soar

The Challenge of Teaching Our Children To Soar

I’m struggling with the challenge of teaching our children to soar. I think about it every day, way too often than is healthy. I think about it at home, at work, and when I’m alone in my writing room, trying to clear my thoughts and start the day.

“The light here leaves you lonely, fading as does the dusk that takes too long to arrive. By morning the mountain moving a bit closer to the sun. This valley belongs to no one—except birds who name themselves by their songs in the dawn. What good are wishes, if they aren’t used up…”

I wake up early every day, determined to clear my mind and write down my gratitudes. That’s the only way I can make it out of bed, the only way I can face the day surrounded by eager minds and developing humans. I sip coffee, make breakfast, and give him a fleeting hug as my boy heads out the door of his senior year.
I watch the sunrise, glowing pinkish orange over the rooftops across the street. I’ve lived in this house longer than any other place. I’ve birthed my children here, hosted their birthday parties, cooled their fevered bodies and hugged away tears. I’ve cried my own, plenty of times, wondering if I was going in the right direction, over-contemplating when to push and when to pull back.
“We guess at what’s next unlike the mountain who knows it in the bones, a music too high to scale…”
I’ve always wondered why parenting came without a handbook. When I first started teaching, long before I was a mom, I scoffed when parents asked ME for advice – what did I know? I was 23, inexperienced and armed with gut instinct and life experience. I taught by intuition, a bit of training, and copious amounts of courage. I stumbled, I failed, and I succeeded every once in awhile in showing my students how much I cared.
And then parenting happened to me, and I began to see the real challenge of teaching our children to soar.
“Black like an eye bruised night brightens by morning, yellow then grey—a memory. What the light was like. All day the heat a heavy, colored coat. I want to lie
down like the lamb—down & down till gone—shorn of its wool. The cool of setting & rising in this valley, the canyon between us shoulders our echoes. Moan, & make way…”
I wasn’t one of those girls who dreamed about mothering – or teaching. I escaped in books, in quiet, in pushing me back and feeling my way through the maze of young adulthood. I graduated, I got a job, and got married. I had children.
My son told me the other day that he learned in his Psychology class that we either parent exactly like we were parented, or we rebel and parent differently. I’ve never really consciously thought about it, but it makes sense. We look for the light, for the way through the tunnels and towards the joy. When our children are small, we challenge them to soar in the direction of their dreams, all the while keeping hold of the kite string of connection. We’re there to clean up-pick up-wrap up-hold up whatever they stumble on and lift them up with pride when they jump.
My kids taught me how to soar. They somehow made mostly good choices and learned from their mistakes. So have I.
“What you want—Nobody, or nothing fills our short journeying. Above even the birds, winging heavenward, the world is hard to leave behind or land against—must end. I mean to make it. Turning slow beneath our feet, finding sun, seen from above, this world looks like us—mostly salt, dark water…”
When Lily left for college I knew it was the right thing, but I wasn’t sure I would make it. She didn’t waver about her decision, and despite the total chaos happening at the time, she jumped into her new adventure. I, on the other hand, didn’t. It was hard to leave behind the idea of hands-on parenting; realizing that this time she was on her own, soaring, dipping and diving 650 miles away without me watching. My brain and heart duked it out daily, agonizing in isolation while she figured out how to be on her own.  I couldn’t quite reconcile how to shift from full-time to no-time parenting with her, and thinking about how to avoid smothering the one child left at home. Time pulsed on, somersaulting me through the next four years.
Until now.
“I chase the quiet round the house. Soon the sound—wind wills its way against the panes. Welcome the rain. Welcome the moon’s squinting into space. The trees bow like priests. The storm lifts up the leaves. Why not sing.”
This senior year is different. There aren’t any track meets to cheer at, or piano recitals or prom parties. This child is testing his wings before closing the door on high school. He glides in and out of the house, ‘adulting’ and reveling in being 18.
He makes his own dentist appointments.  He can write his own notes to excuse school absences. He doesn’t even need me at the doctor anymore.
Sometimes I’m not quite sure how I’m doing in this challenge. Teaching our children to soar is as unique as a snowflake landing on my sleeve; I’m struggling to notice every exquisite detail before it disappears into the memory banks of parenting. I’m watching my students navigate starting high school and time management. They’re practicing independence from their parents and their teachers, caught up in the backdrop of school shootings and anxiety and wondering if they really even matter.
The challenge of teaching our children to soar rises up with the dawn and ebbs, but never entirely leaves. I usher in the dusk of the evening from my desk or behind the handlebars of my bike, trying to transition – but never quite feeling I’m there. The parenting storm shifts the leaves underfoot, swirls and tangles my hair as I smile.
Maybe the real challenge of teaching our children to soar is teaching myself.
poem excerpts from Book of Hours BY KEVIN YOUNG Source: Poetry (November 2007)

