This morning was as glum as they come. While tomorrow we will be celebrating the first of many days of summer ahead, this morning the air was rife with mixed emotions - those of celebration, of sadness, and of impending farewells. It was the last day of school, and no amount of Canada-themed spirit day hype or paraphernalia was going to mask that.
I couldn't quite wrap my head around my children's thinking, I mean, summer holidays were about to begin! It was only after I left them at school and walked back home that I realized I had forgotten what it's like to be in my kids' shoes on this joyous day.
I remember the celebratory cheers at the final bell and the rushing out of school to the tune of 'no more homework' and 'swimming pools here we come!" But as I carefully thought back to my fourth grader's face at the breakfast table, I dug deeper and started remembering all of the other bigger thoughts that came with this day. The joy at having found the perfect teacher, curriculum and (near) perfect group of classmates. The sadness upon realizing that she would not be his teacher next year, and that this perfect year would never ever happen again exactly as it had. The sense of pride in another year of learning under my belt, followed by a sense of worry about growing up and all that that meant. The cherished friendships, memories and perfect little moments that filled our halls and our hearts. The thought of going without them "until next year", only to be replaced by the irksome ramblings of my siblings in our far smaller confines. Knowing that "next year" was a whole summer away - which at that age was an eternity, a vast expanse of time with no real routine and a lot of unknowns. I remember thinking, what will my friends be like next year? (since kids have this remarkable ability to leave school in June only to return in September rapidly transformed as if sent through some sort of time tunnel). Will they have changed? Will I have changed?
Change and uncertainty, as scary as they seem, bring us to new heights. They force us to grow, and challenge us to do what we think is impossible. I thought about this in the context of having to explain tonight how leaving behind a great teacher and wonderful school year are in fact good things. It means that you were fortunate to have had that wonderful teacher. Almost as fortunate as she was to have had you as her student :). It means you have a new perspective that will carry you through your next weeks, months and years. It means that you will have fond memories of childhood. It means that you were wrong when, at the beginning of the year, you doubted that you would have a good year. It means that we can't always predict how things will go, and that scary unknowns often turn in to wonderful surprises that we never want to end. It means that there is no guarantee that history will repeat itself, nor that it won't.
As I've been off sick all week I've had to let some things slide to tend to my health. The dishes sat, the laundry grew and showers and baths took a hiatus. Report cards were read, but not signed, and the preparation of teachers' gifts, of utmost importance to me, were lost in the coughing fits and nose-blowing. The chores will eventually get done, and hygiene will resume, but what of the teachers' gifts?
I never knew what to give teachers so at Christmas sent out personal messages by email thanking each of them for the different ways they have each made a difference in my children's lives. They were so well received that I swore that I would do them again at year end. But reality is that circumstances changed, and some things had to shift.
In a few minutes, the school field across from my house will be filled with the excited screams and chattering of children. I will walk over and greet my wee ones with a reassuring smile and a big hug. I hope my youngest says she enjoyed her first year of kindergarten. I hope her brother and sister can't wait to return. I hope they liked the store-bought Canada Day cookies I remembered to send them. I hope they saw the beauty in today through its bittersweetness. And when they ask me if I managed to send the teachers their thank you messages, I'll be honest and tell them why I couldn't.
I'll tell them that it would have been a really nice thing to give them today, but that what matters most is how we treat teachers (and people) EVERY day. Thank them by smiling (when they might not be), by being supportive with brightly shining eyes and listening ears (when they least expect it), and by speaking kind, caring words, always. There is no greater gift than kindness, and it's something we all have time to give.
With heartfelt thanks to all of the amazing teachers out there! You deserve a pot of gold.