Sunday, June 15, 2014

Hiding out

I'm thankful my children don't see much of social media. All weekend long, all over Twitter and Facebook and Instagram, folks are paying homage to their dads and to the dads of their children.

As it should be.

But it's still too much for almost-9-year-old Katie.

I gave her and Cooper a choice about how to spend today. They agreed that they wanted to skip church -- too big of a potential trigger for tears. And, while we certainly embrace our emotions around here, we've learned when it's best to just avoid the scene altogether.

I'll read some Harry Potter out loud. Cooper has a Boy Scout meeting. We plan to grocery shop and prepare ratatouille together. (We watched the Pixar film Ratatouille again last night.) We might go to the neighborhood pool. (Though we've logged a lot of hours there already this week -- we'll be OK taking a break.)

One day, when they're much older, I'll share with them this letter, the one I wrote last Father's Day.

For now, though, we're hiding out. I know denial isn't healthy in general, but one day a year, it's exactly what my children need.

Steve, Katie and Cooper at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, May 2006

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Plans change

It's going to be a rough week around here.

Let me back up to my elementary school career:

  • Kinder: Walnut Hill Elementary (Dallas)
  • 1st grade: Walnut Hill 
  • 2nd grade (one half): Cabell Elementary (Dallas)
  • 3rd grade (one half): Leon Heights Elementary (Belton)
  • 4th grade: Burnet Elementary (Dallas)
  • 5th grade (one half): Burnet
  • 5th grade (one quarter): Gullett Elementary (Austin)
  • 5th grade (one quarter): Belton Middle School (Belton)

That's six schools in all. With a whole bunch of turmoil that precipitated each move. And all kinds of angst in the middle.

So, in addition to growing up with the goal of NEVER being a single mom, I grew up with the goal of NEVER moving my children from one school to another.

It's NEVER easy when you miss your goals.

Of course, I have met a whole bunch of my goals. For example, in early 2008, I decided that I would become a classroom teacher. I started coursework in 2012, was hired to teach fifth grade in 2013 and received full certification in mid-May.

Not only did I receive a job, I received a job at the very best elementary school -- the one down the street from us. The school that we watched being built. The school that has been an integral part of our lives for almost as long as we've been in Frisco.

When Cooper was 3 and Steve would drive him home from day care, they would take the "long" way to drive by Bledsoe Elementary in its early stages. Steve would say, "Cooper, there's the school of the future!" And Cooper would reply, "The future of the school!"

Cooper (the tall one with the adorable haircut), kinder Valentine party, February 2007
It's the only elementary school my children have known. It's where they learned to read and jump rope and multiply. It's where Cooper would have normal days while Steve was receiving radiation and chemotherapy. It's where I have made some of my dearest friends.

Katie, kinder Field Day, May 2011
I was hired at the very last minute as the sixth fifth-grade teacher in August 2013, when enrollment was exploding because of rapid development all around our neighborhood. The growth was so quick and unexpected, that the school district in the fall made the decision to build a new elementary nearby to relieve Bledsoe's increasingly crowded classrooms.

With that new school opening in August, Bledsoe needs only five fifth-grade teachers next year. Not six.

So that means it's time for me to go.

I am super fortunate to have secured a position at the new school, where I will teach fourth-grade language arts and social studies. I am excited to help open a new campus, to teach the subjects I love (with a big emphasis on writing), to work with families who live nearby.

But I'm a bit of an emotional mess as I prepare to say goodbye to Bledsoe -- not just as a teacher but as a mom.

Katie, after more than two months of deliberation, has decided to join me. She could stay at Bledsoe, of course -- it's our neighborhood school. It's where she's comfortable. It's where she's grown up.

But our mornings and afternoons would be logistically challenging and therefore stress-inducing. I would rarely, if ever, get to attend her school functions -- morning assemblies, class parties, field trips. These are factors that weigh heavily on my single-mom heart and mind.

As I offered guidance for Katie -- oh, gracious, were there many discussions -- I couldn't help but think of Steve. Things like:

  • If Steve were alive, we wouldn't even be having these conversations.
  • Steve and I often talked about the importance of stability. 
  • I'm guessing that he imagined Cooper and Katie would always attend Bledsoe -- until they moved on to middle school.
  • Yet Steve was a risk-taker. He didn't often stay in his comfort zone.
  • Steve trusted me 100 percent, especially when making decisions about our children.
  • One of the many reasons I NEVER wanted to be a single mom is that being solely responsible for the big decisions is intimidating.

I have started to feel peace about Katie's decision to move with me, though it erodes slightly when she gets weepy about saying goodbye this week. Or when I start counting the hours we have left. Or when I imagine closing my portable classroom door for the final time and driving away with a crying Katie, all while I'm likely crying, too.

So, like I said at the beginning, it's going to be a rough week around here.

I am trusting it's short-term pain with the promise of unimagined joy to come. And I'm trusting that Steve would be proud of all three of us, constantly adjusting as the plans change.

Mrs. Damm, fifth-grade Field Day, May 2014