 

 

primark

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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embrace change

Being Brave Enough To Embrace Change

“Just where you are – that’s the place to start” ~ Pema Chodron

The next six months are a countdown in my life – or a count up, depending on how I look at it. That’s the issue right there, actually: am I brave enough to embrace change?

Ever since Lily went away to college Cam has been watching me – aware of my shifting focus from her to him, noticing my changing routines, a slight twist towards examining myself as the mom of a college kid, and as a result of his observant mom-study, he declared that he “realized how hard I took it when Lily left, so he needs to start preparing me now.”

Way to play on my anxieties, kid.

I suppose in his wisdom there’s some truth to his strategy. I DID take it hard – I knew it was coming, I tried to prepare, but it wasn’t until I was sitting in her convocation freshman year that I could start to verbalize what I was feeling.

I don’t expect a repeat next August when Cam moves across the country. Yes- he’s moving to Boston, just about as far as he could go from California. He was accepted early decision to his dream school, and without hesitation, he committed. Done deal, he’s going.

Early decision is kind of nice, except for the fact that instead of starting my empty next visualization in May with most of the other parents-of-seniors, he kindly gave me five extra months of it.

The silver lining? It made choosing my mantra for 2018 quite simple: EMBRACE CHANGE.

embrace changeI’ve been procrastinating on actually writing about the impending change for months. I guess that’s a strategy – avoidance, right? If I don’t think about it, it won’t happen…except, he’s 18 and reminding me daily that he’s an adult and that I should get used to it. As the days pass, he’s less and less patient with me, and I’m finding myself more and more often in my upstairs writing perch, candles lit, gazing out the window and wondering if I’m actually brave enough to break my own heart….as a mother.

Now logically, I know there’s no choice. My heart will break a little more each day, the cracks carefully covered with smiles and hugs and making his favorite meals. I’ll play along with the ‘when I”m in Boston’ talk, and remind him that roommates don’t like people who leave their wet towels on the floor. I’ll grin when he comes in for a hug now and then, and compliment him when his room looks clean and he goes out of his way to fill the gas tank. I’ll be grateful that he texts me from his girlfriend’s house, and rest easy knowing that at least her parents are getting to see what a nice young man he’s becoming during all the free time he spends hanging out with them, not us.

And I’ll let go of what’s no longer serving me – the story of all the things I thought I would do when he was little, the trips we never took, the books I never read aloud. I’ll let go of all that part that tells me what I should have done…and try to hang on to what I did.

I was recently listening to Cheryl Strayed talk about her writing and her reflections on motherhood, and she shared a story about making decisions as a mother that really resonated with me. No one prepares us for motherhood; we do the best we can with what we have, and hope that everything turns out ok. Along the way, we learn to navigate the rough patches, smooth the hurt feelings and wipe away the tears.

She reminded me of one of the most important lessons that motherhood has taught me: to do things that scare me and to let my kids do them, too. Making decisions for our children is a hard habit to break, even when we’ve been practicing for years. Sometimes when I tell other parents that my kids both chose colleges outside of California they tell me that they would never let their kids move so far away. I hear all sorts of excuses, but really, all I can think is how could I forgive myself if I never let them fly?

I have to be honest – I KNOW I’m brave enough to embrace change. I’m sure I will survive. I made it through Cam’s adventures at the ski academy, and Lily moving to Utah. I know that like all those other times when I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to have a child that was any older than they were at that exact moment – that just like then, I’m going to find that with change comes joy just on the other side. With change comes a new opportunity to push away what isn’t working and amplify what is.

I wear my mantras on my wrist, daily reminders of the words I promise myself. Courage. Trust the journey. Be here now. And now, embrace change. I trace my fingers over the letters, I twist and bend and alter their position but always, always the words are right there to remind me that yes, I am here and yes, I can.

Being brave enough to embrace change isn’t easy – but it’s worth it. I’m going to trust in that.

