A Resounding Yes

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Ah, the last week of school.

Am I excited for summer?  Yep!  Absolutely!  I won’t have to wake my sleeping little children up and race out of the house to make it to daycare and then to a 7:30 meeting.  I won’t have to race all day and then come home too tired to make dinner or play with my kids.  I’ll get to be a stay-at-home mom for a few months.  I might get to read a few books!

Oh, and I’ll get to go to the bathroom whenever I need to!  There will be swimming and piano lessons and sun and day trips, and picnics in the park.

But…when the end of the school year finally comes, my emotions start to turn into waves.  They go way high up there, “Woohoo!  I can stay up past 9:30 p.m.!” and then way down there, “But, what about (insert kid’s name)?  Will he have enough to eat?  And I know (insert kid’s name) isn’t going to read a single book this summer.  And will (insert kid’s name) be able to get to his dad’s house to go fishing?  Because that’s what he wants the most!”

Today, a boy I have in class was walking past me in the hall on the way to pick up his milk carton, and then he turned, walked right up to me, unsolicited, and gave me a giant hug.  Usually I have time to do a “side” hug (I don’t need to end up on a Lifetime Movie, yo), or a quick pat on the shoulder, but he HUGGED me.  It was a bear hug.  And then he looked up at me and said, “I wish you were my mom.”

I just…I can’t even explain how that feels.  To know that this little boy loves me so much and I know that he’s hugging me because I’ve made some kind of a difference in his life and he is sad that school is ending.

The thing is…this isn’t the first time I’ve been told this.  And, really, I usually think, “Well, kid, you don’t even know what it’s like to live with me at home, you actually get a better me than my kids do!”

It really makes me wonder.  I stay much more calm at school with my school kids than I do with my own kids.  I have more patience.  I am probably even a lot more fun, and I’m definitely funnier.  They probably really do get a better me than my own kids do, if we’re talking about personality and patience.

I know that it’s easy for me to guess and say things like, “Ugh, his mom must not let him know that she loves him.  His mom must forget to say I love you.  His mom must….”

But, you guys, I don’t know that.  He might not be saying that he wishes for me as a mom because his mom is bad.  It could just be his way of saying, “You mean something to me.”  I mean, if one of my children told their teacher that, or someone else, I would definitely NOT want to know, because it would kill me on the inside.  Well, maybe not kill me, but it would make me feel sad, I’m sure.

It just really makes me think: about my job and my responsibilities, and about my job as a mom, and about the pressure of trying to do it all the right way.

The pressure is intense.  As my own children get older, I have had to stop doing so much school work at home.  And since I don’t really have time to do it at school either, it just doesn’t get done.  Gone are the days of homemade treats for my students with cute little sayings, or home-made games that I cut out myself.  Gone are the lengthy, lengthy comments I’d make on their work, and so many of the positive e-mails I used to send home.

It’s as though one thing has to give for the other to get.  And when the boy said, “I wish you were my mom,” I wondered…have I let the mom part slip again?  How can I do this all the right way?  Who am I letting down?

On one hand, I’m so glad to be home with my babies (who are 6 and 4, but I still call them babies), but I feel the let-down of the kids at school that depend on me.  They depend on me (us) for so much!  Some of them, no, most of them will have a GREAT summer full of fun and laughter and memories.  And some will….not.

Some will be lonely, and bored, and hungry.  And maybe even worse.

So, there I’ll be, on the last day as we line up and wave good-bye to the buses, with tears streaming down my face because it’s another year that has slipped by me. Another year where I just wonder, “Did I give it my best?”

But here’s the thing:

The answer to that has to be a resounding yes.  Yes, I gave it my best.  Yes, I’m writing this blog post, but my kids are right in front of me, playing in the fresh air.  They are happy . They are loved.  My students know I would do anything for them and I tried to give them the best year possible.  I’ve got to go with this, and move forward, because there is no sense in standing here beating myself up about it.

We’ve got this, you guys.

Give yourself a resounding yes.

Teachers don’t do the job for the thanks!

My husband and I have talks ALL the time about money.  It’s usually like this:

Him:  We don’t have any money.

Me:  Um, ok.  Sorry.

LOL.

