Back to School

“But Mommy maybe my new teacher won’t love me like you and Daddy do.”

My heart, already sore, was starting to throb with the unexpected pain of sending my four year old off to primary last week.  He is so young, so small, so innocent, and so vulnerable.  He looked like a baby standing beside the older kids at his bus-stop in his new clothes, bright, white size-nine sneakers, and Super Mario back-pack, which looked as though it weighed more than he did.

As we stood at the bus stop, waiting for the much-anticipated moment when my oldest baby would go somewhere without one of his parents for the first time, this was the burning worry on my child’s mind:  Will I be loved?

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Any teacher, or for that matter anyone who works with children on a daily basis, would say that they love their students.  I can say with conviction that I love mine.  Not because they are easy to be around.  Not because they are easy to teach.  Not because they offer me love in return.  I love them because they are worthy of being loved.  Inside each child I teach is untapped, and often unrealized, potential for greatness.  Each of them was born to do something incredible.  Each of the lives represented in my classroom every year have a purpose.   As their teacher I have a unique and awesome opportunity to help them discover what they were put on this earth to do.  And I endeavour to do this by loving them in a way that, hopefully, says: “You are worth spending time with.  You are worth spending time on.  I love you because you have value.”

Last Wednesday, my son was thinking about many different things.  I find it incredible that the words he actually spoke in that moment articulated the fear we all have when faced with change, new challenges, and moments of vulnerability:  Will I be loved?

This past week many of you, like me, stood at bus-stops, holding small hands, comforting small hearts.  Many of you had to peel little arms from around your neck and allow a teacher you had never met before, to lead your child into an unfamiliar room, full of children they had never seen.  Maybe some of you felt a different kind of pain mixed with pride as your confident, smiling child ran towards their friends on the playground, calling “Bye, Mom!” over their shoulder on their first day of school.  Maybe some of you sent the last of your babies off and then spent the first of what seemed like a very long, very quiet day alone in the house that used to be noisy and busy.  Maybe some of you, like me, questioned your value as a mother now that your child would be loved by someone else for most of their waking hours.  Maybe some of you even drove many kilometres with a loaded mini-van full of lamps, extra blankets, groceries, twenty-seven pairs of shoes, and four suitcases to help your somehow grown up baby move into her very first dorm room and then hugged your girl goodbye before driving back to a house that may never hold her again, except for Christmas and summer vacations.

Like our children, as school begins, we mothers are often faced with changes and new situations where we have to confront thoughts and feelings we would rather not deal with.  As we begin to navigate our way through a new school year alongside our children, there will be moments where we too will be asking the same question that burns in the hearts of our babies, both very young and not-quite-so-young.  As we all move forward, and as we continue to evolve into the moms our children need for this new season in life, I want you to know that you have value, just as you are.  Like our children, we all have the potential for greatness within us.  Like them, we have a purpose.  Like them, we are loved.

I am confident that my son’s teacher loves him and understands that he has value.  I am also confident that she will do everything she can to communicate those things to him over the course of this school year.  I am also confident that my son will sense her love for him and the other children in his class, and when he realizes he is loved, he will thrive in an environment that once struck fear into his four year old heart.  And I am equally confident that as I move into this next season of motherhood, that a Teacher who loves me more than I can fathom is waiting to guide me along my new path.  And I know that, with time, I too will thrive.

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Enough

ImageBeing a single-income family in a culture driven by dual-income wish lists is going to be tricky. As my maternity leave benefits come to an end, I’m realizing that in choosing to have a parent at home, we are going to live differently than many other families. Our lives won’t be better or worse than those around us – just different.

I want my daughters to learn the value in enough. I want them to understand gratitude. And what better way to illustrate these concepts than to sacrifice material possessions in exchange for deeper relationships and the constant presence of a loving parent?  Their bellies will always be full; they will always be clothed in (relatively) clean, well-fitting clothes; they will always have toys to play with, books to read, and opportunities to learn, grow and engage in the world around them. Will they eat in restaurants every week? No. Will they receive every toy they ask for? Of course not. Will we travel as much as other families? Probably not. Will they suffer because they lack these things? Not even a little bit.

God-willing, my children will never be without enough. And I hope they never want for anything – not because they already have everything they could wish for, but because they have learned to be content with what they do have. Don’t get me wrong, though. I want to be able to give them nice things. I want them to have goals and aspirations. But I don’t want their happiness to hinge on material possessions. I want to teach them, by example, that true happiness comes from being content where you are, as you are.

So why am I concerned with raising children on one income? It isn’t because we don’t have enough, because in fact, we are wealthier than much of the world’s population could ever imagine. It is because of the impact our instant gratification society will have on these girls. I don’t want them to see their friends with a constant array of brand new clothes and toys and feel sad. I want them to recognize that we have enough and be grateful.

I hope my presence has an impact on these beautiful girls. I hope they understand that having Mama home with them every day is worth the sacrifice.

– Alison

A Voice From Beyond the Trenches

Please join us in welcoming Sue to the blog as our first guest poster!

I’ve been a mom for more than half my life. By the time we were married five and a half years, we had three kids. It was a blur of diapers (mostly cloth), dishes (no dishwasher!), laundry (drying on a clothesline), toys, books, sleepless nights…you know the drill. Four years later we had another baby, and six years later another. Do the math, and by the time our youngest arrived, we had two teenagers.

I think there are two things that helped me most during those early years of figuring out how to be mom, since my own mother was very ill and five hundred kilometres away. One – having two amazing friends whose kids were close in age to my own. We supported one another, made food together, hung out with our kids together, and prayed together. To this day, they are still two of my dearest friends.

Two – having a couple of friends who were also mentors. They were both about eight or nine years my senior, with five kids each when we met. Their youngest children – babies at the time – were the same age as my eldest. They each were a source of encouragement and wisdom when things just seemed so hard. They didn’t use platitudes like, “Enjoy them while they are little. They grow up so fast.” No, they were both realists who remembered how challenging raising a brood can be, but they also enjoyed their kids. One of them taught me the basics of homemaking and baking. She was a lifesaver! I don’t think either of them ever realized the impact they had on my life during that time.

There was no social media back when I was raising our kids in the early years – just the telephone, which I spent lots of time on! (I became very adept at nursing a baby and talking on the phone at the same time.) Social media – especially blogs and Facebook – have opened up opportunities for moms to support one another in ways we never dreamt of all those years ago. And there’s even room for an “old mom” like me, to hopefully support other moms, to let them know that all the hard work, sleepless nights and tears pay off.

Sue A.

Sue is a mom of five and has been married to her husband, Paul, for 27 years. She was a registered nurse before she had kids, and has been a full-time stay-at-home mom since she had her first child, 26 years ago. She spent ten years as a freelance knitting designer and workshop teacher during that time. She enjoys reading, writing, cooking, knitting and crocheting, but her first loves are her faith and her family.