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Thompson Says

family, fashion, teaching, and everything in between

If I’m Being Honest

At a PD last school year, the instructor showed us a video of Rudy Francisco performing his poem “My Honest Poem.” I was so moved by the poem, that I did an imitation activity with my students where they used Francisco’s structure to create their own honest poems. Because I am a writer, too, I created my own version of “My Honest Poem.”

It is honest and, as with any good writing, a work in progress. After all, what is true right now may become false in the coming years. Enjoy.

 

“My Honest Poem” by Megan Thompson

 

I was born on May 24th, Gemini by the stars

I think that means I have a split personality

I’m 5 foot 4…and a quarter. I weigh, well, if I’m being honest, more than I did in high school

I don’t know how to boil an egg, and I’m very glad that my husband does all the cooking

And adventure seeking.

 

I compete with cell phones for attention on the daily

From my students, my own children,

And even the man who is supposed to put me first

 

I like Dr. Pepper…a lot.

But I know I shouldn’t have it too much because it is bad for my teeth, my heart,

And my self-confidence

I find myself consumed with what others think and say about me

When, in reality, most days I don’t even know what I think of myself

I thought walking up on hushed conversations and guilty expressions would end when I graduated high school

But then I became a high school teacher

I’ve been told a million times that I’d forget my own head if it weren’t screwed onto my body

I live in a society where I feel the need to apologize for growing up wealthy with two parents who are one year away from 50 years of marriage

I contemplate my word choice heavily- I already regret the choice to use “wealthy” two lines ago because I know you are judging me

Some days, I’m a really good teacher, others, I’m a stellar wife, and still others, I’m mom of the year

Never am I all three at the same time

Because the focus can only be spread so thin before it becomes transparent

Like concrete, I crack under pressure

I’m not afraid of loving too hard

But I’m terrified of losing too much

 

I’ve never had a detention, but I have a stack of office referrals signed by me

I write myself up for not being the mother my mom is

And falling short of perfection

I secretly despise Pinterest-perfect moms who seem to have it all together

I’m embarrassed that my 5-year-old lies and eats candy for dinner sometimes

While my 3-year-old sucks her toe and talks really loud at all the wrong times

I love my girls with all I have

And worry daily that it isn’t enough

 

Hi, my name is Megan

I enjoy reading, warm summer days,

And blaring music through my car speakers

I love the idea of a sunroof, but hate the heat it lets in

I allow myself to cry too often

And regret my weakness the second the tears hit my cheeks

My hobbies include wallowing in self-guilt, starting projects I will never finish,

And treading water in this sea we call life

I know that life is chaotic now

And that I will miss the chaos someday

I know that if God puts me to it, He will help me through it

And what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

My Sweet, Sweet Maycee Jo

It has been awhile since I last posted. Probably because I have been consumed with enjoying my summer and soaking up every second of sunshine and quality time with my family—including my three-year-old daughter, Maycee Jo.

This girl keeps this mama on her toes and the wineries in business. I swear, I have never encountered a kid who is as lovable, funny, independent, fearless, and headstrong. She can make me want to pull my hair out then turn around and make me belly laugh at her quirkiness. She loves harder than any kid I’ve ever been around and wants so badly to do everything her sister does. She rarely takes no for an answer and repeats curse words like a sailor. She is the reason there is a saying that goes, “Quiet children are dangerous children.”

A quick rundown of the things I have said to this child in the last two hours:

  1. You CANNOT get water from the toilet for your tea party.
  2. Please just watch the movie and suck your toe and stop asking what is going to happen next every five seconds.
  3. I didn’t put you in timeout, why are you sitting in the timeout spot crying like I did?
  4. Stop hitting your sister in the face. She was just trying to hug you good night.
  5. Do not put toothpaste in your teapot. That is yucky.
  6. Do not drink water from Kourt’s (our Labrador Retriever) bowl.
  7. Quit feeding Kourt your chicken nuggets.

She is the child who yells, “Okay, Father” from the second to last row of the church when he asks a rhetorical question during his homily. This is right before she screams in frustration that she cannot go onto the altar to see her cousin, Jaden, who is serving Mass. I make sure to hold her in front of Father a little bit longer at Communion to be sure she soaks in all of his blessings (we all need Jesus, but she needs a double dose).

