We were driving home from C’s dance class one night. In my mind I was thinking about all the things I needed to get done when we got home. As I was lost in my thoughts, C’s voice startled me. “Mommy,” she began. “Why do you love me?” This question took me by surprise. I say, “I love you” to C dozens of times a day but don’t ever really think much of it. It is just what we do in our family. I didn’t know how to respond. This simple question made me realize that I do so much out of habit without thinking about it.
I paused for a few moments to actually think about her question. There are so many reasons why I love C. I gave her a quick response. “I love you because you are so kind to others. I love you because you turn everything you do into a musical. I love you because you made me a mommy.” As she started to talk again, I could hear the smile in her voice.
We do so much in our lives out of habit without thinking about it. We say things to others without much thought because it is our routine. But do we ever take the time to say more, to say what those words really mean? I know in my mind that I know what “I love you” means when I say it to C, but she doesn’t unless I tell her the meaning behind those three words.
This one small moment in the car has made me think more about the meaning behind the words I use.
It’s my favorite week. I drive to convocation with sand still in the trunk of my car from the beach a few days ago. It’s the week before our suntanned students full of energy and stories from the summer come back. It’s the week teachers walk around the halls, laminating, smiling and laughing. It’s the most relaxed I will ever see my colleagues this year and I know it. Laughter fills the hallway as we greet each other asking about summer adventures, babies and weddings. No one is worried about data. No one is mad at me because they have new reading and writing units and no professional development time for it. Well not mad yet…
As teachers the summer recharges us. It’s a time for us to reflect, renew and regain a positive perspective for the year to come. I wish I could bottle up this feeling and release these good feelings from the bottle on days when we need it most. Those are the days no one looks up as they pass in the halls or I avoid the halls all together because the message I just had to give will not be well received.
Maybe this is why the sand is still in my trunk of the car. Maybe I am not lazy. Maybe it’s just to remind myself to hold onto a little bit of summer.
As I left convocation today a car in front of me was doing the same thing. On the back, hung a bike. A little bit of summer. One last ride down the river trail or along the beach. It represents all the good summer does for us teachers.
My personal goal this year…hang onto the sand and all it represents…But I guess I do need to vacuum the sand out of my car.
I know what kind of morning it will be by looking at the clock. It is before 6 am and I hear the faint call coming from the monitor. “Mommy.” It’s soft and sweet to begin. But a minute later as I hold my breath and cross my fingers, secretly hoping he will go back to bed, I hear it again. Only louder. And angrier. “MOMMY!” I quickly tip toe towards his room, not wanting to wake Chloe. I laugh inside as if the screaming didn’t already do that. And then come the familiar words. “All done nugh night?” And I know that it’s not really a question for me. It doesn’t matter what I say, he has already made up his mind. He is three after all.
He jumps out of bed and the morning begins. Smooth at first. Cinnamon toast. Check. Milk. Check. Soft pants. Check. And into the car we go. Maybe it won’t be so bad, I think to myself.
And then I turn right instead of going straight. It’s as if I’ve committed a major crime. My knuckles turn white as I clench the steering wheel. “GO STRAIGHT MOMMY!” I hear through the shrills. And so it begins. Being 3. Being 3 and not getting your way. Being 3 and thinking you rule the world. It’s a huge injustice in his mind. And now I am certain that I know what kind of morning it will be.
Backpack slung on one arm. Nap bag in the other. Winter coat dragging off one of my arms. It wasn’t worth the fight. It’s 20 degrees and I can see the white cloud form as I take a deep breath in and slowly breath out. “I can do this,” I say to myself and I open the car door. Like a football under my arm, I carry Zachary into school. His teachers know he is coming even before we walk down the hallway. The faces say it all. Pity…Empathy…Are they sympathetic or judgemental? I don’t know.
In my head I answer their looks. I really am a good mom. You should see my daughter. She listened to me. And then I laugh. It’s being 3.
All of the bags hanging from my extremities sink to the floor as I bend down to settle him in. Holding his arms and looking into his swollen eyes, my heart melts. “I sorry, Momma” he says softly. A hug, a kiss, another hug and another until I’m officially late. We say goodbye through the window with a silly face. All is forgotten. It’s being 3.