When Your Dad is the Principal

As I reflect on yesterday’s graduation ceremonies, my thoughts keep floating back to my husband, Gart. He is a career educator, twenty-six years now. His path began with band directing and moved through various levels of administration. Because of this, our kids’ educational experiences included “Dad as principal.”

What is it like when your dad is the principal? I’m sure my kids would have things to add, but today I’ll share my perspective.

When the kids were younger, elementary and junior high age, it meant riding the bus to his school in the afternoons. It meant exploring every inch of his building. It meant finding all the secret hiding places while staying out of trouble.

As they got older, the meaning changed. The following questions should help paint the picture.

  • Do I need to spend the day with you at your school?
  • Do I need to contact your teacher?
  • Exactly why have you not turned in your assignments this week?

Those questions and the conversations which followed carried a heavier weight than their earlier building adventures. They were only matched by statements like these:

  • I received a call/email today from your principal/teacher.
  • I contacted your teacher today, and you will be…
  • Due to your choices, you will not be able to…

Thankfully, these did not happen often. But when they did, they were not taken lightly. There were some difficult, uncomfortable conversations around the dinner table. But we all survived and are stronger because of them.

Experiencing their dad as principal also meant wisdom and guidance in planning for the future. He witnessed the impact poor choices can have on a student’s future many times. And although he was always ready to share advice or answer questions, he encouraged them to choose their own path.

“Just do you,” he still loves to tell them.

There is no question as to the best part of “dad as principal.” When each of them completed high school and walked across that graduation stage, Dad was waiting there to greet them. He stood with open arms, ready to hand them their diploma, and say, “Congratulations! I’m so proud of you!” And just as quickly, he watched them walk away.

Of course, Gart is much more than “principal” to our three kids. But the impact that title had on our family will be felt for years to come. It helped shape the three of them into amazing young adults.

Each of our children has their own goals and aspirations. Each shows the determination to see them fulfilled. Most importantly, each of them loves their dad. And from my perspective, that’s what happens when your dad is the principal.

My Girl

My Rachel is the perfect combination of sassy and sweet. Big blue eyes, tight ringlet curls, her looks, and style are a classic beauty. She sets goals, lays out a plan, and the rest is history.

Rachel practiced being a teacher when she was little. Her room transformed into a classroom with stuffed animals and dolls, a whiteboard, notebooks with lesson plans and assignments. How many kids ask for a whiteboard and markers for Christmas?

During junior high, she worked as a peer tutor in special education classes. For her, it was more than simply being helpful or nice to her peers who were different. She made connections, treated them as friends, sat with them at lunch.

This continued throughout high school. Proms were happily spent with her special friends. Summer camp meant being a buddy to a friend who otherwise would not have a camp experience. Friday nights were often spent volunteering at a respite night for parents of children with special needs. This was the high school life she chose.

When it was time for college, there was no doubt as to her career path-special education. Ultimately, she wanted to be a teacher in the district from which she graduated. The place that allowed her so much experience in the field she loved.

I am so proud of my girl. Tonight, she graduates from Northeastern State University with a degree in special education. She begins her teaching career next year at her alma mater, Union Public Schools, teaching secondary special education.

Rachel is already dreaming, thinking, planning for her future students. Wondering who they will be and what she will need to reach them. Her bedroom is lined with containers filled with supplies, fidgets, thinking putty. She knows this is not an easy path. But she embraces it with courage, excitement, and hope.

I’m looking forward to helping her set up her first classroom. I can’t wait to hear her stories. No doubt she will have an impact on the lives of her students, and they on hers. Get ready world, my girl is beautiful, determined, and strong. Here she comes! ❤

Baby Number Three

When Gart and I moved to Guthrie, Oklahoma in 1997, we were a family of four. Our son, Robert, was 2 ½ and our daughter, Rachel, was only a month old. Although I do not recommend moving with a one-month-old, we were excited about this new adventure.

The house we purchased was built in 1924 and only had around 900 square feet. The outside was red brick with an arched front porch. Inside, there were wood floors, lots of character and only two bedrooms. Though it was small, it was perfect for our little family.