One of my friends recently shared an article about loving your strong-willed child and it hit home for me. It also made me want to write about my sweet girl.

In one of my absolute favorite Maycee Jo adventures, we attended big sister Aubrey’s Christmas program. Aubrey’s class had practiced and rehearsed beautiful Christmas songs to share with the packed cafeteria of parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and other proud onlookers. The rows were full with people and the people’s hands were full with video cameras, smart phone cameras, professional grade zooming cameras, and who knows what other kind of filming devices- anything to catch the memories on film. In my family, my sister videoed with her handheld camera, my other sister videoed with her cell phone from one angle, while my sis-in-law videoed with her cell phone from a different angle, and I snapped still shots with my high-quality Canon. We couldn’t possibly miss a single part of the show. Thank goodness because I want to be certain that Maycee Jo sees the night’s events from every angle when she gets older.

As Aubrey walked out on stage, Maycee shouted with glee at the sight of her sister. “HI AUBREY!” she screamed from the crowd; Aubrey gave a nervous wave about hip-high.

“Mommy, look it’s Aubrey!  Aubrey singin’! I wanna sing wit Aubrey!”

Distracted by capturing the perfect picture, I quickly brushed her off and without thinking said, “Ok, Maycee, sing away. You can sing with Aubrey. Now let Mommy take Sissy’s picture.”

About 17 quick clicks later, I pulled the lens down and glanced to my left to check on Maycee only to see an empty chair. Panicked, I asked my brother-in-law where she had gone. He simply pointed toward the stage and replied, “Up there.”

WHAT? Sure enough, I could see her white bow weaving through the crowd heading straight for the stage. I threw my camera down and began to chase after her. By the time I caught her, she already had one leg on the stage crawling up to “sing wit Aubrey” just like I had given her permission to do. I pulled her from the stage kicking and screaming, “I want to sing wit Aubrey, Mommy, NOOOOOO!”

And that was it, she cried REAL tears the rest of Aubrey’s performance because I had destroyed her chances at stardom.

Don’t feel too badly for her, I let her climb on stage after the program ended and sing her little heart out. She immediately looked up at the mic stand still holding the microphone and said, “I need that!” Then, she proceeded to sing “Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way! Oh my God, it is to ride in a one horse open sleigh. HEY!” on the stage. At the top of her lungs. At the Catholic school. Awesome.

For some reason, I see a lot of visits to the principal at the Catholic School in our future- a place I NEVER saw as a student there. Maybe we will just let Daddy handle those meetings.

Regardless of how many battles we have or principal visits we encounter, one thing is absolutely for certain–my life would be incomplete without my Maycee Jo, and I am so lucky I get to call her mine.

The Frightening Four and a Halfs

You always hear about the terrible twos- how your toddler suddenly turns into an unrecognizable creature who screams, cries, falls to the ground in utter devastation at the drop of a hat. Then comes the threenager whose list of demands changes with the wind- she liked oranges yesterday, but when she came home from school today, she explained, “Mom, I was not happy with you at lunch today. You know I don’t like oranges anymore.” No, no I didn’t know that, sweetie. I must’ve dreamt that you sat at the table yesterday devouring an orange from the huge bag of Cuties I just bought at the store. Forgive me for thinking your tastes would remain consistent for 24 hours.

Terrible twos and threenager years are no joke. But we survived (at least with the first one. Verdict’s still out on that second one. No telling what her next two years will bring). But the past few months, I have encountered a new phenomena: the Frightening Four and a Halfs.

I can’t even tell you how many times in the past few nights I have thought, “Who is this kid in front of me, and what did she do with my sweet, well-behaved princess?”

Exhibit A: Beginning Sunday, I realized a peculiar situation regarding my bathroom toilet paper. Every time I went to the restroom, the toilet paper, plastic rod, and extra rolls of toilet paper were nowhere to be found. The dispenser sat empty on the wall laughing at my perplexed face. I soon discovered that all missing elements had been carefully tucked away behind the toilet. My initial thought was, “Hmm…that is a weird place to put the toilet paper. My husband must have caught our dog eating the toilet paper or something, so he hid it where Kourt can’t get to it.” And then I snapped the rod back in place with a fresh roll of toilet paper and went on with my day. This happened, no lie, 6 times before I became suspicious. Then, one night it clicked. Every night before bedtime, Aubrey has to go potty in our bathroom. I was getting dressed for bed when it dawned on me that she was taking longer than usual. Aha! Light bulb. I opened the door of the bathroom and caught her in the act. She was the culprit! I hadn’t even thought it might be her because she just wouldn’t normally do something so mischievous. Hmph… now I know better.

