Last night at dinner, we started talking about the kids' birthdays and how old everyone is getting. This time of year is birthday season in the Nealon House. Ryan just turned the big "10" last month, now in the double digits. My baby, Molly, will be eight in just a couple of weeks. Shannon will be turning 14 just a few weeks after that, on her way to high school in the fall. That's just plain crazy! Timmy, 10 days after Shannon's birthday, will be turning 12, his last birthday before he will be a teenager. I am not the first mom to say, "Oh, where did the time go? How did they get so big? How can I possibly have a high schooler?" But here I am, with my children hitting these milestones and me sitting here wondering what the next step for myself will be.
My life has definitely flip flopped over the last couple of years. When I had babies and toddlers, the craziness of the day was during the day, watching the kiddies, bringing them to preschool, play dates, changing diapers, trying to stick to a schedule with meals and naps and then the day would slowly come to a close with dinner, bath time, and a good night story, everyone in their beds with the doors closed by 8:00. Not an easy job! By this time, I had a moment to breathe, throw in a load of wash while watching a show or two, or even pull out a book to read if I wasn't too exhausted.
Now that everyone is in school, it is the day that is quiet, and it is the afternoon and evening that is crazy. It all starts at that 2:35 pick-up of Ryan and Molly. Homework, CCD homework, reading, studying for upcoming tests, after-school activities depending on the day...CCD, horseback riding, dance, girl scouts, four basketball team schedules to keep track of with games and practices, travel soccer, indoor soccer, training sessions, practice sessions, piano lessons. Last week, Shannon had a soccer game at 9:50 pm. Yes, long gone are the days of 8 o'clock bedtimes and sitting on the couch watching a reality show. It just doesn't happen!
But during the quietness of the house during the morning with two puppies sleeping by my feet and Queen Elizabeth perched by the window watching the outdoor happening, I think: Should I go back to work? Can I make it work? Can I be one of those moms that can "do it all?" Right now, at 10:00 in the morning, while I am writing this, what would I be doing in the classroom? Would we be writing stories? Would I be helping a small reading group understand inferring and the author's message? Would we be getting ready to go to PE or music? But everyday, 2:35 hits and craziness starts all over again and I think, "I can't do it all...at once!" I can do it all, I just can't do everything at the same time. I think God hands us each a plate when we are born. Some of us have these great big platters like waiters in a restaurant, they can carry many things at the same time, and have great balance as well so that nothing ever gets dropped, everything gets to where it needs to be, orders are never mixed-up and they are never delivered to the wrong table. This is not me! When God was handing out the platters, I missed it. Some people have little tea cup saucers. I know people who get overwhelmed with just the littlest change in schedule or routine. They can't handle anything new. This is not me as well. I am somewhere in the middle. I envision my plate to be one of those smaller platters that they use at parties to serve the appetizers, bigger than a dinner plate but not as big as the giant platters the servers use in a restaurant. I know if I put too much on my plate, I will drop something. I will not be able to balance it all. And so I will fill my platter up and when it is empty, I will go back for seconds. The second time round may not look like the first. I may change it up a bit. Maybe I'll be ready to try something new or maybe I'll go back to what I loved to do so many years ago...teach.
But for now, I think about this thought I read in a magazine.
"Parents teach in the toughest school in the world- the School for Making People. You are the board of education, the principal, the classroom teacher, and the janitor."
I would add a few more to this...bus driver, school nurse, school counselor, just to name a few.
Last week at church, Shannon's math teacher was sitting behind us. At the end of mass, when we were walking out, I introduced myself and said thank you to her because Shannon had just gotten an A+ on her report card in Algebra. I told her that she must be doing something right because Shannon was definitely "getting it" and was doing great in the class so whatever it was she is doing she should keep on doing it. She then told me how great Shannon was and that she was "easy peasy" and a joy to have in class.
Another time last week, when I dropped Shannon off at a soccer game, I saw one of Timmy's teachers. This is the teacher that wrote a great thank you note for candy bars Timmy gave him as a small Christmas gift. I went up to him and introduced myself and he talked to me for twenty minutes...he talked to me about how great Timmy is...he talked to me about how Timmy has "brightness"...not that he's just smart but a brightness about people and others and life in general. He said that Timmy gets "it". You know that "it" we are all looking for...Timmy has "it". And then he looked at me and told me to keep on doing what I'm doing...that I was doing a great job! No wonder this was Timmy's favorite teacher. I felt like I was eleven years old in that moment and just got an A+ on my test.
So for now, I'm going to keep on doing what I'm doing, I work at the School of Making People right now, and when my appetizer platter is empty and it needs to be refilled, who knows what I'll fill it with next?