This school year was rough.
Last summer was bad and we rolled right into the school year continuing the tension and anger that resided in our home. A few weeks after the girls went back to school, Chris moved out. Because he was making dangerous choices and had more than once been careless or hurtful with the girls, I made the decision to not allow him to see the girls.
My lawyer said I couldn’t technically keep them away from him, but he wasn’t with it enough to know to contest or protest my declaration. And when he did get to visit them, he would have prove he was sober with a negative breathalyzer test then he was allowed to spend a few hours with them. He wasn’t allowed to drive them anywhere or go somewhere without me.
It sounds as stressful and messy and sad as it was.
The one consistency in my girls’ lives last fall was our school routine. Getting up for breakfast, waiting for the bus, spending the day with adults who cared for them, and then arriving back home in the afternoon was all they had for rhythm and certainty.
School became a refuge whether they realized it or not.
I am so thankful for our school and our teachers.
An odd perk of writing on the internet is being aware that people often times know what’s going on in your life without having to actually say anything. No one ever said anything to me and I never said anything to anyone, but I know the adults in that building were giving my girls a little more attention than normal. I can’t find adequate words to express my overwhelming gratitude for them so I’m doing it with a puny little post on the internet.
My children were saved this year by a million different people and some of them work at our local elementary school.
No one ever complained when we came to school late, eyes still puffy from a late night where everyone had trouble sleeping. When we needed a mental health day because everything just felt too heavy, no one batted an eye. When I spent months picking the girls up early every other Thursday for counseling, no one asked for a doctor’s excuse or made a big deal about it.
I know none of those things sound like big deals on their own, but when so much feels impossible and hopeless, those tiny graces were extravagant gifts to our family.
During their kindergarten years, I bought Ellie and Harper copies of Oh, the Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss. And as the school years wound down, I would send them to their teachers asking them to write a note or message to them. Each teacher through the years has written beautiful notes to my children.
There are themes to each book.
Ellie’s messages remind her how smart she is and what a great leader she is. Then they all kindly push her to be softer with herself and her classmates. She is whip-smart, but sometimes she uses her powers for evil instead of good.
For Harper, her teachers praise her for her vocabulary and verbal skills and how dynamic her personality is while gently reminding her that she does not have to talk every single moment of her life.
Those are all true, accurate observations of my children. To make those statements, you have to pay attention.
And that’s what my girls needed this year. What all our kids need from their teachers: to be given their attention. Our kids don’t always chose the best way to do that, but it’s what they all want, some attention.
This school year–especially last fall–I had a hard time paying attention to my beautiful daughters. My eyes were filled with tears and worry and anger and survival. They were always cared for but not always paid attention to. I just didn’t have the ability.
So thank you, teachers.
Thank you for paying attention. Thank you for seeing my daughters when they needed to be seen. Thank you for loving them when they weren’t lovable. Thank you for being a constant in a time that felt turbulent. Thank you for doing your job, and thank you, thank you, thank you for doing much more than your job requires.
Photography: Huff Photography
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