we are truly seen, is something that we all need in life.
When I was in grade 4, I was the new kid in school. Early on the school year I only had a few friends, and my self esteem was fragile at best. Our teacher decided one day to make the kids in our class stand up at the front of the room one by one so everyone could take turns saying something nice about them. Most of these kids had known each other since kindergarten, so their comments were the heartwarming, fun and silly sorts of things that you would expect to be said. I sat, slumped down low in my chair hoping the teacher wouldn’t see me, while I listened miserably to person after person being praised.
Eventually though, I had to take my turn. I stood, sullenly, beside the teacher’s desk with my back to the chalk board, and stared at my shoes. The room was quiet. There was a creaky spot in the floor under my foot, and I pushed on it a few times with my toe. I scratched my arm and looked up at the class.
“You’re the nicest person I’ve ever met,” said the girl directly in front of me.
“You’re really funny, too,” said the boy beside her.
I stared in disbelief as one by one the kids in my class took turns piecing my self confidence back together. Their words helped me to redefine the fractured image I had of myself. I had no idea any of these kids even knew my name, yet here they were telling me all sorts of truths that I had long since stopped believing. I wished they had told me sooner, but I was so grateful to be hearing it for the first time.
This is the kind of thing that I want to see more of in our schools. I want to see our kids building each other up with their words and their actions. I want our kids to know that they are valued, not just at home, but among their peers and in their community. I want our kids to also stand up and say something when they see that someone doesn’t value themselves. Kind words and an open heart can go a long way to healing the silent hurts of the world.