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Category Archives: Education

Be Patient With Him

Learning through imperfection

Every time I look out the window and see the twisted waistband of his shorts bunched below his underpants, I have to resist the urge to go outside and fix it.

Be patient with him, I tell myself.

In just over one brief month, my little boy will turn 4. I remember reading a study that found kids are at “maximum cuteness” age at 4, and I can see how this might be true.

My golden-haired boy is still sweetness and innocence, but he’s quickly moving into another stage of his life. His cheeks have become leaner; his body seems to grow taller every time I look at him. He craves responsibility and independence and is eager to learn about the world around him.

It’s my job to let him go and let him learn.

What I’ve learned over the past (nearly) four years is that parenting involves so much more than keeping them clean, fed and safe. As they grow, it becomes about teaching them to navigate the world with competence and confidence. Hard as it is, parents have to let their kids make mistakes and do things their own way.

Sometimes I fix his shorts when he doesn’t get them on quite right, but not always. Sometimes I force myself to resist the urge to fix, to adjust, to correct. I don’t need things to be perfect and he doesn’t need me following behind him, redoing what he’s done.

There’s a chill in the morning air lately. It’s the season of No. 2 pencils and crisp new notebooks. I always get sentimental this time of year. It’s as if my kids are growing up right before my eyes and a part of me wants to grab hold of them tight and never let go. But letting go is part of the job.

He takes my hand when we sit together on the couch. He brushes my hair away from my face when I bend down to talk to him. His hugs are enthusiastic and still given freely. I don’t know how long any of these things will last, so I soak up every instance of his youthful sweetness and attention.

He sits next to me as I type these very words, his hand on my wrist. I never want to move from this spot.

Toddler love

But soon we’ll get up and I’ll let him help me fix dinner. It can be maddening to wait for him to do things I could do so quickly myself, but I know it’s important.

Be patient with him, I tell myself.

When he wants to fill the dog bowls himself by making 13 trips with a tiny cup between the water dispenser and the porch, dripping water on every route: be patient with him.

When he struggles to get a zipper fastened: be patient with him.

When he insists upon getting into his car seat on his own, performing each step at an excruciatingly slow pace.

When he gets frustrated with his inability to do things as proficiently as he’d like.

Be patient. Important things are being learned.

So much of parenting is daunting: teaching compassion alongside self-confidence, generosity alongside ambition. Teaching about recycling and danger and hygiene and inequality and taking chances and being careful and how vast and bountiful is our world. Answering “what is a booger?” just before being asked, “what is dead?” It’s a never-ending learning experience for us both.

And yet, amidst all the challenges of parenting, patience can seem like the most difficult skill of all. How can I expect them to learn something I myself haven’t mastered?

So I remind myself often: Be patient. Be understanding. Hesitate. Observe. Listen. Breathe.

The season of learning is upon us.

 

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For the Teachers

er, Teacher, What Do You See?

I don’t want to talk about what happened.

I don’t want to talk about the boy who walked into a school last Friday morning. I don’t want to talk about his motive, or his mental state or his actions. I don’t want to talk about our gun control policies or how we stop the violence. Certainly, these discussions need to take place. But I’m no expert and — for me — now is not the time.

I want to talk about the teachers. Therein lays the hope in this deplorable, devastating crime.

I didn’t know what to say about any of this, and didn’t plan to write anything on this topic. But last night, when I let my son choose his bedtime story, he pulled “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” off the shelf. We snuggled in to the cozy chair in his room, and he began paging through the book while I located his pacifier and got comfortable in my spot. When I looked up, he had the book open to the page covered with the bright, colorful faces of a classroom full of children.

Children,
Children,
What do you see?

He quietly pointed to the face of a boy, and then moved his little finger around the page from girl to boy to girl to boy. My eyes welled with unexpected tears as I whispered, “Children. Those are children.”

Next, he moved backward through the book, and the Teacher’s warm, knowing face gazed up at us from the page.

Teacher,
Teacher,
What do you see?

I whispered through tears, “That is a teacher. She helps the children.”

It is a horror to think of what those children and teachers saw that day. But it is an inspiration to think of what those teachers did that day.

Our society is woefully remiss in celebrating the men and women who shape our children. We send our nation’s young to classrooms like the ones in Sandy Hook every day, and in each one, there is an underpaid teacher pulling off a minor miracle. These people inspire creativity and curiosity in our kids while managing disputes, confiscating cell phones and administering discipline. It is truly amazing what they do.

Today, I want to talk about those heroic teachers who shielded the children from harm with their very bodies. I want to thank those who locked their classroom doors, kept calm and did all they could to keep their students safe.

Would I have thought to read to the children to soothe them? Would I have been able to keep my voice even as gunshots echoed through the halls? Would I have had the foresight to tell them I loved them in case those were the last words they heard? I doubt it.

At least for these first few days, let’s talk only about the teachers and the kids. Let’s remember them, honor them and mourn their too-soon departure. Let’s send our love to those who survived this horrific incident and turn off the TV so the media trucks will leave Sandy Hook. Let’s switch the channel when we see a schoolchild being interviewed, whether their parent allows it or not.

Let’s thank our teachers every chance we get.

Until I’m better able to wrap my head around the immense tragedy that happened last Friday, I will focus on the stories of heroism and hope. I will be thankful for the parents who saw their children come home unharmed and the teachers who made their school proud.

As for the incredible grief I feel for those parents whose children did not come home: I’m not yet ready to face it. It’s too awful to think about the precious babies who didn’t know such horror existed until they saw it. I’ll save that for another day.

Today is for the teachers.

Thank you.

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