At that time, I was a stay-at-home-mom. Our one boy and one girl was the perfect combination. Friends and family assumed we would not have any more children, and we pretty much thought the same thing. That is until around the time Rachel started walking…

Suddenly, I wanted to have another baby. I just knew our family was not complete. When I mentioned it to Gart he asked, “Where in the world would we put another baby?” His argument was logical. We did not have room, nor could we afford to have another baby.

Despite his logic, I could not shake this feeling. It did not help that my closest friends were pregnant. Everywhere I turned, it seemed as if there were more babies. I would often cry, but discussions with Gart were not successful. We would only end up arguing.

I soon realized that this was not the right time for discussions and began to pray. My prayer was simple, “Take this desire for another baby away from me or give Gart the same desire.” Sometimes I felt silly praying the same thing over and over, yet I continued.

Almost a year passed. Although the desire was not completely gone, at least I was not crying all the time. My restlessness was easing. I was about ready to accept that the answer must have been no, and I must have missed it. Though a little sad, I knew it would be ok.

About a week after my revelation, the most amazing thing happened. Out of the blue, Gart said to me, “You know, I think you were right. We should have another baby.” What a surprise! And Ryan Lee Morris was born in November of 2000.

Now we were a family of five, still living in a 900 square foot house. We remained in that house for two more years until a job change took us on another adventure. What a sweet two years. I still miss the times we had in that tiny cottage home.

Well, baby number three graduates from high school tomorrow. He is 6’3 and handsome. A kind, sensitive and funny soul. He is also an artist. I am so proud of the young man he has become and can’t wait to see what the future holds. Our family would not be the same without him.

We love you, Ryan! ❤

A Simple Decoration

When our oldest son, Robert, graduated from high school it was easy to choose a theme for his graduation party. Music! Music had been his life for all of junior high and high school. And he was going to the University of Arkansas to study music education. I ordered a cake and found this simple music note tree centerpiece. Silver and black, covered in music notes, it was the perfect addition to the table.

Music note tree.

After the party, I put the decorations away in the closet. No thought was given to them for the next two years until Rachel graduated. Even though Rachel would study special education in college, music had been a crucial part of her secondary education as well. At first, I kind of joked, “Hey. Wonder if I still have that music decoration from Robert’s party?” Once I found it, there was no question it would once again grace the table.

I knew it would be four more years before our last high school graduation. So, as I put things away after Rachel’s party, I was determined to hold on to that centerpiece. I placed it back in the closet, in the same box.

I would sometimes see it during closet clean-outs but was careful not to throw it away. Yes, I probably could have bought another one. But it would not be the same. A new one would not have been present at the other two graduation parties.

I chuckled this morning as the music-note centerpiece was pulled from the closet. It decorated the table for its third party. This one to celebrate the high school graduation of our youngest, Ryan (also a musician) and the college graduation of our daughter, Rachel. It was a beautiful day filled with family and friends, yummy snack food, and two delicious cakes.

After the party ended, I began to think about that centerpiece. I’ll readily admit that I am often sentimental over things which others might find simple or unimportant. This particular item could easily fall under one of those categories. So, why was I so determined to save it? What did it represent?

For me, a sappy mom whose kids are growing up way too fast here’s what I came up with:

  • Importance of music in our family
  • Commitment to education
  • Celebrating accomplishments
  • Love of family and friends
  • Support of siblings

None of those things are simple or unimportant. On the contrary, they are part of what makes this life so beautiful.

Our music note centerpiece may have reached its end, but memories of the celebrations it graced will continue to make me smile. Memories of my children’s accomplishments. Memories of family and friends who love us and took time to celebrate with us. ❤

One Day Difference

This time of year is crazy! If you don’t believe me, ask a teacher. The number of school days remaining has hit single digits. Spring fever is in the air. Closing out the current year while planning for the next brings added stress. Many days leave me emotionally drained and physically exhausted.

The May calendar is filled with activities. Field day, talent show, picnics, yearbook signing to name a few. Although fun, they require planning and interrupt routines.

This week has been particularly hard. After school Wednesday, all I wanted to do was take a nap. But I was unable to relax or quiet my thoughts. Instead of resting, I cried. A restless night lead to a grumpy Mrs. Morris Thursday morning.

Thursday’s plan included talent show practice. Students came to the gym during specials to rehearse on the stage. But rehearsals did not take up the entire class. What to do with the remaining time? Song requests!