It’s usually my fault.  But also…

The other day, my husband asked me if I could stop at the grocery store and pick up a few supplies he needed for a school event.

The next night, he told me he needed to run to the store to get candy for his classroom.

Last week, he bought us ink for our printer, but we never print anything except for things for school.

He stopped at the gas station today to get a soda and candy bar for a struggling kid-he had made a bet with him and lost (which was good-he wanted the kid to win because it meant he got his work done) and picked it up on his way in.

And you know what, you guys?  Not a single person said thank you.

Yesterday, at Target, I bought 5 new boxes of pencils because we weren’t going to make it to the end of the year.

And no one said thank you.

This year, I had 4th and 5th grade students come in my room every Wednesday to write their novels.  I gave up my prep-time every single Wednesday.  Then my co-worker and I threw them a party to read their stories and bought them pizza

And I didn’t do it for the thank you.

Along with a co-worker, I planned, auditioned, and will run a talent show for my entire elementary school, like I have done for a million years.  I gave up tons of my prep-time (which is already non-existent because of meetings) to plan, and worked on it at home as well.

And besides a few co-workers and my boss, no one said thank you.

This year I have bought deodorant, snacks, toothbrushes and toothpaste, a pair of gym shoes, and schools supplies for my students.

Nope, not a thank you.

This school year I gave a student the Heimlich.

(I actually got a thank-you card for this from the superintendent, but you know, otherwise, no thank-you)

I bought fidgets for my classroom, and parents wondered if I could get different ones.  I got asked why the writing party was so short.  I was asked, could I order a separate pizza for their kid who prefers thin crust (um, no).  I got asked if their kid was a great speller, why didn’t they make the spelling bee?

And most of this?  Most of it NO ONE KNEW ABOUT.  And that, my friends, is the way we like it.  This is not just me-this is every teacher in my entire school.  This is every teacher in your child’s school, too.  I mean, sure, it’s nice to be recognized.  But, that’s not why we do it.

You guys: teachers don’t do this job for the thanks.

We don’t do this job for the recognition.  We don’t do it to be thanked, or rewarded, or applauded.  My principal, and the parents in my classroom-they do an amazing job letting me do that they appreciate me.  I like that.  But it’s still not why I do it.

true teacher knows that their job is to inspire, and motivate.  We know that we are certainly not perfect, and we are definitely only human, but we do whatever we can to help kids.  We LOVE kids.  It’s so much more than curriculum and labels and data and meetings.

What we know is that these are children’s lives that we are fighting for.  And so we don’t need them to thank us.  We don’t even need their parents to thank us.  We don’t need other teachers or administrators to notice us and recognize our efforts.

We don’t need that, because we see it right there in the children’s eyes.

Their grateful hearts are hungry for knowledge, and love, and understanding.  They are excited for enrichment and support and scaffolding.  They may never say any of it with words, but we know it’s there.  And that?

That is enough.

Sometimes I get down. Sometimes I wonder why in the world I do it all.  I know I’m not alone, though-I know that in every house in my neighborhood, people are busting tail, working hard to finish something that they will never, ever be thanked for.  Teachers are the tip of the iceberg.

There are people EVERYWHERE giving everything they’ve got, and getting practically nothing in return.

But, you know what?  This is how we need to live our lives.  We need to do what we know is good and right and true, even when people don’t deserve it sometimes.  We do it, even though people aren’t grateful.  We do it anyway.  We do stuff for people that they wouldn’t do for us.  We do things for those who will never, ever be able to repay us, or even thank us.

We’ve got this.  Keep on keepin’ on, yo.

p.s. I mean, also, you should probably go write a thank-you card or an e-mail to somebody who is super awesome, just because now it’s on your mind that nobody gets thanked for anything.

We were on a break

This weekend, I took a Facebook break.  I just peeked for the first time since Friday afternoon, and after 3 minutes I was over it, so I logged right back out.

I honestly hate how it pulls me in.  I have no ability to self-regulate when it comes to social media.  I mean, part of that is I am writing this book and I am trying SO HARD to grow my Facebook audience to convince an agent to take me on.  My chances of that happening are approximately .006 %, but I’m not one to give up before I get started. So, I spend a lot of time trying to make my life relatable and make people laugh and help people see who I am.

