A Letter to my Son — Graduation

Photo of a person (my son) in a graduation cap and gown as taken through a fence

Dear Son,

Last night was your high school graduation.

We made it.

While I am always aware that the obstacles you and we have overcome may pale in comparison with some, it has not been an easy 6 years of secondary school. Punctuated with a semi-colon by the pandemic, with the pick-up not ever quite right, followed subsequently by an incredibly academically challenging year and this year, which was both academically and personally challenging in different ways (including our family’s gradual transition), it has been a lot.

It has particularly been a lot for a mother-son duo that tends towards harsh self-critique, perfectionism, and comparing ourselves to those around us (usually finding ourselves on the short end of the stick compared to someone in some context).

I want you to know how much I love you and how much I value you. I know that you know, but I can never say it enough.

When I couldn’t sleep last night, my mind kept returning to this thought: they say that when you have a child, it is (they are) your heart (or at least a big part of it) walking separately from your body (okay, this is probably a less poetic version than what they actually say, but it’s the best I can do on very little sleep). I felt that way yesterday when I watched you cross the stage.

There you were, suddenly grown. It seemed like yesterday that you entered this world. I blinked and you are a young man, a high school graduate, someone who has so much character, brilliance, and agency, someone I admire and who sometimes frustrates me, but much more often reminds me to be compassionate to myself and makes me smile or laugh.

We’re entering this new phase of life. I know you’ll stay close, but you’ll also have much more independence as you move forward in your adult life.

I don’t know how to mother you through this phase of life. Even though I’ve been through this part with your older sisters, because I didn’t raise them as babies, it somehow seems different. I mean, of course, it’s different. You each are different people with different life experiences and different paths forward. I suppose that even in this difference (or maybe because of it), I felt and feel unsure at this point. There have been a lot of moments of uncertainty in my mothering since your sisters became adults, times when I’ve wondered how to be a better mother and worried that I haven’t been enough.

So, I worry now.

We are the same in that we always want to do our best, in everything we do, but especially when things are important to us, and being a mom is the most important thing to me.

You said to your father and me the other day that you’re worried too, that life will not get better, that after 6 hard years of secondary school, college will not bring the friends and experiences you hope for. We tried to reassure you, sharing from our own experiences and you said that you trusted us, knew that we were probably right, and yet it was hard to truly believe because you haven’t lived these things yet.

Same. I know in my heart that you are going to be great. You were great the day you were born. I trust you. And, in spite of everything, I trust myself, at least insofar as your mother, because I know you and I see you. While I worry about the world continuing not to see you, I hold hope that being seen and held by even a few is not insignificant.

While the path forward is not clear, it is one we will navigate both separately and together. I am gingerly embracing this. And I am hoping for many more family car rides and foodie adventures as you journey forward.

I love you.

Mom

Moving Parts, Moving Whole

A photo of boxes and an empty shelf with just a painting laying flat on it

It has been a destabilizing time.

This last year has been a navigation between multiple places and spaces, made more complex by a parallel journey towards greater humanity in a world that seems to be moving (in so many ways) towards dehumanization.

It has been a tiring time.

I find myself this week packing up my home, getting ready to sign papers for a new home, preparing my son for graduation, talking with my daughter about leaving her besties behind, balancing multiple work-related projects, and holding a lot of feelings and realities with very little capacity.

It has been a deeply humanizing and deeply humbling time.

I am realizing that there isn’t a way to actually honor humanity without honoring one’s own humanity. I’ve been recognizing my internal and external fragility, expressed through exhaustion and missed deadlines and commitments, through the flare up of chronic underlying health conditions, through a wanting to run away or bury myself in work (productivity solves everything and makes the emotions go away…or so I’m unlearning) or isolate. I have been trying to call myself in with kindness and compassion, to let myself be loved when I feel unlovable, and to recenter joy and strength in community.

It has been a hard time.

I hate struggling when I am the emotional center of my family. Truth be told, there is a lot to hold for everyone in this moment. I do not know how to hold it all when I am barely holding my own things.

We are in a process of moving.

Moving can be so fragmenting, uprooting, and traumatic. This time it is also drawn out. I am trying to remember to hold community close, in and through this transition, on both sides of the move. While there are many, many moving parts, I am pulling for our wholeness in the move, for a coming together that is so desperately needed. It may begin with me but it ends with us. We are moving towards wholeness, towards healing, even as we move through these times.

