My girls have never met a stranger. They love to talk to people, and they will talk to anyone, it’s fantastic. The other night we met this woman in the laundry room at a campground in rural Vermont. She was really sweet, and listened to the girls go on and on. Then she told us she was a teacher. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love teachers, but as other homeschooling parents can probably relate, I get a little nervous when I find out the nice adult my child is talking to is a teacher. I know it shouldn’t matter, but I get a little on edge, hoping they make me look good, make homeschooling look good, or at least don’t make the teacher wonder why in the world we are ruining our kid’s lives!
Ada: “We caught this really cool moth yesterday!” (then promptly let go after we were told it was protected, oops).
Teacher: “Oh, what kind of moth was it?” I’m standing there all smug because because I knew we had looked it up in one of our MANY nature books and read all about it, Ada totally HAD this…
Ada: “uh, ummm…I don’t remember.” Shrugs, runs off.
Me (to myself, in my head) Crap.
Cora: “We’ve been all over, we’ve been to Mexico!”
Teacher: “Oh, wow, do you know any Spanish?”
Cora: “Sure! – uno, dos, tres, quatro, cinco, seis…”
Teacher: “Wow, and do you know what that means in English”
Me (to myself, in my head, all smug again): Well, of course she does…
Cora, smiling sheepishly: “Uh…….ummm….no”.
At this point I’m just hoping the subject changes to something, anything that my kids DO know! Please, for the love of God, say something that makes me sound like a successful homeschooling mom!
Then Ada starts talking to Teacher about fishing in the little pond nearby. Okay, this probably can’t go too wrong.
Teacher: “I used to fish in that pond with my little boy, but he’s in heaven now”. Oh, mama I just met 5 minutes ago, I’m so sorry. She was brave and matter of fact, and my girls were sweet and compassionate and not afraid to ask her about it. It had only been a year and a half since he left this world. She showed us the rainbow shirts in her laundry that she had made for an event in his honor, and her rainbow colored hair, and her rainbow tattoo. He was bright and colorful, she told us. She was so proud of her little boy. And I admired the life in her, and I loved her for talking so boldly about this painful thing to my little girls. And I was proud of my girls for not shying away from this sort of interaction with a stranger.
Eventually, we said our goodnights and walked home.
Cora: “Mama, can I make a card for that woman to tell her how sorry I am for what happened to her son? I want to make her feel better.”
So we walked home and made a card.
We move on the next morning and Teacher wasn’t around so Cora taped the card to her door with some pretty tape and a heart sticker and we left. She wasn’t at all concerned about seeing the woman’s face, or receiving her gratitude or praise. It was genuinely just about wanting to show this other mama some love.
And there it was. That’s what really matters, friends. That they are good people, they love, they are kind and generous. They make cards for strangers to make them feel better, to show them love. Cora will eventually learn how to count in Spanish, and read in English, and as long as they always remember that showing love and being good to people is what’s most important I will have succeeded as their parent, their teacher.