Hey there, Momma. I see you over there, waiting tables in a crowded restaurant, beads of sweat forming on your pretty little face. Remnants of food from the plates of families’ that are enjoying an evening out are starting to soil that shirt. The one that you just grabbed out of the dryer before your shift, because you didn’t have time to fold the laundry yet. Maybe you’re a mom trying to contribute to the family expenses. Maybe you’re a single mom, trying to earn a modest wage while taking classes to finish that degree? Maybe this is your second job, because one just doesn't quite cut it. Maybe somewhere along the line you decided that you make more money waiting tables than you would if you ever finished that degree you used to be so passionate about, anyway. Do you worry about what your retirement plan will be, or if you’ll even have one? Do you worry about how to pay for health insurance? Do you wonder if your hours will keep you from being at the sporting events or dropping your baby off at the movies for their first date someday? Are you working late at night right now, and thinking that you’d give anything to just be home, even if it were to simply watch your baby sleep, because you know there’s nothing sweeter? I know who you are. I see you because I was you not long ago. I haven't forgotten about you, Momma. Hey there, Momma. I see you over there holding down your job, rushing home every day when the clock strikes five to do your best to prepare a meal that will make your baby grow big and strong. Perhaps you are sitting at your desk wondering if you are doing the right thing? Maybe you are wondering if you’re everything a Mom is supposed to be? Do you feel guilty about not being able to go on the field trips or volunteer for all of the class parties? Do you secretly shout to the heavens with joy when your baby has a cold and you have to call in sick to stay home because no one can cure the common cold like Momma can? Do you know what it’s like to experience a sadness that sometimes seems to transcend into a physical pain when you say goodbye to your baby each day, leaving them in the hands of caregivers that you have no choice but to trust? Trust that they are passionate about their work, and that they will treat your child like their own. Do you know what it’s like to fight against the clock each day? To leave your child at the crack of dawn each morning, only to return in the evening with only a small window of time remaining to teach them all they need to know about life, yet still have time to engage in play and be the kind of Mom you always dreamed you’d be? I know who you are. I see you because I am you.
My baby went off and entered the wild world of Kindergarten on Wednesday of this week. I was in shock and in awe and flooded with emotions all at the same time. People kept telling me that he’s had a great teacher up until that point. Were they talking about me? Have I been a good teacher? Sure, I’ve read to him since the day he came home from the hospital, long before he understood any of the words I was saying, and long before he could request the same story. Every. Single. Night. Or were they talking about his preschool and daycare teachers, who spend hours with him every day, patiently teaching him the alphabet and how to count to 100, while I’m at work each day? I started thinking about a few of the things that I have taught him over the past few years. In no particular order, here are a few random things that stuck out to me:
- Flips on the trampoline? Check. He saw it here first, kids.
- Cannonballs into the pool with no floatation device at the age of two? Check. Only if Mommy is in the pool to catch you, of course.
- How to run? Check! I’ve been racing that boy since he could stand on his own two feet. He still thinks he’s going to beat me every time. Someday he will, but not yet, son.
- How to make friends? Check. Yep, I’m the crazy Momma standing back under a tree that has encouraged him to go right up to someone he wants to play with, introduce himself, and ask them to play. You don’t need me to hold your hand, you can do it. I know you can.
These might all sound ridiculous to you, but they’re not to me. What do any of these have to do with actual learning? Well, these things are what make me his mom, and they do teach him something. When asked the question, “What is your favorite thing about Mommy?” for a Mother’s Day project in preschool last year, these are some of the things that prompted him to reply with “She’s silly”. I’ll take it. Being silly is pretty freaking awesome if you ask me.
Tuesday night, as I lay in bed with my baby, who is now growing into quite a little man, I asked him if there was anything that he was scared about. He said he was “a little bit scared and like, excited or something”. I knew he meant he was a little bit nervous but didn’t know what the correct word was for that feeling. I explained to him what it meant to be nervous and told him it was okay to feel that way sometimes, and even Mommy feels like that now and then. It can actually be a very good thing to be nervous sometimes. I asked him specifically what made him nervous, and he told me that going to a new school with a new teacher, making new friends, and learning new things all scared him, “just a little”. It all hit me that I knew exactly what I had been teaching him over the past few years. I had been teaching him to be brave.
Through all the things I had been doing with him, I had been teaching him to be brave. There are many things I am passionate about, even the silly things like racing the boy, dusting him off when he loses, and telling him to try again, like my dad had done with me for many years. These things take courage and determination for a child. I started a business this year. Starting a business from scratch in a shaky, oversaturated market, in a profession that you taught yourself with what most would consider very little experience under your belt? Am I crazy? Maybe. But I’m also brave. I was easily able to give Aiden an example of being brave that he would understand and be able to use when he was feeling nervous while heading into his new classroom the next morning. He smiled and nodded, acknowledging my story. We said our prayers and as I tucked him in and said goodnight, it felt like a weight had been lifted. He must have felt the same contentment because he fell asleep within minutes that night. I went off to the kitchen to write him a little note with a Ninja Turtle on it that simply said, “Be Brave”, and added it to his lunch box for the next morning. I knew that he would know what it meant.
Wednesday morning came, and Aiden shot out of bed, filled with excitement to start this new journey of his. As we waited for the bus to come pick him up at the end of our driveway, I felt the emotions and memories flood in… where has the time gone? As soon as he heard the bus, he excitedly started bouncing up and down anticipating it coming around the corner. The bus arrived right on time and he was off. He didn’t even look back. He didn’t even look out the window at me, wondering if this whole Kindergarten thing was such a good idea after all. He was off, and he was most certainly very brave, indeed. For once I was able to forget the questions and worries that we face as mothers.
Hey there, Momma. I see you over there, with tears in your eyes because life is moving too fast and your baby isn't a baby anymore. I know who you are. Cherish these days, because before you know it Senior year will be upon you. I know that because every mother says it, including my own. Keep on being silly, Momma. You are teaching them, even if you don't know it yet. Here are my Momtographer style back to school photos. Enjoy!