I like to plan a day where students request their favorite songs. Despite good intentions, this is one end-of-the-year activity that often gets passed over. Not this year.

This was the perfect day! Imagine Dragons and Panic at the Disco topped the list. Songs from Annie and The Greatest Showman also made the cut. Pop, country, rock-a little bit of everything.

Two particular selections turned my day around. The first came during fourth grade. I already had a list of songs from this group and the requests were anonymous. Half-way down the list was Baby Shark. I have done my best to avoid this song. Not today.

It was so much fun! Fourth graders simply being kids. Singing, laughing, doing silly motions. And when I asked who requested the song, an ornery boy raised his hand. I laughed and thanked him for his choice.

The second selection came in kindergarten. After singing Baa Baa Black Sheep and Baby Bumblebee, one sweet little boy raised his hand. What was his request? Jingle Bells! There is something special about a gym full of kindergarteners singing Jingle Bells in May, with only nine days of school left.

I need to remember to slow down, forget about the to-do list, and have fun with my students. These final days of school will be over in a snap.

After school Thursday, I drove home, had a snack, and slept soundly on the couch for about an hour. Yes, I’m still tired. Yes, there is still work to be done. But a little fun with kids singing Baby Shark and Jingle Bells just might get me through. One day really can make a difference!

Of course, today is Friday. It was field day…and that’s another story. 😉 Eight days to go…

On the Horizon

This current season of life brings many thoughts about the future. Especially the futures of our three children. I want them to experience contentment in today as they plan for tomorrow. Not an easy combination.

Next week, our family will celebrate both a high school and college graduation. Preparation for these events leads to many conversations concerning the future.

Our youngest son, Ryan, plans to start college in the fall. Our daughter, Rachel, will begin teaching next school year. Both plans require a commitment to the present, finishing the work at hand.

These are exciting times in the Morris household! And this past weekend, more excitement was added. Our oldest son, Robert, proposed to his girlfriend, Erin! ❤ We are beyond excited!

Several months back, Robert created a plan and got to work. He needed to purchase the ring, talk to her parents, choose a time and location. With everything in place, it was time.

Gart and I knew last week that he planned to propose over the weekend, but we did not know the details. And that was ok. This was his plan.

Then one night my phone rang. It was Robert. A call instead of a text usually means something important. 😉 Nervously he asked if we would like to drive to Dallas for a family lunch after the proposal. Yes! Of course!

Soon after that conversation, Gart walked in. I relayed Robert’s invitation. We smiled, both a little teary-eyed. ”We are going to have a daughter-in-law, ” he said. ”I think we did ok, Mama.” “I think so too.”

So here we are. Excited to see Ryan begin working toward a degree in animation and 3-D modeling. Excited to watch Rachel embrace a classroom full of new students as a special education teacher. Excited to witness Robert and Erin begin their journey together.

Gart and I will be their cheering section. Always here when they need us. And as we prepare for big changes on the horizon, we will remain content in the present. At least, that is our plan…

For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations. Psalm 100:5

Little Ones

They used to come as a shock. News stories of missing children. Parents crying on the news, begging for their child to be found. Putting on an innocent face. Declaring they have no idea what might have happened to their precious child. But in the end, they are responsible.

I remember clearly the first of these stories that stuck with me, and that was over 20 years ago. I won’t mention the details. I don’t believe it would help. But I remember sitting in a Subway with Gart, hearing the breaking news. I cried, thinking, “How could a parent do this to their own children?”

Now when I hear one of these stories (one was recently in the national news) my heart breaks. My first thought? The parents are responsible, the ending will be tragic, and my heartbreak will turn to anger.

This recent story was no different. A child was reported missing. Past reports of abuse and horrible living conditions surfaced. There were years when the child was removed from the home. And now? The parents have been arrested…this precious child found dead not far from his home.

This could have easily been the story of my sweet friend, Marie. Thankfully, she got out. But only after many years in an abusive home. Read more about her story here. https://pianogirlthoughts.com/2019/04/01/child-abuse-awareness/

Why am I writing about this now? Because I continue to see and hear the stories of abuse. I have no answers but acknowledge the need for diligence in reporting and supporting survivors.

Check out this personal story from a survivor. Tressa bravely shares her story in hopes of helping others. https://alifeofabuse.home.blog/

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.” Matthew 18:10