Exhibit B: Wednesday night, as we were winding down for bedtime, she asked for a drink. I told her she could have some water and handed her a cup and walked away- leaving my complete trust in her. Fast forward about an hour to the time we finished our nightly routine. I walked to the kitchen to turn out the lights and stumbled upon the squeeze bottle of Crystal Light Peach Mango water flavoring suspiciously sitting next to Kourt’s water bowl. The water bowl had a pretty orange glow coming from the usually clear water. I called my suspect in for questioning. “Aubrey, did you do this?” Her head shook side to side as her big brown eyes grew even wider. “Are you sure? Remember to be honest.” Again with the denial of the crime. One final plea, “You know you will be in more trouble if you fib, right?” “I know, Mommy, but it wasn’t me.” Let me spare you the details– it was her.

Exhibit C (I’ve saved the strongest evidence for my finale): Friday afternoon after a long week at work, I’m driving home enjoying the peace and quiet before I arrive at my house full of loud screams and bickering sisters. Ding! One new text message- from Aubrey’s PK4 teacher:

Please speak with Aubrey about not taking her shoelaces out of her shoes at nap time. It only makes her cry when she cannot put them back in place. Also, please help her complete the stapled set of class work she did not complete when it was assigned.

Utter devastation, disappointment, and embarrassment flushed red through my face. My Aubrey? Really? She didn’t complete her class work? (At that point, the shoelaces were the least of my concerns.) When I got home, she was perched on the couch watching videos on the tablet. Stripping the tablet from her hands, I marched her into her bedroom to discuss her choices at school that day. Come to find out, it was way worse than I suspected. She had actually been hiding her incomplete class work in her desk, telling her teachers she was finished, and even sometimes asking for MORE WORK! She painfully sat at the kitchen counter and completed every last page of that incomplete work (10 papers total). She cut, colored, traced, and glued until her little fingers bled (not really, but you would’ve thought they did with that little diva). The socialite preschooler had to spend an entire week without a single playdate. We skipped family dinner at my brother’s and an extravagant birthday party. It was torture- for her and her parents. I even leaned down in church that Sunday and whispered, “You need to talk to Jesus about your lying. Pray about it.”

The only way I can make sense of this phase (oh God, please let it be a phase) is to think that God is easing me into the whole “discipline” territory with Aubrey and paving the way for that second child of mine because I have a pretty strong inkling that Maycee Jo is going to give us a run for our money. Who knows what she will do with her shoelaces…webthompson_family_12-27-16__9

A Resolution I’m Keeping

In early January I posted about one of my New Year’s Resolutions: Reading until my eyes hurt.  I’m here to tell you that my eyes don’t hurt just yet, but I can feel the burn coming on.  I am currently on book number six of the year!  Six books in the midst of being a wife, mommy of a gymnast -dancer, mommy of a wild and crazy toddler, teacher of 170, and sleeper of a few hours here and there.  Pretty dang impressive if you ask me.