But, mostly, I just get sucked in, and not in a good way.  I am constantly (over)analyzing people’s interactions.  For example, I notice when you don’t like my post, but like someone else’s.  I notice that my extended family members never comment on my posts, which in my mind, equates to: I don’t love you/you have done something to make me angry.  Brian and I both have families who are close with some of their family, but not us.  We see when they get together for holidays and we’re not there.  I notice when there is a baby shower and I haven’t been invited.

It hurts, and I think I would rather not know.  Is it really true, that what you don’t know doesn’t hurt you?  Some of my closest friends haven’t even taken the time to hit, “like” on my blog Facebook page.  I notice.  I wish I didn’t.

I have scoured the Internet, researching what it would take to get my memoir traditionally published.  The biggest thing I can find is that when you are a non-fiction writer, you need a “platform.”  Basically, I need an audience that they think will buy my book.  I’m not sure I’m actually on board with this theory, because I could have 800,000 followers and none of them could actually think I’m worth money.  Facebook is free, it’s low-risk.  I guess it’s not really my choice!

Anyway, I’m to the point where I actually think it’s a better decision for me to be done with social media.  Will I miss seeing what my friends are up to?  Yes.  Will I miss sharing my life and my children’s lives with my friends?  Totally!  But, I’m starting to think it’s just better for me emotionally to hide over here in my corner and not know what’s happening.

On the other hand, I have met so many amazing people through the Internet.  I love meeting new people, and it’s so much easier for me to write than it is for me to be face-to-face, and to be completely honest—I feel closer to some of my online friends than I do to some acquaintances in real life!

I seriously don’t know if I’m totally alone in this (y’all are probably like, girl, go get some therapy!) but I will sit and wonder, “What did I do to my/my husband’s family that they just totally stopped interacting with us altogether?”  We’re not invited for holidays, our kids don’t know any of them.  Sure, we live far away from some of them, but now that our kids are a little older, we’d be happy to travel to see them.

But they don’t.  And we don’t. And so we never see them and time goes by and if we do see them, it’s awkward.  I want it to be different for my own kids, but it won’t be.  So, maybe it’s better if we just don’t know.

I also have this weird fantasy that by the time my daughter is in middle school, everyone will be just kind of “over” social media and instead of being able to see Facebook in our retina scans, we’ll decide to go back to the way we were.  I can still totally text my pictures to people, or put them on an old-school Shutterfly page.

So, what’s up with you guys and social media?  Do you love it?  Can you live without it?  Do you hate it sometimes like me?  Anybody else ready to be done?

 

Letting Go (of everything)

I can’t do it, you guys.

I’m so serious.  I can’t let go. I hold onto things.  Well, not actual things, I’m really good at getting rid of those.  I’m a chronic de-clutterer.

But, the other kind of things?  I hoooooold on.  Like, I sometimes still think about the time in 4th grade that my bff decided to move out of my locker, and she moved into someone else’s locker, and they put a sign on the outside that said, “No Christy Allowed Here.”

I also still think about the time in college when my boyfriend had just dumped me, and I was actually also kinda in love with someone else who didn’t really love me back, and so I drank A LOT of boone’s farm and made out with someone who I had gone to high school with.  I’m not a drinker; not even in college.  I rarely ever got to the point of intoxicated, and now, really never.  But whenever I mess up, I internalize it until…well, until forever.  I know it’s not really that big of a deal, many of you (come on, admit it) made out with a lot of randoms, right?  (I’m going to keep telling myself that).

The worst part is that I still just cannot accept the fact that I can’t make everyone like me or want to be my friend.  We recently had a situation at my work that kind of pitted some people against each other.  I did what we all do; I tried to stand up for what I believe is right.  I truly believe the people on “the other side” did that too, for the most part.  I have no animosity there.  But, I practically can’t live with myself at work.  I walk around, knowing (or at least assuming) that there are people that hate me, because of something I did.  Or they think I did.  Or they were told I did, even if it’s not true.

so wish I had that attitude where I could just say, “Screw it.  I don’t need everyone to like me!”  I keep waiting for it to come, as I get older.  It’s…ah…not quite here yet, and I turn 36 this month.  I swear, I try.  I do.  I’ve reflected, I’ve been told that I need to just buck up, get more assertive, not care, move on, remember that I can’t please everyone.

