What if mothers are truly the best teachers?
My mom just got a new job. She has been teaching for the last 25+ years in a low-income, rural, marginalized elementary school. It sometimes takes her up to two hours to drive there over a rocky, four-wheel drive road. She finally bought a newer truck a couple of years ago, when her 1980 something Subaru couldn’t take the beatings anymore. She has taught every grade level and subject matter. The school has such a hard time retaining teachers and administrators that she sometimes bounces from art to 2nd grade to 5th grade in a single week trying to fill vacated positions.
I’m so proud of her motivation and drive to make the changes she has recently. While the position she has been in has been incredibly rewarding, all teaching takes a toll on people. The amount of energy, both physically and mentally, it takes to show up every day for a room full of wonderfully complicated little individuals is highly taxing. Obviously, teaching is her calling. A teacher produces lessons, manages people, models expectations, curates information, redirects unproductive behavior, builds relationships, and trusts herself and others.
Most importantly, my mother taught and still teaches me to the best and truest version of myself. As she is making this big change in her life, it has given me the opportunity to reflect on the things I am so grateful to have learned from her. These are ingrained in my identity and how I bring meaning to what I do and how the world works.
First, Get Outside
My mom has lived in a tiny house since before tiny houses were popular, but the house isn’t what matters, its the location. They live next to a beautiful little river in the country. The big windows are cluttered with several varieties of plants that have been alive longer than I have. If your there in the summer, you’ll sit on the deck, smell the sweet flowers, drink some lemonade, and dodge the hummingbirds as they fight to dominate the feeders. The deck is overflowing with my mothers flowers, so much so that if she is gone for a few days, the task of watering left to anyone else has them complaining about too many flowers (too many flowers?) I don’t know about you, but too much beauty is just annoying.
I grew up in such a small town that if you look it up, it isn’t even listed as a town. It’s called an “unincorporated community.” I don’t know what that means. My mom divorced my dad when my older sister and I were very young. We moved away from California to this little place where apple and cherry trees were abundant, but people were not. Mom had to work several jobs to support us, and decided to go to college at 34. I really loved my childhood. She created a life for us by moving us to this magical little place. Looking back, I wonder how she also had time to work on her art. She loved to feel the sun on her skin as she carved little mosaics of glass in her outdoor workshop. It seems almost dreamy as my memories paint the picture of her leaning over her work in the warm fresh air, music playing, green trees swaying to the music she was playing in the background. It feels like freedom and peace to relive it now. Some of her work was installed in local businesses. I can’t wait to go back and see if they are still there.
Love Your Dog
When I was a kid, I was attacked by a neighbor’s dog on my walk home from the bus. I still remember begin tossed around while my leg was clenched in his teeth. I was taken to the hospital for stitches, and my injuries were actually pretty minor. When I got home, the neighbors asked me if I wanted them to have the dog put down. I think I was like 7 years old. I had been scared of that dog every day while walking home so I said yes. I later wished I hadn’t. We had a dog named Chomps that I loved very much. I actually remember having more feelings of loss when she died than I did when we left dad. Maybe that makes me a bad human. My mom has always had dogs, she has rescued homeless pups on her drive home from work. They are her partners and protectors when she is running alone on mountain roads. It’s hard to explain the connection humans have to their pets, it feels weird even saying pets. My step dad’s three-legged dog was practically the best man at my wedding and his ashes sit on their mantle. They love unconditionally. I have a dog, I love her. If you have a dog, you know what I mean.
Never Give Up
Never giving up is different than quitting. Leaving a position, or deciding to end a marriage may be viewed as quitting. Never giving up is being bound and determined for better. My mother knew we would have better lives if she left my dad. She is leaving the difficult teaching position she has given so much to, because she knows in her heart the new position is a healthier fit. Change is necessary, but horrifying. Every day can be a “get yourself together day,” as she would say, but its moving you toward better. Of course, there are hundreds more lessons I’ve learned from my mother, but the most important one is to never give up. The world is what it is. It is truly up to you to create the life you live and continue moving toward better. Thank you mom for being the best teacher I have ever had. I love you.
My beautiful mom!