So here are the books I’ve read so far…

  1. The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin— I have dedicated a whole blog post to this book here, so I won’t add many more details… except that my friend is now reading it and loves it as much as I do. READ THIS BOOK.
  2. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart— Plot twist at its finest.  With young adult books, I can usually predict the plot twist before it happens, but not with this one. I was truly shocked.  A book about a girl who is confused about love and family and her role in the world.  A very good read with a very good story.
  3. Shanghai Girls by Lisa See— This one took me a little longer to finish than the others I have read this year.  Two reasons for my prolonged completion of this book: 1- I was learning SO much about the Chinese culture that I had to stop often to do research (which was fun) and 2- this book had so much heavy content that I could only take so much in one sitting.  But gosh, what an incredible story of cultural identity and how much loyalty one owes to her cultural roots.  I wasn’t crazy about the ending, but then I found out that there is a sequel, so the ending makes more sense.
  4. The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner— After the rollercoaster Shanghai Girls took me on, I needed something faster and lighter.  I heard about this book at TCTELA, a conference for English Teachers, and decided to give it a try.  Light is was not, but I am so happy I gave it a chance.  It was a little dark and odd, but told a wonderful story of three best friends who are learning all about the trials of life at a much too early age. Did you know that churches exist where venomous snakes are passed around the congregation to test each member’s faith? Snake bite=Satan in your heart no snake bite= pure heart with no Satan. I didn’t know until I read this book. It was a pretty quick read- I finished it in about 4 days.  Definitely worth checking out.
  5. Looking For Alaska by John Green— SO I came really late to the John Green party.  I read The Fault in Our Stars a few years ago and just wasn’t all that impressed, so I didn’t read anything else of his.  So many of my freshmen love him that I decided to give him another try.  When I started Looking For Alaska, I realized his other books aren’t nearly as predictable and cheesy (sorry- not that I think dying teenagers are cheesy; I don’t, it just didn’t feel all that real to me) as The Fault in Our Stars.  Again, the story of teenagers trying to find their way, but told with a unique spin on how resilient teens can be in the face of adversity.
  6. Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon— Another young adult book about a teenager facing a really hard life. The main female character has “bubble-baby disorder” and has never been able to leave her house because she could die if she did. Long story short, she falls in love with the new boy next door, which poses a serious problem since she cannot go outside.  I really like Yoon’s writing style.  She inserts super short chapters every now and then to keep the book moving quickly.  She also alludes to several classic books as the main character spends most of her time in solitude reading.  My favorite part are her “Spoiler Reviews” where she sums up the books she is reading in one short sentence that spoils the most important part of the book.

I picked up The Poisonwood Bible  by Barbara Kingsolver to read next, and I am about 40 pages in.  It is a commitment book, so I am not sure I will be able to read it in isolation for the weeks I know it will take me.  I may have to continue sprinkling in a few young adult books here and there to stay in touch with my kiddos.

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Two other great reads (not from this year, but worth your time):

Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys “My mother is a prostitute.” (First line of this book- how can you not read it after that first line?)

Keep It Shut by Karen Ehman– nonfiction book about when and how to keep your mouth shut and when to say what you need to say (with a little guidance from Jesus

School-Mom Lesson #462: Read the dang folder

In my house, routines are the key to my sanity. Our mornings are planned to the second, and our afternoons run like clockwork. Last night, I made the commitment to working out this morning at 5:15am like I used to… Just give it a try to see if I could make it fit into my already chaotic morning.

I laid out my workout clothes and my work clothes last night. I planned what I would send with Aubrey for her school lunch. I ensured my husband knew the plan and his part in making it work. And I went to bed early.

I am actually going to pull this off- and get bikini ready for summer in the process.

4:30am, I popped up to my alarm, excited about getting back on track with my fitness. Out the door and into the gym I strolled, early for my first workout of the year. Knowing I had to be home by 5:50am to keep my morning on track, I left my workout class a little early and headed home.

Upon arrival at home, I was pleased that my husband was holding up his end of the routine as he soon thereafter left to pick up our nanny. Before hopping in the shower, I made Aubrey’s breakfast and strawberry milk, placed her wet paper towel by her plate and tuned the tv to her favorite cartoons. With a quick glance at the clock, I headed into her room to wake her up. 6:01- pretty perfect timing. I got her settled on the couch, and Maycee who woke up, too- collateral damage, but not going to ruin the routine. Both girls were in good moods and happy (shockingly might I add), so I confidently jumped in the shower.

I am rocking this mom thing today.

6:25- I’m dressed, made-up, perfumed, lotioned, deodorized, and hairsprayed. Right on track. I packed Aubrey’s lunch, and then proceeded to the couch to get the princess dressed, her teeth brushed, and decorate her hair with braids and bows.

6:38- 3 minutes late, but still in arrive-before-the-first-bell territory. Aubrey and I load the car and drive to my mom’s for our morning drop-off. We walk up to the door, backpack and lunch kit in tote, to be confronted with a locked door.

That’s weird. Mimi knows we are coming.

