Photo: I sincerely believe that planting our garden was the best thing we’ve ever done as parents. Every sprout, every leaf, every flower, and every delicious product is a wonder, a miracle and a joy. We have pumpkins for the first time ever and the vines are glorious and interesting and we love them. I’ve never experienced pumpkin vines up close and they are now my new favorite things. If you’ve never planted a seed in your life, make today your day.
Every mom in MetroWest is atwitter about class assignments and bus routes. First-world problems (generally) a world away, we’ve nothing to do but sit around and lament about the injustice of our children having to walk uphill to a bus stop or getting a teacher we’ve heard unflattering things about. Facebook was a battleground of “be nice and don’t post things,” and “you can’t tell me what to post,” and “it’s unamerican to tell people not to share their opinions” and so on and so forth.
and then there are the texts. Lordy.
I admit that I’m a mom who did a little lamentation. I’m disappointed in the assignments both of my boys got. I’m also a little unhappy with our bus assignment, mostly because they have to cross a busy street to get on and off the bus and I’m not sure that’s acceptable to me.
(I recognize that “I’m not sure that’s acceptable to me” is entitled suburban language indeed!)
The biggest source of disappointment comes in the form Minor’s 1st grade teacher. Both of the boys had a phenomenal kindergarten teacher who was just above-and-beyond awesome. Saying goodbye to her was a heartbreaking event with both of us in tears. Last year, our 1st grade experience with Major was less than stellar. He was in a class of “strong personalities” among the boys (suburban parlance for “disruptive”) who really gave the teacher, a veteran, a bit of a hard time. Major, not in need of discipline, but not an academic super-star, disappeared in the middle of the pack. Three conferences with the teacher over the course of the year revealed that she hadn’t taken the time to get to know Major and, therefore, Major never performed to his full potential in class (despite our encouragement with both parties). He didn’t have a bad 1st grade year. He just didn’t have a great 1st grade year. Not a disaster. But… when we’re still working on the foundations of learning, including learning that school is an important and valuable experience, it’s not ideal.
So during our last conference, when this teacher ventured, “who knows… maybe I’ll be [Minor’s] teacher next year. Wouldn’t that be something?”
I replied, with wide eyes and a tight smile and high-pitch: “that would be something…”
(Which, as I’ve understood, is suburban parlance for “thank you, but no thank you. You can take a pass on us. Give us to another 1st grade teacher. No hard feelings.” I would like to note that I could have said how I really felt at that moment, but The Husband had specifically told me “not to be mean or rude” during the meeting and he was sitting right next to me. Can I be direct without being mean or rude? According to my husband, the answer is no.)
So you can only imagine my surprise when the class assignment popped up with that teacher’s name again. I cursed and shook my head. I thought we’d had an understanding.
(It took a lot of love and grace to not tell my husband that I’m pretty sure that this is his fault.)
Major’s 2nd grade teacher, as I’ve been told by other parents, is lovely. I haven’t met her, but I’ve only heard good things. We learned (through texts with other moms) that he’s separated from one of his good buddies and everyone is unhappy about it. Not a big deal, but a sad thing. Both me and this friend’s mom had been pretty explicit about telling various stakeholders that it would be “beneficial” for both friends to stay together.
I guess what I’m learning here is: a) the suburban school system isn’t actually built around letting suburban moms do whatever they want, b) sometimes folk listen and sometimes they don’t and c) damn, girl… I need to take a step back and let some of this childhood stuff happen organically. Everyone gets disappointing class assignments and, often times, they survive the experience. Especially their mothers. So… breathe.
I was a teacher before becoming a mom. An urban teacher at that, where the rules were different because everyone decided that they needed to be (the farther away I am from that, the more I’m realizing what bullshit that was). I’ve convinced myself that the greatest sin I can commit as a mother is to be overbearing and judgmental with these professionals who are with my children every day. This is not the right answer. As ever, more nuance is required.
Outside of egregious behavior, I’m really trying to keep an open mind and an open heart, allowing all of this to play out in the way that it should: the boys have to experience different types of adults, must learn what “learning” means to them, and navigate “school” as the chaotic environment that it is. They have to do that without my constant intervention… because they have to learn the when and hows of stepping up, speaking up, or breaking through as necessary. And I do mean “breaking”: they are going to need to learn the time, places and spaces where the rules can (and even must) be broken. I, as mom, must be the facilitator of these things; advocating on their behalf when the stakes are particularly high and the task is above their current paygrade.
So… I’m a suburban mom who is breathing. Because the discipline comes from my disciplined choice to do nothing at all. It’s a new year, this is a different kid, and there is an opportunity here for a different 1st grade experience. My open mind comes not because I trust this teacher (I have a year behind me that says not to), but because I trust myself to watch more closely, speak more clearly, and direct my own child more decisively. Indeed, both of my children, because I’m committed to Major having a better year than he did last year. By speaking positively to the students about what’s to come, and be clear, positive and honest with both teachers about the year ahead, I set the tone and get us started on the right foot. I can’t control it all, but I can do my part in making sure we have a great year.
It’s a gorgeous day here in Massachusetts. No humidity, blue skies, warm air… there is cricket song already, intermixed with the birds who are raising their voices in delight. Just the breeze and the bugs. There is promise of cool temperatures and moonlight tonight. Getting this post done early means I can look forward to some quilting, some wine, and a good story tonight. Days like this are gifts, Dear Reader. I hope you are enjoying one just like it, too.
On such an exquisite day, I wish you decadent things. Like cookies with salted caramel (did you bake some yet!?) or thumbprint sugar cookies with raspberry jam. I wish you good, good wine (or juice if you can’t have any!) and apples and cheese. I wish you a book of poetry and an opportunity to read a few out loud to someone else. May the words move you both and spur conversation that lasts long into the weekend. I wish you something soft and colorful: a blanket to sit on, a shawl around your shoulders, a skirt you’ve adored all summer… bonus points of any of these things are thoughtfully made by loving hands you know. I wish you a tale that makes you laugh, a story that makes you pause and wonder, and words spoken for your ears only. Close the space between you and your partner tonight, Dear Reader. Start with a whisper and see where it goes. I think you’ll find a whisper to be a very effective tool, Dear Reader. I wish you a squeeze of your hand, a kiss on the cheek, and a moment to look up at the moon. Let this transition from summer life to school time be smooth and even joyful. Let us celebrate the change of seasons and the privilege of witnessing the passing of time.
Life is short, Dear Reader. We don’t have a lot of time to do right by the people we love, to set an example for those who are watching us, to be our best selves not because we want to please others but because we want to honor the gifts we’ve been given. This is why I weekly remind you that you are infinitely beautiful, beloved with depth and persistence, and admired near and far. You need to know this, Dear Reader, because I sincerely want you to shine your brightest in this dark, dark world. Life is short, but your light can be so brilliant that it shines and echoes for longer than any one lifespan. Your brilliance can travel and warm and inspire. It can change the way someone sees the world. It can give someone the opportunity to see their own infinite beauty, and that may be all the difference they need. So shine on, Dear Reader. Let the love that informs your life become a beacon for the others around you.
Until Monday, be swift to love, make haste to be kind, shine your light with due brightness, laugh with abandon, dance with graceful freedom, speak with powerful truth, and take care.