It’s been a busy couple of weeks. I haven’t spent much time at home in the evenings lately. That happens from time to time. Sometimes during the school year periods of time exist that require educators to be extra-present at school and/or in places connected to the work we do at school.
We thrive on that presence. It propels our goals and helps us drive cultures of positive partnerships, learning and growth on behalf of the students we serve.
At the same time that extra-presence occasionally keeps us at arms length from our families. It sometimes keeps us fighting for balance. I’ve become a decent scrapper in the fight for balance, far from perfect, but a decent scrapper. I would encourage anyone engaged in that fight to stand firm in it. As you know, balance is as important as any other thing when it comes to forward progress in all realms (if not more important).
On good nights, lately, I’ve been arriving just in time to find the kids either brushing their teeth or settling into bed. Lorelei orchestrates the bedtime dance with what appears to be ease. Actually, it’s not easy. She’s become a more than decent scrapper in that fight.
The other night when I approached the threshold of our home I noticed two huge eyes, seemingly fused to the inside side of the distorted glass of the door. It was as if a cartoon owl wearing bottle-thick reading glasses was waiting for me.
It turned out that the eyes did not belong to a cartoon owl but rather to our four-year-old. I knew it even before I entered the house because the eyes were settled in at about thigh level, and also, I could make out his signature excited smile, warped through the glass though it was, it was unmistakably his. It rested a bit below the huge eyes and just underneath a smushed little nose. His as well.
It was dark outside. It was cold. The glow from the windows and the door had me feeling as though I had walked out of a dark, cold wood toward a cozy cabin harboring a flickering fire.
As I stepped up, close enough for the big-guy to see it was me, I heard what sounded like an uncontrollable, primal scream. He belted it out in unabashed enthusiasm. No words were needed. It felt good to be on the receiving end of that enthusiasm. I walked into a gigantic bear hug that almost knocked me over. Gigantic and extended.
I shed my coat, scarf, and multiple “teacher-bags” with in excess of forty extra pounds strapped on my body in the form of a loving “welcome home.”
Before I made the kitchen our nine-year-old was jumping up and down in front of me (and my attached sidekick), shout-talking, “Daddy…today I showed my “Genius Hour” project to the class!”
“…And Daddy, I found ‘Harry Potter’ in the library and read a few pages of the chapter we’re on, but not the whole thing…I think I know who’s trying to steal the Sorcerer’s Stone!”
“…And Daddy, do you remember that game I told you about? We played it a recess and I won!”
On and on he went. There weren’t breaks enough between the “and Daddy” expressions for me to respond. Responses were not needed. I soaked it in. I was exhausted, but this was it. This was why I did the rest of it. This was the reward. This was the prize.
There I stood, one kid still hanging around my waist and one literally jumping for joy as he outlined moment after moment of his day, giving me a snapshot vision of how it unfolded, sharing his story with me, and connecting.
We must remind ourselves of how important it is to be accessible to the kids we serve, those we serve as parents and those we serve as educators. We must remind ourselves because like balance and bedtime routines, as wonderful as it can be, we’ve got to fight for it. That kind of accessibility comes along with multiple challenges. It’s not always easy.
At times we feel free. At times we’re organized and relaxed. Those are times when it’s easy and fun.
At times we feel confined. At times we’re scattered and tense. Those are times when it’s not easy, and when it can even be frustrating (as silly as that sounds).
Sometimes we do it well. Sometimes we sink into the energy and the words our kids so enthusiastically send our way. Sometimes we listen with wide eyes and deep appreciation.
Sometimes we don’t do it well. Sometimes we struggle to shed the complex energy of each day and find our kids’ words muddling our thinking and frustrating our restoration. Sometimes we struggle to listen, struggle to hear, and struggle to appreciate.
It breaks my heart to think about.
Wouldn’t it be great if we could be the parents and educators we would describe ourselves as in every moment? Wouldn’t it we wonderful to be able to give our kids all they need in all the moments we spend with them?
Maybe we do. Maybe we do it in ways we don’t fully understand, even during the times during which we’re questioning ourselves.
Maybe along with accessibility our kids need to see us struggling, failing, and climbing our way back, even, and maybe especially when that climb is a rough one.
If that is the case, we might also consider showing them how we forgive ourselves. If it’s not me might consider it anyway.
While I continue trying to catch, receive, and savor every “and Daddy” that comes my way I plan to also continue remembering that I’m human, and that sharing my whole self with the kids I serve, in ways they can understand and learn from, in genuine and caring ways, and in ways lined with hope and optimism, seems like the right thing for me to do.
As you think about how you serve the kids you serve what will you continue trying to do, in what ways, and why?
I’m finding that raising kids is very rarely easy but that it’s always miraculous.
In it together for the kids.
Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thanks.