Knock, knock, knock.

My pajama-wearing mom opens the door with a look of surprise.

You know they don’t have school today, right? 

*insert face-to-palm emoji and momoftheyear hashtag

Yes, the holiday was announced in Aubrey’s take-home folder weeks ago. Yes, I probably saw it, but I don’t remember reading it. I’m doing well to make sure she comes home on green and does her homework every week. Now, I have to read the bulletins, too?

I’m really just kidding. I want to read them. It is just that after bath time and book time and don’t hit your sister time and no you can’t have candy for dinner time, I run out of time to read the school bulletin.

I think God may have cracked a smile at my shortcoming today because when I got home from work, some 21-year-old model was on Ellen talking about her goals when she moved to LA, which included being on the cover of Vogue and being on Ellen. I couldn’t help but think My what a different world she lives in.

You know what my goal is? Only take my daughter to school on actual school days, not holidays. That’s what I call #winning. Or at least #progress.

Resolution #1- Read until my eyes hurt

One of my resolutions this year is to rekindle my love affair with books. As an English teacher, you would think I had oodles of time to read. Wrong. Until diving headfirst into Reader’s Writer’s Workshop this semester, time to read was as scarce as winter weather in Texas this year. Now, I’m in full workshop mode in my classes, which means I get to read with my kids everyday! 10 minutes at the beginning of every class, every single day! And guess what? My kids are just as excited about it as I am! 
So when 2017 hit, like my kids, I set a reading goal– My personal goal is to read about one book every week and a half. I plan to read 15 books before this school year ends, and I’m taking you along for the wild literary ride!

As of 1/12, I am one book closer to my goal. I finished The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin–even though I welcomed many distractions in those last 30 pages because I wasn’t ready to say goodbye. You know that feeling? When you can sense a book is winding down… it turns philosophical, and you feel that tug in your heart because you know it is ending, and you’ll have to say goodbye to the characters, and you know you’ll miss them; you always do. Well, this book was no different. 


All I can say is that if you have any kind of fascination with New York, high fashion, high society, or Truman Capote and other celebrities of the time, this historical fiction book is for YOU! Growing up, one of my favorite movies to watch with my mom was Breakfast at Tiffany’s (written by Truman Capote), and one of my favorite books is To Kill a Mockingbird (written by Harper Lee- childhood friend to Truman Capote, whom the character Dill in the novel is supposedly modeled after). I also have always been drawn to the idea of New York- so naturally, this book screamed “Pick me!” from The Biggest Historical Fiction Books of 2016

It didn’t disappoint. I found myself wanting more throughout the ENTIRE book. Benjamin tells the story of Truman Capote and his “Swans”, as he called them- Babe Paley, Slim Keith, and the other “it” women of New York in the 1950’s. The novel follows Truman’s career and focuses specifically on his special relationship with Babe Paley, wife of Bill Paley, CEO of CBS, and reveals the controversy surrounding Capote’s final story that proved to be his demise. Benjamin blends historically accurate facts with fictional dialogue and details to create a masterful plot that puts you in the middle of the gossip with the most popular clique of the time. 

I’m sad it is over because Truman Capote was such a richly colorful character- I mean obviously the brain behind the Holly Golightly had to be a little quirky, right? 

But, as much as I want to wallow in my grief over the loss of Babe and Truman, I don’t have time. I’ve got a lot of characters to meet and places to explore. 

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Christmas is fast-approaching, and we are in full Santa swing at the Thompson house. Christmas lights are hung on the roof, garland is spread throughout the living room, and glitter is EVERYWHERE. Yep. It certainly is the most wonderful time of the year.

Christmas is one of the major reasons I had kids–to carry on the warm and fuzzy traditions my parents shared with my siblings and me as kids– Bing Crosby playing as we decorated the Christmas Tree, matching my sisters in itchy dresses for what seemed like the entire Christmas season, repetitively thumbing through JCPenney and ToysRUs catalogs circling our most wanted items and then writing them on lists so Santa and Mom could easily read them, helping Mom decorate with her Christmas AnnaLee dolls, watching my dad hang the Christmas lights– never forgetting the hand crafted star of lights on the front of our house, attending Midnight Mass and then eating at Waffle House (Dad’s favorite), curling up on the couch next to Mom to watch Meet Me in St. Louis and White Christmas every night, waking early on Christmas morning and waiting on the stairs while Dad got his huge video camera set to record– the thing was so big, it rested on his shoulder, took a VHS tape on the side, and had an eyepiece that came off the front and bent around to the eye, eating around the family table with my brother, sisters, Mom, Dad, and whichever dog we had at the time, laughing and smiling and loving life. I love Christmas because of these memories, and I want nothing more than to bestow that same blessing to my girls.