I swear, too, I’m in the WORLD’S WORST PROFESSION for this kind of…insecurity?  Is that what it is?  I don’t even know.  Teachers have SO many critics.  Honestly, some parents expect their child’s teacher to be so perfect that they’re actually not human.  I still carry bad feelings from my very first teaching job.  I can remember every criticism I’ve ever gotten from a parent.

And, you know, it makes me realize that most of the times parents were upset, it was about something that I couldn’t control (Why do you even teach French? This is so stupid!  Can my kid just take Spanish twice?) or an issue that we just couldn’t agree on.  I’m totally ok with parents disagreeing with me.  Above all, the student is their child.  I get that.  But, I love those kids almost like they are my own, and it hurts me when parents don’t take note that even if I mess up, or even if they disagree with me, whatever I’m doing it’s because I truly think it’s the best.  I’m not the teacher that just shows up and gives work.  Our class is our family!

Things I know:

I am not perfect.

Nobody is perfect.

It’s ok if not everyone agrees with me.

It’s ok if not everyone likes me.

Some people think I’m annoying.

Some people think I’m loud.

Some people think I’m funny.  Some do not.

But…all of it scrapes along with me, like a canoe scraping along the too-shallow part of the river.  I carry along with me all the friendships that have dwindled along the way.  I even carry along the friendships that haven’t just dwindled, that have just completed halted due to one reason or the other (mostly reasons that I don’t know about, because I sit and replay things and I wonder).

I want to learn to let go.  I don’t need to carry along with me every mistake I have ever made.  I can’t live my life worrying SO MUCH about what people think.  Do I like everyone, even when they try?  Absolutely not!  I need to stop trying to be the one person that never messes up.  That has no “enemies.”

One last thing: I probably need to delete my Facebook account because when people unfriend me I seriously need to know WHY.  Also, on my um, you guys page today, I went down a follower.  Is it because I said butt?

Anyway, what do you have for me?  Do you feel like this, too?  If not, what have you done to move past?

Lessons from a 4th grade science fair

  1.  Nobody in our entire school will have to go through life NOT knowing which liquid a gummy bear will absorb the most.  #blessed
  2. You can actually do a science fair project from start to finish in about 60 minutes, and that includes speeding to the dollar store for a display board right before the presentations start.  #thankgoodnessforhelpfulteachers
  3. I now know that no one in my class can pronounce “carbon dioxide.”
  4. Berries stay the freshest when you put them in tupperware, but you can still eat them on day 10, when they have “just a little mold” and they’ll taste “pretty ok.”
  5. If you ever want your eggs to float, you need a LOT of salt.  A LOT.
  6. If you turn your crystal making supplies on to cook and then forget about it while you are playing Roblox, it will explode.  Don’t do that.
  7. One way to make sure everyone is paying attention is to connect a snap circuit siren.  Hello!
  8. Mentos and coke never gets old.
  9. I mean, magnets. Just, magnet.  They are so rad.
  10. 4th graders are seriously the best.  They get nervous and practice and tally all their “customers” and even the quietest ones can bust out a presentation that makes you tear up with pride.  I ❤ my job!

 

Almost a Mother

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Almost a Mother 

By:  Christy Wopat

There was a time when my motherhood was invisible.  I did have some tangible pieces of evidence, two tiny urns: one blue, one pink.  A white note card with four smudged footprints, and hospital bills piled on the counter.  Two matching cribs, lying in pieces, hidden underneath a sheet in the garage.  

I walked around, my motherhood invisible, while grief waged an all-out war on my attitude.  Pregnant bellies caused an eye roll and a huff, while double strollers induced an all-out tantrum.  A pregnancy announcement would cause a night of tears, my husband holding my hand, desperate to help.  I sat through stories at lunch about first steps and first words  Really? I’d think.  My babies are still dead.

I was still in the hospital when the first relative tried to comfort me.  “Hey, you’ll have more kids,” she said.  “And besides, those two definitely had something wrong with them, or God would have saved them. They probably would have been serial killers.”

I wish I were making that up.

