The sun is setting outside, we’re headed into another first week of school tomorrow, and, no matter how many times we’ve done this as a family — no matter how many times I’ve maneuvered it as a mama — I’m nervous. The darker it gets outside, in fact, the more nervous I feel because the darkness always exposes my fears and whispers “what if” and weaves convincing tales of doom.
The darkness is eloquent, after all.
The darkness is loquacious.
And the darkness is always confident and sure that I am senselessly sending my children into harm’s way.
“Think of all the ways they could get hurt,” the darkness tells me, “like socially and emotionally, mentally and physically, intellectually and spiritually, and THEY WILL PROBABLY BE SCARRED FOR LIFE because…” and then the darkness fills in the blanks for each child, pointing out the one with the New School, and the five with New Teachers, and the one with a Complex Schedule Who Doesn’t Know His Way Around; the darkness points to my Kid With No Friends in His Class, and the One Who Doesn’t Know How to Make Any, and the Kid Who’s Shy and Who Sometimes Needs Extra Hugs From His Mom. The darkness makes charts of the New Challenges, and the Special Needs, and the High Stakes and then graphs them against the likelihood my kids’ mother screwed something up and didn’t advocate well or didn’t prepare her children or didn’t get the right supplies or, or, or, OR… and the darkness goes on.
The darkness is, in other words, a dick.
Which I know.
I know the darkness is a dick, having spent some time mired in it, but sometimes I listen anyway because it’s hard to hear the Light when we’re smack dab in the darkness, you know?
Earlier this week, though, my sister-in-law, Kim, who’s a middle school teacher, got her class lists.
Seems kind of mundane, yes?
Class lists. Lists of kids. Maybe a few names the teachers know, but mostly just… names. Names to eventually put to faces, yes, and kids to eventually get to know and champion and love, but in what I imagine is the hustle and bustle of finishing the first week’s lesson plans and making sure the space is ready and attending teacher in-service meeting, they’re still just… lists. Just lists for now.
Except that when Kim got her lists, she added this note to Facebook:
Looking at class lists tonight feels a bit like Christmas! So exciting to see the names and faces of the young people who will change my life this year. This feels like sacred ground — holding space for them, and anticipating the joy and energy and craziness we’ll all bring to the table. Middle school parents, thank you for sharing your precious littles with me. I am honored.
Kim didn’t write about exhaustion, and she didn’t write about fear, both of which I bet she experiences, because she is a wife and a teacher and a mother of four, and she’s sending her medically fragile kid to elementary school for the first time.
Kim didn’t write about the darkness or about how arduous it is to move classrooms, which she did this summer, or to begin a new curriculum, or to get her own littles ready every day and then have to head out to teach ours.
Kim didn’t write about heading back to the grindstone or grump about middle schoolers who are an easy target. (I may have offered to sell one of mine this year. *ahem*)
No. Kim wrote instead about excitement and joy and energy and craziness. She wrote about standing on sacred ground. She wrote about the precious people those lists represent. And she wrote about feeling honored.
I sit here in the darkness tonight, and, I’m not going to lie; the voice of the dark is both loud and compelling. WHAT IF, WHAT IF, WHAT IF? But I can’t get rid of the nagging light Kim shed or the knowledge that she’s one of thousands of teachers who feel the same way. One of thousands of Light-bearers headed into our schools tomorrow. One of thousands of Love bringers armed with joy. One of thousands of teachers who are ready to teach, yes, and also eager to be taught by our kids who have so much to offer.
And so I head to bed, knowing the darkness is vast and deep right now, but believing as always, that dawn is coming. Relentlessly on its way. And also holding the little candle Kim lit, which makes the darkness not quite so deep, after all.
Waving in the dark, friends. And praying for Light for us all.
And P.S. thank you for being my community. My ComeUnity. I prayed for you yesterday, held you in the Light — specifically and by name — and then you showed up for each other, too. It didn’t surprise me, because I know you, and I know your hearts, and you are SO my people, but it made me proud and grateful just the same. Just incredibly proud and grateful to be your friend. You really are the best people on the internets. xoxo