I have already introduced most of these traditions to my girls, while adding a few of our own along the way. We watched Meet Me in St. Louis  and White Christmas last night and on Saturday, we decorated our Christmas tree while Bing Crosby crooned in the background– when his songs were over, I added my own tradition of NSYNC’s Christmas album.

Last week, I sat down with the girls to make their wish lists for Santa, and what I got could not be more communicative of their two distinct personalities if I had written them myself.

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Aubrey, my “no, I don’t want to wear that, I want to wear this, don’t you think I look cute, I dressed myself and applied three coats of lip gloss, I am bringing an extra headband just in case, I need to wear my dance shoes every time music comes on, cartwheels and handstand perfecting” four-and-a-half-year-old specifically requested the following:

  1. Rainbow rain boots
  2. A rainbow unicorn bicycle with a bag on the front so I can video all of the stuff I can put in the bag when I ride my bicycle
  3. A baby doll that walks and talks and closes her eyes when she lies down in her bed
  4. A Barbie Dreamhouse with three beds and a garage where I can park my Barbie car
  5. A gymnastics mat with hand and feet prints for cartwheels so I don’t have to use a blanket anymore

Oh is that all?  I will get right on that… But seriously, where do moms of picky kids who know exactly what they want shop? No really? How am I going to make all of these incredibly specific wishes come true for her? I really hope Santa can come through on this one.

On the other hand, Maycee Jo, my “yes I suck my toe, you gotta problem with it, I have two names because one can’t contain me, take me with you, chicken nuggets rule my world unless you have popsicles, do I have to wear pants and shoes, go with the flow, talk to EVERY SINGLE stranger everywhere we go” two-and-a-half-year-old simply asked for the following:

  1. Balls

That’s it. Nothing more, nothing less. Done. Mom of the year in this one’s eyes for sure!

I laugh at their lists, but I know I probably had lists that looked very similar. Well, if I am being honest, my lists definitely looked a lot more like Aubrey’s than Maycee’s. I can’t tell you if I got everything I ever asked for. I know my mom and dad tried really hard. What I do remember is the way Christmas made me feel every single year and continues to make me feel well into my own adult life.

I know this year will be no different. Christmas Eve will come, and we will load up for church–taking up an entire pew and maybe half of another. Maycee will get restless and talk way too loudly. The people around us will laugh, and I’ll turn red with embarrassment. Santa will walk down the aisle and bow in front of Baby Jesus in the manger, and my eyes will fill with tears at the beautiful sight. We will go home, join hands in prayer around the feast we have prepared and eat until our tummies ache. The kids will run and scream and beg to open their gifts from Mimi and PawPaw. PawPaw will walk around with his video camera (much smaller than the one of the 90s), catching us all at a bad angle or inopportune time, but we’ll stop what we are doing to embarrassingly wave to him–humoring his need to capture the moments every year. We will remind the kids to leave cookies, milk, and carrots for Santa and his reindeer and to sleep well so Santa can leave their presents by the tree. We will load up once again and head home for the night. We will all wake Christmas morning and witness the magic of Christmas through our children’s eyes. And what magic it is.

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My Christmas list has changed significantly over the years. I really only want two things: that my girls grow up understanding the true meaning of Christmas–the birth of Christ on that Holy Night that truly is the reason for the celebration, and that one day, they will share our family Christmas traditions with their own families, fondly remembering the warmth of Christmases past like I do.

Thankful for my kids–all of them

I didn’t get to go to my daughter’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and Feast Friday because…well, work.

You see, in education, employees aren’t allowed to take off the day before a holiday. And when do preschools and elementary schools plan their holiday parties? You got it- the day before a holiday break.

