Being embraced by others is sometimes a challenge for me. I want to guard and protect and hide my needs until I am certain that all that my family brings can be handled. I am more often aware of all that I “need to” embrace, and yet I find that being embraced requires more vulnerability than I sometimes want to have.
Becoming a mother catapulted me into a new level of anxiety, and although there are many things that I take in stride, there are still a few that stir a feeling deep inside that is quieted only by time and experience.
Choosing a school for my oldest son was anxiety producing. I attended a private, Christian school for the first thirteen years of my education. My husband attended public school. We both loved our respective experiences. Making a choice that seemed right for our son did not come easily but when it was time to decide, we chose a small public school within our district.
Prior to starting kindergarten, we had psychological testing for our then five year old that was somewhat inconclusive. Regardless, the results proved valuable to us as they validated that he did not have a neurotypical brain, and we began to look with open eyes at the differences that made life challenging for him. When he was entering school, we chose to give him every opportunity to show us what he could do on his own.
There was one kindergarten teacher, and she was a perfect fit for our little guy. She knew him and loved him, which was obvious the first time she told us that she absolutely loved his sense of style. Mr. Eclectic has a lot to say when he gets dressed, any time of day. She even pulled off calling him Mr. Grumpy Pants with affection, an invitation for him to smile and remember he was okay.
Our son had a great school year, for which we were very thankful, but we began to grow concerned about the increasing meltdowns that would happen when he was home and in a comfortable environment. Towards the end of his kindergarten year, I asked my six year old if he knew which first grade teacher he was hoping to have for the following year.
“Ms. T”, he responded. Her class of first graders was reading buddies for his kindergarten class, and he had decided that she was the only teacher that he wanted. I considered a trip to the principal’s office to see if I could make his request happen but as I sat with my thoughts, I decided to trust what I knew to be true. Though our son’s kindergarten teacher would be leaving at the end of the year, we knew that she would be making recommendations for the following year based on what she knew to be true about each and every kiddo she taught, and we trusted that whoever was the right fit would be the teacher chosen.
Needless to say, our first grade teacher had big shoes to fill. We were thrilled when we found out that our incoming first grader was getting the teacher he hoped for. Still I had anxieties. We learned our son would have only one “friend” in the class, and we started to feel concerned again about the year ahead. We knew that friendships were a struggle and were still unsure how he would feel when most of the kids he had befriended were in another class. We also were unsure how his classroom behavior would be if he knew a lot of the other kids in the class, so we chose to trust again that all would be okay.
During the first parent/teacher conference, our concerns were silenced as the teacher began to share with us all the unique ways that she knew our son. I imagine that she did it for everyone that day, but for us, it was a turning point. It was that moment when we realized, come what may this year, we had a found a safe person to mold, shape, and care for our little guy.
The year has had it’s challenges, and as the school year ends, I reflect with gratitude for Ms. “T”. Thank you for being you. Thank you for listening when we talked about our nights and weekends with meltdowns and outbursts and for organizing a group of people to listen and create a safer school environment. Thank you for creatively knowing when to provide accommodations that would allow success and respite instead of disciplining what appeared to be behavior problems.
Thank you for partnering with us as we rocked our seven year old’s world by removing gluten, dairy, and refined sugars. Your honesty about your own dietary needs gave me hope and connection at a time when I felt overwhelmed and hopeless. Thank you for knowing our son and for naming what is true. Your insight in the classroom provided clues for the neuropsychologist that we were unable to provide.
Thank you for being a kind and open soul. Some may say that you were only doing your job. Well, let it be known that by doing your job, you have enriched our lives, and we are forever grateful.
Bethany Cabell is a Texas transplant, residing in Michigan with her husband and their two young boys. A lover of beauty, she lives life chasing after wide-open spaces: sharing her heart with others, in relationship with Jesus, and through music and photography. She tells her story here.