Seven years ago, almost to the day, I drove Gracie to school for her very first day in 1st grade. I had a four-year-old Sofia, in the back seat, strapped in her car seat, not quite understanding where her sister was going. To say I was nervous would be a huge understatement.
We were not only looking at a new teacher, but also a new school. I made the quick seven-minute drive from my tiny two bedroom apartment to the new school. I wanted to cry. In case you have not been paying attention these last nine years, I wear my emotions on my sleeve. I wanted to cry because of the unknown. I wanted to cry because Gracie was moving on to another school. I wanted to cry because I felt I was literally putting one of my most prized possessions into the hands of the unknown. It pretty much sucked.
I remember it as if it happened yesterday. I am on 320th and took that first left at the stop light directly across from the Highschool. The new school would be just up the road. Nestled into a quaint, cozy little neighborhood. Quickly, I found myself discreetly wiping my tears away and taking in the houses. Each house different from the next. There was a duck pond. A large duck pond that served as a pretty cool landscape for the backyard of the houses. The neighboorhood was very Norman Rockwell. My absolute favorite was the condominiums, nestled on a golf course. A rustic wood planked sidewalk served as a pathway from the street parking to the front door. Three levels, with the parking garage being underneath it all. I instantly fell in love and told myself right then and there, “I never want to forget this feeling, I never want to get tired of the drive.”
And, over the course of nine years, with Sofia and I eventually making that very same drive, I never, for one second got tired of that drive, that neighboorhood.
When I had my interview at my now new school, I am going, to be honest. This was not the school I wanted. I applied at this school just out of desperation. Geographically speaking, this was the furthest school away from where I live and the furthest away from the girls’ school. But, I needed a job and I had no leads. So, I applied for the Para position, pretty much thinking that “something else is bound to open up.” Two days later on a Sunday, I got the call for the interview on Tuesday.
Come Tuesday, I brought up the trusty yet outdated Map Quest, just so I knew exactly where I was going. Now, it is important to note that I am only looking at a ten-minute drive. Nothing outrageous, but for me and my crazy mind, ten minutes was so much worse than the four-minute drive I could have at other schools.
As I was making the drive, through secluded back roads with lots of hills, I took in the scenery. “Hmm. Not too bad.” And then when my phone directed me to turn right, everything changed. I was in a fairly nice neighboorhood. The kind of neighboorhood with big fancy houses, the kind of neighboorhood that you just know gives out the full-size candy bars for Halloween, but it was not the houses, it was the view. As I inched closer to the school that I would eventually be working at, I was in awe of the view. In the distance, beautiful mountains that served as the perfect backdrop to this neighboorhood with the fancy houses and my new school. It was the kind of view that told you there is so much more out there.
I left that interview feeling confident, while telling myself, if I do get hired on at this school, I never want to take the view for granted.
Tomorrow will be my first official day, and time will tell how long I have the privilege of making that drive.
Every year at this time, here on the blog I write my “Annual Apology Letter to my Kids Teachers.” A simple letter letting them know that I am indeed a crazy parent. Crazy, but good. A letter telling the teachers about the kids, while asking for understanding if I contact them five times throughout the school day.
This year though, this year is different. I feel I do not need to write the letter. I feel I did well these last few years. I feel I have made my presence known, and most importantly I feel that not only do I trust my own children to use their voice, but I trust the teachers. I trust them without having to write a step by step spreadsheet on what to do or not do with the kids. Instead, the winds of change, have led me to a different path.
I know how you feel. I know tonight, the eve before the first day of school, I know you will not get much sleep. I know you have doubts, concerns. I know you want to be assured that you are sending your son or daughter to a school that will benefit them and not hinder them. I have been through it.
Although to you this may just seem like words on paper, please know I have been in your situation. I have had to send my very own daughter to school, knowing she is not vocal. I have had to put my trust in complete strangers, counting on them to be able to read my daughter’s facial expressions in those early years when she was learning how to talk. I have had to send her to school not knowing if she would wet her pants just simply due to nerves, and I know how hard it is to put blind faith into the unknown while needing to know that your child will not be sitting in wet pants.
I am quirky and in many ways childlike, but for what is it worth, please know that for those six hours, I will take care of your child just as I have taken care of my own. If I get hit in a fistful moment of rage, I will understand that I am a new routine for your child. I will have the patience of a Saint because I have been through it, and I have had teachers offer my own daughter the same patience.
Please know, that as long as I am with your child, they and their needs will come first. No matter how challenging, because even within all my quirkiness and childlike mind, I am a fighter, and I will fight for your child just as I have fought for my own.
Because, at the end of the day, I personally believe that there is no such thing as other people’s children, and your child, is now part of my tribe.