I meet you in September. I'm not sure what draws me to you; maybe it's the look in your eyes, or how my heart suddenly knows that this school year, you need someone. Maybe you have everything that money can buy and a Mom in your life, but your heart is empty. Maybe you don't even have a winter coat or lunch to bring. You might not have a Mom at all.
Whatever the case, I become your September to June Mom.
The universe knows, I think, when people need to meet each other. We all are drawn to people for a reason, and enter each other's lives to teach a lesson, to fill a spot, to make one whole. I think that I learn so much more from you than you ever gain from me. For 10 short months I work with you; I teach you math, watch you play at recess, and mediate disagreements with friends. I laugh with you one day, and scold the next when you ride your skateboard in the hallway.
As a September Mom, I do so much more. I make you lunch, advocate for you with other staff, help you brush your teeth, fix your hair, and talk to you about drugs and relationships. I hold your hand when you cry. I dance in the hall when you pass a course you struggle in. Tell you over and over how smart, beautiful, and special you are. Listen to you without judging. Daily, I make it my mission to give you the best school year you've ever had, because for whatever reason, I know that life is hard for you. You aren't getting what you need and my heart demands that I must provide it. There isn't a choice, really. Often I lay awake at night and wonder why YOU. Why does my conscience niggle at me so? What lesson is the universe teaching me with you? I don't know.
Okay, maybe I do know. When my own child was small and so completely misunderstood, when I was the parent that fingers pointed at and was whispered about in the staff room, I felt hopeless. There were times when Jake was undiagnosed and I was accused of trying to find something medically wrong to excuse his behavior. In some ways, I've been in your shoes. I know what it's like to be where you are and back then I vowed, with every fiber in my being, that I would NEVER do that to another child. I would treat EVERY child as I had wished Jake had been treated because there WAS a medical diagnosis for what was causing him grief, and I was NOT a crazy or bad parent.
Now when I meet a child who my heart tells me is in the same situation, I listen. Only this time, I have the power to change that child's school situation.
It's a delicate balance. I can't make it look like you are favored, because school has to be fair. I joke to the kids that I don't really think about them when I go home, I do have a life. The truth is, I think of you every time I dig through our overflowing fridge to grab a snack for my son and wonder what you ate today, if you ate at all. On the weekends, I wonder if you're safe. Did you stay out all night? Did you go to that party and drive home drunk? Did you cave to peer pressure and get high? Are you studying for that science test on Monday? I give my son a hug and wonder, does anyone hug you? Do you have a warm bed to sleep in?
Sometimes, when I know things have been particularly hard for you, my heart aches so acutely it's like a physical pain, and I cry the whole drive home. Life seems SO damn unfair some days.
The year goes by; sometimes two, and eventually, like a baby bird that is learning to fly, you find your wings.
The chats become fewer and farther between. You are independent and strong, able to take care of yourself without my intervention. I watch from afar as you hang out with your friends, content to see that you have grown into an adult that I can be so proud to have had a hand in shaping. At most, you wave to me or stop to politely chat and before I know it, you are graduating and leaving town altogether.
You don't need me anymore. Perhaps you won't even remember me in a few years time, but you know, that's okay. I'm content with knowing that for a short time, I made your life better. I don't need recognition or thanks-you doing well is enough and I'm fiercely proud that I had a hand in getting you on that podium, accepting your high school diploma.
So the other day when you turned to me and sincerely thanked me for everything I've done for you, my heart swelled to bursting.
I also cried the whole way home.
Photo credit: Ricky Romero