Last week I sat in the third row of a high school auditorium, palms sweating, heart racing. We were waiting for our little Maeve to take her seat on stage, to play and sing for an audience of her peers,their families and friends, her very own piece. Composed and performed by Maeve Gore. I couldn’t possibly have been more nervous for her, and when she walked onto the stage I wished I could give her just one more hug. One squeeze. One more “I love you, you’ll do so great.” But when I looked up there was her choir teacher adjusting the mic. And then that teacher did the just right thing, a little shoulder squeeze. “You’ll do so great.” My shoulders relaxed just a bit, and Maeve sang her little heart out.
This morning I watched my once anxious little boy saunter up the path at drop off. He didn’t look back. He wasn’t afraid. He has confidence now, and I don’t get credit for putting it there. The credit goes to other women. Those who have worked with him in small, almost imperceptible ways, the women who have made him feel that he is home when he is away from me, that he is welcome, and always loved.
There’s Miss P, who greets the children at their cars. She knows every child by name, siblings too. She knows what’s going on within every family, whose birthday it is, who might need a little extra help making their way up that path. And she’ll always compliment your new shoes. For the longest time Huey wouldn’t look her in her face, but she persisted. Today he gave her a hug.
And Miss J, who greets her kids each day with a wide smile, who expertly puts parents at ease as she ushers frightened babies into their new classroom. Who spends six hours a day with those babies guiding them through to kidhood. She mediates endless conflicts, teaches them to clean up their mess, put on their shoes, write their names. She’s there to congratulate them on their accomplishments. “Look at that fish you traced!” She’s the woman you want on their side. She’ll be there when the are hurt, especially the hurts that are not visible. And at the end of the three years she’ll smile through tears as those children walk out of her life, even as they take little pieces of her heart with them.
There’s my sweet friend Miss E, who gets up before her shift to teach children across the ocean how to speak english. And who spends eight hours a day in the company of the smallest friends you can have. She writes gorgeous lesson plans, pats ten little backs to sleep, wipes raw noses, and encourages disgruntled toddlers to eat their lunch. For this she as no health insurance and inadequate pay.
These are the givers. These are the people who deserve all the respect. Their lives are messy, like yours and mine. But they show up every day for our kids. These are a handful of the dozens of incredible individuals who have helped me raise up my children, of the millions throughout the world. These are the preschool teachers, the administrators, the substitutes. They are the speech therapists, the public school teachers, the special ed. teachers. Each one of them come to work every day to hold the too short days of childhood as sacred and vital. Now at the end of the school year, as we pack our bags and travel trailers, I think it’s important to pause and thank these very special people. We have absolutely no idea what we would do without you.