Word of the Year

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve noticed many stories of friends choosing a word for the upcoming year. This is not something I have done before. I do like the idea of creating a point of focus. One word that would represent a challenge-something to work on or maybe a word of encouragement.

Each time I read about someone choosing their word, one word would come to mind. It was always the same word. But I avoided actually voicing that this would be my word. 

Instead, I named all of the reasons that this should not be my word. It is not a word I use to describe myself. Though not logical, I let my mind negatively wander.  

Simply thinking about the word would make me feel like crying. What if choosing this particular word meant the coming year would bring difficult challenges? Yes, I realize that is silly. Just being honest.

This morning I gave in, deciding this would indeed be my word for the year. Strong.

I would much prefer content, joyful or peaceful. Probably because I consider myself sentimental and emotional. And that may be the exact reason why I need to choose this word.   

My husband reminds me that I am strong. And I know it is ok to think of myself as strong. We all face challenges in this life. It is good to remember how I have faced challenges in the past. But most importantly, it is good to remember where my strength truly comes from.

“Be strong and courageous…for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

So, here is my word for the year 2020. STRONG! I embrace it and hope that by focusing on it, I will begin to see myself as the strong woman that I am.

Any Other Way

Yesterday, a little kindergarten girl asked me about my kids. I don’t remember her exact question, but I responded, “They are all grown-up now.” She looked at me with her big, wide, beautiful brown eyes and asked, “Are you still their mom?” This sweet girl has no idea of the impact of her question.

What is it like to be a parent of young adults? It is something I’ve pondered quite a bit lately. My parental role is in a constant state of flux it seems. As are my emotions.

Not only has this season caused me to reflect on my years of parenting, but it has also given me a new perspective concerning my own parents.

In a recent conversation with my mom about my kids growing up she said, “Well, you left home at seventeen and never came back.” I’d never thought about it in such black and white terms. Don’t misunderstand, she was not being negative, simply stating a fact. One intended to help me better understand my feelings.

My children are finding their way as adults, following their own paths. And my reactions are helping me to understand how my young adult decisions impacted my own parents. They loved me through some challenging times, and never stopped being my parents. Our bond has only grown stronger. I hope my children will be able to say the same.

Both laughter and tears will cover the days ahead. And some days, there will also be uncertainty. The uncertainty which accompanies figuring out my new role. That is what it means to be a parent.

One simple question from a kindergartener opened the door for this reflection:

Yes, I am still their mom.

I will always be their mom.

And I would not want it any other way.

Emotions of Change

I survived the first full week of school! By Friday, I had cried several times and was feeling overwhelmed. Not that it was a horrible week, I was just exhausted.

As the relief of the weekend arrived, I began to contemplate the many reasons for my emotions. One answer stood out-change. Change, even positive change, is difficult. And this year is going to be filled with change.

I taught at my previous school for nine years. As far as jobs go, this was a record for me. It was comfortable, familiar. I knew the layout and the great people who worked there.

My new building is beautiful. It is a welcoming space filled with a positive, dedicated staff. And though I love entering each morning, it is still unfamiliar. I’m learning my way around.

For the past five years, I taught with the same two ladies. Teaching art, music, and P.E., we truly were the dream team. We quickly transformed from colleagues to good friends, sisters. I didn’t realize how much I would miss seeing them every day.

My new team is amazing! We are in a larger school, so there are six of us. Two teachers for each subject-art, music, and P.E. They’ve already helped me more than they know. But we are just beginning to know each other.

Learning my way around a new building. Getting to know new colleagues. Connecting with a new set of students.

As I considered these changes, I began to think about my almost five hundred new students. They are facing changes as well. Summer ending and school beginning again. For many, it means attending a new school.

Learning their way around a new building. Getting to know new teachers. Connecting with a new set of friends.

They are experiencing similar changes. And if these changes have such a powerful effect on me, how might they affect my students? Are they also feeling emotional and overwhelmed? Most certainly.

As I approach the upcoming school week, I need to be more aware of emotional reactions in myself and my students. We will work through the growing pains together and come out stronger on the other side. In the end, the results will be worth the change.

Words…Reactions

My interaction with a little friend at school this morning made me stop and think about the power of our words. Sometimes all it takes is a few short words to send someone into a tailspin. Yes, there are times we must ignore harsh words. Typically, that is much easier for adults than it is for children.

Such was this morning. One particular student was crying and crying, expressing a desire to go home. I tried to be sympathetic and funny, saying I wanted to go home too. That did not help. There was no comforting this one.

Discovering the reason for this reaction took at least twenty-thirty minutes and multiple adults. I’m afraid I was not one of those adults. Although I helped to a point, I was not the one for this job. My usual “dry up those tears” attitude was obviously not going to work. And honestly, I did not have the patience necessary this early in the day.

Whether this student overreacted or not is not the issue here. The fact is unkind words from another student lead to what seemed like an eternity of tears. Eventually, it passed, the student regained control and began the school day.

I wondered what other factors may have been in play. Didn’t sleep well? Woke up on the wrong side of the bed? Didn’t eat breakfast? I don’t know. I do know I have experienced mornings like that.

Although it’s hard to admit, there have been those rare times when a cross word from someone almost brought me to tears. I’m not even talking about mean comments directed towards me. And I am an emotionally stable adult. (Just don’t ask my teammates or family.) 😉

So, should I really be surprised when a child reacts this way? I suppose it depends on the child and the situation. However, it does make me think even more about our need to teach and model kindness every day. Sounds simple but requires being consistent and intentional.

Here’s to tomorrow…hoping for an all-around happier start to the day. It is Valentine’s Day, after all. Just maybe there will be some short words that will lead to happy reactions. ❤

Gotta love conversation hearts!

Life is Letting Go

We’ve had some important family events in recent weeks.  Celebrating our youngest son’s 18th birthday with extended family and friends, marching band senior night-our third and final ending a 10-year period of being band parents. Milestones for our family of five to be certain.  And even though the focus was on the celebration, my mind often drifted to change.

The two days previous to senior night, I found myself fighting back tears.  As Friday approached, I worried about not being able to get through the coming events without uncontrollable crying. Thankfully, I was wrong.  But oh, was it exhausting.

I am one who believes in expressing your emotions.  Crying in front of others is not uncommon. I also recognize that there are times when those emotions must be pushed to the back burner. This was one of those times.  Truly it was a time to celebrate, and I’m happy to say that’s exactly what we did!

The following week it was time for senior pictures and finishing college applications. More changes coming…too soon. Positive changes to be certain, but my emotions rose to the surface once again. That’s when I realized, this process of letting go was starting over. Part of my life as a parent for which there is no handbook, no warning-until it hits me in the face.

As a parent, I’ve experienced this in both big and small ways while watching my children grow. Taking their first steps, climbing up that slide ladder independently, their first day of school. Driving off alone in their car for the first time, going on a first date, and moving off to college. Each time I have to let them go, tiny pieces of my heart go with them.

Today I must put one foot in front of the other, dry my tears, and face the day with hope. Hope because these three I get to call mine are already making a difference in this world. Hope because the people they are becoming causes my heart to overflow, as those missing pieces return.

In order for them to continue flying, I have to continue letting go. That’s how life works.  I can either fight against it, holding on for dear life or embrace the truth-life is letting go.