I waited to tell her—waited until she asked. All week, I knew it was coming. So Thursday, as I walked through the door from work, and she greeted me with glee shouting, “Mommy, tomorrow is my parade! You’re coming, right?” I wasn’t surprised in the least. Ugh. Dagger through the heart. Lump in the throat. Punch in the gut. It took everything within me not to give in to those big brown eyes and ignore the rules just this once so I could tell her what she wanted to hear, “Yes, of course I am coming! I wouldn’t miss it for the world!”

But that would’ve been a lie. I was going to miss it. And it didn’t even take the world to make that happen. So, instead, I swallowed that temptation and said softly, “No, baby, I can’t come. I wish I could, but I have to work.” Heartbreak furrowed her brow and rolled down her lip, so I quickly followed up with, “But Daddy will be there! And Mimi, too! Daddy is even cooking the turkey!” Her face grew slightly less devastated and she said, “Ok, Mommy” and walked away.

 

Being a parent is hard. Being a working parent is really hard. I don’t always get to be there. Moments like these make me wish I could give it all up so I could be there all the time. But I know that isn’t what I want either. I have a job for a reason. I love my job. I really do. Does it have its bad days? Of course. But it has its “change your world” days, too. Friday was one of those days.

As a teacher, I spend my days with other people’s children for eight hours Monday through Friday. 170 kids every year. I get to teach them how to read, write, and think critically about literature. I get to watch them rejoice when they finally grasp a new concept. I get to witness them pour their hearts and souls on pages of essays that reveal the incredible strength some of them possess.

In the process, I also get to show my daughter that women have purpose in the work field, and if she chooses to pursue a career with passion, there is no stopping her.

So, when I realized the obstacles present to attend her Thanksgiving Feast, I had to make a really hard choice. Something in my gut told me to go to work Friday. First of all, I am a rule follower. The thought of getting in trouble for a deliberate choice plagues my conscience with anxiety. Second of all, I respect my principal a whole heck of a lot. Taking off would be disobeying his authority and putting him in a tough spot, which I just won’t do. So I went to work.

As I turned the corner approaching my classroom, God showed me the real reason that little voice in the back of my mind was telling me to go to work. One of my seniors sat outside my classroom door.

Pause—Let me tell you about this kid. He spent most of last year by his dad’s hospital bed after working his tail off at school all day. Over the summer, he lost his dad to that long battle with illness. This kid inspires me. He is kind, compassionate, bright, optimistic, and genuine. Forever will this kid be in my heart.

Unpause—I walk up to him and ask what’s up. He says he needs to talk to me. He takes a folded paper from his backpack and follows me into my classroom. Here is the gist of what he said next:

Mrs. Thompson, yesterday the video about teachers being thankful for their students and vice versa really got me. When my dad was alive, he taught me to “trust the process.” He always said the worst part of being sick wasn’t the pain; it was knowing he wouldn’t be here to teach me lessons anymore. He wouldn’t get to see me graduate or see me off to college. But we had to “trust the process.” Today, I want you to know that my dad’s lessons are still with me and through people like you, they are carried on. I have to think the process brought me to your class. I am so thankful for you, so I wrote you this letter, but…it is blank because there are no words that could sufficiently express how thankful I am for you.

Wow—what an incredible young man. He had mustered up the courage and taken the time to tell me thank you. There were so many things I wanted to say to him, but all I could manage through my tears was, “Thank you. Your dad sure did an excellent job raising a remarkable young man.”

That, my friends is why God wanted me at work Friday. And that is why I do what I do. I get to come to work every day and MAKE A DIFFERENCE. Even when I have no idea the difference I am making. I get to meet kids like this one who make the world a better place and make me want to come to work every day.

I cannot tell you how many people have told me they don’t want their children to be teachers because they don’t make enough money or the education system is terrible or whatever their reason may be. And while they are right—I make half of what I should for the time and effort I put in, and yes, the education system is flawed— it doesn’t matter. What does matter are the children sitting in the desks in my classroom who feel loved because I have taken the time to know them and care about their education and their well-being. The children walking the hallways who go home to an empty house with no food, so school is their safe place. The children who come from sheltered homes who have never known heartache, but yearn to belong. The children who are caught in the middle of their parents’ fighting and anger only to be bounced back and forth from home to home like a ping-pong ball. The children who hide scars from hurting themselves thinking it might help them escape from the reality of their lives. The children who have experienced loss so great that they aren’t sure they can continue on, but see a light in a teacher like me who promises to listen if they need to talk or sit silently if they just need to be. Those are the reasons my job matters.