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Why Safe Prom Transportation Matters

Let’s face it, it’s a lot different being a teenager in this day and age than five or ten years ago. As parents, we do our best to catch up, but it can definitely be challenging! One of the most highlighted periods in a teenager’s life is the event of prom. It’s a time to dress up, celebrate with friends, and reflect on the upcoming graduation ceremony that they’ve anticipated since a child. Teens often spend months preparing for this specific event, and it approaches a lot quicker than you’d expect.

One of the things needed for the prom experience is prom transportation. While it’s tempting to gather your son or daughters group into your SUV or minivan and drive them yourself, it’s doubtful that they’ll be looking forward to that. The reality is that most school dance attendees look for a party bus or limousine rental to get the group from the pick up site to the picture destination, the dance, and back home.

prom transportation

If you’ve never reserved specialty Sacramento Transportation before this, it’s challenging to figure out who to trust. After all, you don’t want to send your children off with a company who holds little regard for safety precautions or supervision. A great party bus or limo rental business will work with you as a parent to provide exceptionally safe, supervised prom transportation. It’s a great relief to be able to put your trust into a local company!

prom transportation

Be sure to ask potential companies if you’re able to come view the vehicle beforehand. This is a great way to separate the good from the bad, as companies who don’t actually own their vehicles will shy away from the question. Many people are unaware that local transport businesses source their employees through schools, so the chauffeurs often already have experience dealing with rowdy teenage crowds. In the end, you’ll be viewed as one of the coolest parents around town for preparing this type of travel for their prom!

This post was sponsored by Sacramento Limo Bus. Photo by Caitlyn Wilson on Unsplashprom transportation

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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This is Sixteen- Happy Birthday to My Boy

sixteen
sixteen and six

Yesterday he turned 16. I woke up early and made sure the house was festive, turning on the birthday lights and making French toast in the dark. I waited. Finally, with 15 minutes to spare, he emerged dressed and ready for school. He gulped down his breakfast, opened his cards and left. He’s 16 years old.

I texted him at exactly 11:47 a.m., telling him I was so, so glad he was born and that I loved him. He’s 16 years old – I got no response.

I kept teaching. I accidentally wrote 9-18-99 on the board. My students, confused, shook me back to the present-16 years later.

Eventually I gave up texting and called his phone, old-school style. I heard laughter and skateboard wheels grinding, and his voice sounded like he was having fun. He said he didn’t know his plan-sounds like sixteen.

I rushed home to start the five pounds of chicken in the slow-cooker; he wanted soft tacos, and sixteen-year-olds like to eat. I needed to be ready. Even though it’s Friday night, they would skate by the house, making a pit stop on the way to the first football game of the year. At 4:34 I texted, “Any idea when you guys might be here to eat?” “IDK,” was his reply.

It’s 6:42, and no skaters in sight. “Dinner is ready,” I sent.

7:26. “Where r u?” went out to the ethers.

7:45. I gave up and called. Voice mail. Damn iPhone battery. Called his buddy; the crowd cheering in the background. We’re close enough to hear it out our windows, too. No pit stop after all. Maybe later.

We ate without him. 16-year-old birthday party for two.

sixteen camera
Where he’s happiest

The clack of his board skating down the street woke me. 10:15? How could I have dozed off that early? He smiled as I opened the front door. “Want some tacos?” I asked, trying to remain festive. It’s his birthday, after all.

“Yeah, I’m starving. Sorry-the guys had to go home after the game. Smells amazing in here, though. I had such an awesome day, Mom. Ryan took me out for lunch, then after school we skated and hung out and…I love high school, Mom. I had a great birthday. Thank you.”

“You’re welcome, bud.” I stood on my tiptoes to kiss that sunggle spot just below his chin. His sixteen-year-old cheek, no longer soft and chubby, absorbed my nuzzle. His arms wrapped around me, hugging me close.

“Happy sixteen, bud. I love you.” Releasing his arms, he smiled as he walked down the hallway, humming to himself as he closed the bedroom door.

“I love you too, Mom,” he replied, just before it clicked shut.

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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It’s The Last Day of School – So Why Aren’t My Students Leaving?

It’s always a minimum day schedule on the last day of school, making it super hard to get anything done (yes, they want us to teach up until the last bell), as well as to have a moment to breathe, to be present, to process what is going on.

The last day of school is about both endings and beginnings. It’s a celebration and a sniffle of what we’re leaving behind. It’s more than just hurry up, get inside, close the door, sign yearbooks and you’re off.