I wanted to scream the words. “I had two babies!  I am still their mom! Can’t you see?”  That failed, and so I whispered, “I had two babies…” But when I whispered, people still looked away. They  shuddered.   Don’t talk about it, their eyes commanded.  Shrugged shoulders and tilted heads told me what I already knew-move on.  We already have.

For months I tried to move on.  ‘What are you even so upset about,” I’d ask myself.  “They lived for like a day.  You didn’t even hold them until they were dying, and then that was it.”  So all the nursery furniture went up on Craigslist, and out it went.  Memories were shoved in a box.  Reminders would make it worse.

My heart insisted, “But they were your children!  She wrapped her whole hand around your finger.  You carried them for months.  It was only your voice they knew.  You can’t just move on!  Their memory is yours to keep alive!”

It went on that way for a while, the back and forth.  And then, it was Mother’s Day. We were headed to a family cookout. Surely, everyone would remember I’m a mother.  

Instead, we arrived and instantly the averted eyes and silence told me this day was not meant to celebrate me.   “You’re a fool,” I scolded myself.  “You should have known better.”

Later that day, I found myself out shopping with my mom, and my 6-year-old nephew.  I tossed my items on the conveyor belt so that they’d get charged to my mom, and I ducked out of the way, grinning.

The clerk looked up as she scanned.  “Hey,” she said.  “Isn’t today Mother’s Day?  Shouldn’t you be buying this stuff for her?”

“Oh, that’s my daughter for ya,” my mom laughed.  

The clerk laughed, too. “I hope you remember that someday when you are a mother.”

I sucked in a breath.  

My nephew piped up from behind me, ”Aunt Christy was almost a mother,” he told her.  “But then she wasn’t anymore.”

I turned and ran out of the store, the tears burning in the corners of my eyes.  I made it to the parking lot, my sobs now uncontrollable.

“What is the matter, Aunt Christy?” he asked.

“Oh, nothing, buddy,” I choked out.  “I’m ok.”

I got into the back of the car, feeling the grief work its way in, and around, curling itself into me like tendrils of smoke.  Silence surrounded me, once again.  

I went home that night, and I started a blog, which I titled Almost a Mother.  The very first line read, “Contrary to the title of this blog, I am a mother.”  I spent night after night writing our story.  Writing while I was crying so hard that I could barely see the screen.  Writing through anger that made me feel insane. Writing through my next two pregnancies that were fraught with anxiety and straight-up terror.  

Today, my motherhood is more apparent to the people around me.  They can easily see Avery and Evan, my six- and four-year-olds.  I try to be honest about the fact that motherhood is amazing, like when your kid is star of the week and all they want is for YOU to have lunch with them, and how sometimes it is so NOT amazing, like when they throw up all over your bathroom counter, or when they break your TV by “surfing” on the TV stand while you’re cooking dinner.

But, I won’t let the OTHER part of my motherhood be invisible.  So, I continue to say their names.  Sophie and Aiden. They are my children, too.  I will honor their memory forever, in anyway that I can.  I truly do not know who I would be if this hadn’t happened to us.

In the end, I know that my sweet nephew had NO idea that his words would carry such meaning.  He was looking at it in the most black-and-white, six-year-old kind of way.  But, he was just saying out loud what everyone else was thinking.  I am forever grateful that he did say those words because they made me realize that I was not ALMOST a mother.  I AM a mother.

“Life is too short to…

see yourself as anything but beautiful.”

A friend of mine sent this quote to me recently.  I saw it and my heart sank.  My first thought: Ugh, I’m talking about how ugly I am too much.

So many of my friends are so beautiful.  They wear gorgeous clothes, and they are thin or they have beautiful hair and skin, or they have picture perfect athletic bodies, complete with abs.

I have spent so much of my life thinking about how ugly I am.  In 4th grade, I had a pool party at my house (we had an in-ground pool that my father later paid someone $100 to bury with a BobCat, but that’s a story for another day) and I refused to take my t-shirt off.  In all the pictures, I have my soaking, drooping t-shirt hanging off me, looking ridiculous.

In my journal from 7th grade, I wrote, “This week I am starting my new diet.  I will not eat any desserts and also I promise to walk around the block at least 3 times a week.”

In high school I was voted homecoming queen, and I ran right to my friends and asked them point blank if I was voted in as a joke.