So yes, I missed my daughter’s Thanksgiving Feast, and it probably won’t be the last one I will have to miss. I received pictures of her all day from my sisters and husband who did attend the party. Just like these two:

 

And when work was over, I came home and showered her with love and affection, and taking a page from my student’s book, I told her I am thankful for her because she makes my life better. She reached into her pocket and pulled out a bag of candy, “Here Mommy, I saved this for you from the parade. I love you.” I think she is going to be just fine.

A lesson from my 4-year-old daughter

Parenting teaches you a lot of things. Like how much you value alone time. How to love unconditionally. What your own parents must’ve felt all the time. How to be overly specific in directions so that no confusion can be possible. Who am I kidding? That last one never happens. But nonetheless, just when you think you have reached adulthood and have all of this wisdom to impart upon the apples of your eye, BAM! They turn around and teach you more than you ever realized they would. This week has brought with it some particularly valuable lessons from my oldest, double-dose-of-independence-daughter, Aubrey.

Earlier this school year, Aubrey had pictures for PreK-4. Excited about the opportunity to dress up and smile pretty, she and I set out on a shopping adventure to find the perfect outfit. And perfect outfit we found- a teal green and white striped turtleneck swing dress with the cutest brown floral belt. She would top it off with her favorite pair of boots. Not only did she have the perfect outfit, she also had the chance to show off her new bob haircut. All was right with the world.

Fast forward one month to the day her pictures came home in her folder. We went out to eat that night as a family, so I had to wait until right before bedtime to see her pictures. I had seen all of her cousins’ beautiful pictures posted on Facebook, so I knew they were sitting at home in her backpack awaiting my oohs and aahs. Imagine my shock when I opened the folder to see the adorable smile I recognized, the perfect teal and white stripes on the turtleneck we had picked, and a foreign plaid headband I had not purchased for her nor planned as part of picture day holding her hair back from her face.

Confused by the added accessory, I called to her and asked why she wore the plaid headband in her picture.

“I wanted to, Mommy.”

Hmmm…okay.

Immediately, I called my sister to ask when retakes would occur. In my mind, she had to take new pictures as the plaid headband messed everything up. After all, I spent $40 on these pictures, and she would forever be remembered in the yearbook as the little girl who wore the headband that didn’t match her outfit…and she possibly stole (I’m still not sure where it came from).

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Now, let me pause for a second to add, she is absolutely beautiful in the picture- mismatched headband or not.  The part that posed difficulty for me was that she had added to our perfectly planned outfit- without asking me.

I think as a working mom, I experience guilt that I probably shouldn’t but do nevertheless. I leave every morning before she gets up and goes to school. We do hair and lay out clothes the night before, but sometimes bedhead happens, and I’m not there to fix it. Sometimes, I get caught up in working late and forget to check her folder, missing the announcement that she is responsible for snack this week, and our pantry is bare. I don’t take her to school or pick her up from school. Working moms often have to miss Thanksgiving parties and Christmas parades and Pumpkin Patch activities and field trips. This school picture was one more reminder that I don’t get to be there all the time.

As our family gathered this weekend as we so often do, the pictures came out and everyone loved Aubrey’s precious smile. What they loved even more was the story behind the headband- how totally Aubrey to find a way to add her own stylistic flair to what Mommy had planned for her. That’s when it hit me. I had been so caught up in the “imperfection” of the picture, I had failed to notice the statement my little one was making. She wanted to wear the headband, so she did. She didn’t give it a second thought. I was the problem in the equation, not her (or the headband).

 

Therefore, no retakes are in our near future. Her pictures are absolutely, perfectly Aubrey.

I would love to say that after this, I won’t stifle her independence ever again, but I don’t think I could make it through that statement with a straight face. However, I am working on it. I am working on understanding that everything doesn’t have to be “perfect” by some arbitrary standards all the time. If I stopped thinking about how many things aren’t “perfect,” I would realize just how many things are.

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