For me, the end of the school year is bittersweet. Even after 25 years of teaching middle school, I still have yet to leave the last day dry-eyed.

My classroom starts to feel like my home away from home, I guess.

Some years it’s worse than others. I’ve had years where the tears flowed from before the first bell even rang, until long after the kids (or most of them) left for their summer vacation.

This year was both usual and unusual.

This year the tears started at home, in my bathroom, when my friend Estherlyn texted me this photo of our boys at the end of 6th grade:

ready for 7th grade!

They were full of excitement, ready to tackle the adventure of ‘junior high’ for the next three years.

And now, three years later, my tears came as I thought of all the happiness, disappointment, joy, laughter and growth they’ve experienced. I thought of the classes and report cards and homework, the basketball games, the sleepovers and dances and the lunches in my room. I thought about how they’ve managed to stay close, and how much I would miss their faces next September.

And I thought of how they’ve grown in to young men and are so ready for 10th grade.

Not a great way to start a frantic day of goodbyes and thank yous.

I made it through most of my classes-they moved too fast to allow myself to sink into sadness. We had papers to collect, “The Diary of Anne Frank” to finish watching (yes, I do end the year with the Holocaust-but remember, Anne says, “No matter what, I still believe people are good at heart.” It’s uplifting, really).

I made it through the start of each class, thanking them for this community and for doing their best. I reminded my ‘kids’ of how hard they’ve worked, how their struggles have turned them into strong thinkers and readers and writers, and assured them that they were well prepared and ready for high school.

I think they believed me. I meant every word I said.

Except they don’t know the real reason I show a sad movie on the last day is another teacher trick for hiding my tears.

I received some beautiful notes and thank yous, some cookies and  gift cards and hugs. I could feel the tears right there, but I was holding it together. Bell rings, we talk, we watch, bell rings, they go. It’s like a well oiled machine.

And then the last period of the day was upon me, my struggling readers who I’ve encouraged and cheered and danced with (can you do the nae-nae? I can!) and  read with and tried to help them get to grade level. These kids hold such a special place in my heart. The tears are close…but in this class, we must celebrate! Cue Selena and dance!

And then suddenly the 9th graders started streaming in from the room across the hall. Kids I’d known since kindergarten, when their hair was neatly combed and backpacks proudly balanced on their shoulders. Kids that had spent the last three years eating lunch in my room, loving having a place to call ‘home’.

teacher thank you cards

They handed me a thank you card, and I made the mistake of opening it in front of them. You see, when teachers don’t open gifts in front of their students there’s a reason – it makes them cry. And it’s usually an ugly cry, and the kids usually don’t know what to do.

Cue ugly cry.

The card said ‘thanks for always letting us stay in your room (or at your house)’ and ‘you’re like a second mom to me’ and ‘without you our lunches wouldn’t have been nowhere near as great as they were’.

I honestly had no idea it meant so much to them.

And somewhere in there the last bell rang, we watched them stream out into summer and I closed the door on the last day of school. The quiet was eerie. The room was a mess. I breathed deeply.

And the door burst open.

A line of 11 gangly, sweaty, smiling 9th graders entered one by one, big arms wrapping around me. The tears streamed all over again with loose abandon. There was no card or cookies, just huge, grateful smiles covering up a bit of nervousness, as one by one they piled in and said thanks, my son at the end of the line.

“Thanks for having such great friends, Cam,” I whispered as he hugged me, his head towering over mine.

The next thing I knew it was lollipops and selfies and sharing moments from the last three years.

9th grade selfie

They didn’t leave. I didn’t want them to leave. None of us quite knew what to do. I wondered if they knew how much they mean to me – how much joy they brought when they were tiny little 7th graders watching the big kids with wonder in their eyes. Do they know the joy I felt when Cam was away at boarding school in 8th grade, and they still came to my room every day? I wonder if they felt the gratitude I had each lunchtime when they would flop their big 9th grade bodies on my beanbags, pull out their food and homework and Tech Decks and just be themselves?

And suddenly, the hugs started again. The tears, the smiles, the joy oozing up from inside.

The last day of school isn’t only the final day of classes – it’s the final day of this community, this place of being together. This home away from home.

This is why I teach. This is why I’ll be back again next year.

This is why they call me mamawolfe.

last day of school - mamawolfe

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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