It wasn’t anything anybody said made me feel less than beautiful, though.  It was in college, when my friends wanted to go to a frat party that I suddenly realized just what it meant to not be “hot.”  I realized that I was the girl that literally no one would look at.  What is that called, the designated fat friend?

Let’s be real:  I did NOT want to be at those frat parties.  I never wanted to.  I didn’t even really want to go to the bars drinking.  I’m one of those people that just never got into the party scene-I always had way more fun doing something silly, or watching movies, or whatever.

But I would go, because my friends did, and I would leave there hating myself.  I would leave there feeling like the most disgusting, awful person on the planet.  No guys were lusting after me.  I was 30 pounds overweight and wore jeans and t-shirts and no make-up and I was definitely not a girl you “took home.”

So many times I went to the bars with my girlfriends, but walked home alone.  And when I got home alone, I would lie in bed in wonder why nobody wanted me.

I am SO happy with my life.  I have NOTHING to complain about.  I am truly so, so grateful.  But still, every day…and I mean EVERY DAY, I think about what I look like.  How much I weigh.  I watch all the skinny people at work eat all different ways-some healthy, some all junk, and I just want to be them.  I want to be able to fit in the clothes at Gap.  I want someone to tell me they like my shirt!

A couple of times, a stranger has asked me when I’m due.  I carry a lot of my weight in my belly, and I do look pregnant if you don’t know me.  But, when it happens, I get so depressed.  All I want to do is not look like a giant when someone takes a picture of me.  All I want to do is have the fat magically disappear into nowhere.

I think people are so vain.  I’ve never worn make-up because I honestly think it’s dumb.  I think it’s ridiculous to cover up our faces and try to look like someone else.  I think it’s totally annoying how much time people spend buying clothes and shoes and fretting over outfits and trying to make themselves look like a (fake) magazine.

But…if I’m even a little more honest…if I dig a little deeper, I don’t do any of that, because then people would notice that I tried, and that I do want to look “beautiful,” and that I failed.  Because, in my mind, when you are fat, you just look like a fat person trying to wear fashionable clothes.  Or someone will tell you, “You’d be so pretty if you just lost weight.”

I will never know what it feels like to have a man give you a second look.  Men don’t even hold the door open for me (except my husband!  love you, babe!), they’ll wait for the skinny, pretty girl to arrive.  I won’t know what it’s like to have men fighting over me, or know that someone secretly wishes I was theirs, just because I’m beautiful.  I will always be the one that is overlooked at face value.

I won’t be able to wear a gorgeous dress for a night on the town without worrying about chafing and spanks and sucking it in for pictures.  I will always try my hardest to get to the back row so no one sees my stomach.  I am hardly ever in the pictures with my kids, even though I read that one article just like everyone else did about the mom that got sick and wished she had been in more pictures.  If I’m not in them, I can’t spend all night with a pit in my stomach, hating myself.

I don’t know what it takes to heal, or to learn to love myself.  Body positive, right?  Or is it fat shaming?  I feel disgusting.  Hideous.  Un-worthy.  Like I don’t quite fit with everyone else.

Here is what I know:

I am a loyal, caring wife and friend.  People love me for ME.  My husband loves me unconditionally, and he thinks I’m beautiful (well, he better!)  My heart is bursting with love-from my friends, my family, my kids, my students.  This has to be enough.  What I have is something SO many people would give their arm for.  I am so freaking lucky.  I do not need to have it all.

I can’t really understand why I think it’s so stupid to think about looks, yet it’s really something I also do, all the time.  I’m on high alert, relishing if I notice a weight gain on someone else (yes, I do realize that is despicable, but honesty is where I’m at, yo).  I look at the other women at Zumba, or while I’m running, and I think, I’m working just as hard as they are, why am I still fat?

I think what I’m getting at, is that being thin and pretty is just the one thing I don’t get to have.

All of us, there is at least one thing that we just don’t have.  The one thing that feels out of reach.  I can’t make my breasts larger, or my nose smaller or my waist smaller, and so I want it.  I work and work and work at it, but I fail, over and over.  My body wants to be fat.

What is it that you want, that is out of reach for you?  Have you tried and failed?  Is it a good relationship, friendships, career-oriented, or something with your family?  I’d love to hear!