Being Fully Human

Picture of a flight of ice cream with napkins that have a smiley face and the words Sorry not Sorry in cursive.

Yesterday was a day.

I started writing this post about all the things that happened yesterday, but really this is a post about my humanity so I want to write about the feelings instead.

Yesterday was the memorial service/ celebration of life for a dear friend and church brother, Dave Lamondy. Dave was someone who constantly could make you laugh because he didn’t take himself seriously, who would give you the shirt off his back (or come over to do any home repair job you needed), and who didn’t need to draw attention to the things he did because who he was spoke volumes. He left a legacy of love and care that was celebrated by family and community. I learned during the memorial service about how fully human Dave was, and it didn’t particularly surprise me because often such generosity comes from a knowledge of how much undeserved generosity we’ve received through the blessings in our lives. I will miss Dave, his smile and way of being, his kindness and humor, and that he was the only one with rhythm more off than me in our gospel choir 😅.

Following Dave’s service, I took my little one for a follow-up appointment to the endodontist, after her fall from a few weeks ago that chipped her front tooth. She ended up needing an urgent root canal which left me simultaneously grateful for an amazing Endodontics team and for the ability to provide nitrous oxide for her to keep her calm in the midst of severe phobia of needles and dental surgery. This, however, was a lot to hold for me, and it activated a sense of stress around sudden, unexpected expenses which there are a lot of, in this moment.

Because my daughter and I both needed a treat following the unexpected procedure, we drove to a local ice cream shop. I got a text from my friend, Leah, asking if she was in the right Zoom room for the virtual book talk that I was supposed to be hosting IN TWO MINUTES that I had completely forgotten about. Cue extreme guilt. While Leah and my equally amazing friend Jung, jumped in to pick up and we hosted a wonderful book talk with the incredible Joanna Ho and Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya, I felt terrible about my very minimal bandwidth for this event and about literally barely showing up for an event that had been my idea in the first place.

Once I arrived home and we closed out the event together, I realized that I had pretty severe stomach pain, almost certainly a result of a stress (+ diet) induced flare up of IBS. I sometimes forget that I have chronic health conditions that don’t bother me until they do, and then come at the most inopportune times to remind me that, despite my best efforts, I am fully human, and fragile at that. This morning, the pain is better, but still present and accompanied by the start of a migraine or tension headache (I can’t quite tell which).

So it was a lot: grief, joy, stress, pride, joy, stress, guilt, exhaustion, pain.

It is still a lot.

Am I sorry not sorry for my humanity? Sort of.

Am I deeply aware of my humanity? Definitely.

I am working on being where I am, on being present, on being alive, at learning from my body, my humanity, and from my limitations rather than resenting them. I am learning to let go and to ask for support. These are hard lessons for me.

I am so tired. I am not wanting to disappoint anybody.

But if I cannot show up for myself, I also cannot show up for anybody else.

It is a time. A very fully human time.

 

All the Feels

It’s been an exhausting two weeks away from my family, traveling for work.

There have been many moments when I have questioned personal and professional choices, when I’ve been disappointed by people, and when I’ve wondered if I should just curl up for a long winter’s nap (I know it’s spring), do (and worry) less, and find a new calling.

But this morning, like last Saturday morning, I got to be with teachers, and not just any teachers, but teachers deeply committed to their practice, to growing in their professional lives and to remaining in a field that often tries to push them out. I got to be in community with these beautiful people who have been in community with one another throughout the year, who are working towards practices grounded in justice within unjust systems, working to make schools places that serve, affirm, and challenge all students, working towards better futures and becoming better teachers.

I love teaching and I love teachers.

I love learning, and I love opportunities to learn alongside teachers.

Teaching and supporting learning within the current contexts of schooling, particularly in public education spaces, is so complex. For teachers committed to more just futures for all students, it is even more complex. And yet, there are teachers who persist. There are teachers who, even after the exhaustion of their school days and through long school years, reach out to community, seek to grow, continue to reconnect to their roots.

Like all humans, teachers are imperfect.

Perhaps teachers are even more aware of their imperfections than the general public. We are, after all, reminded of our imperfections (quite often, in middle school!).

Yet, somehow so many teachers persist in our humanity and strive to be better, for ourselves, our students, our communities and our futures.

Teachers, in all of their complicated humanity, inspire me.

Being around these wonderful educators this morning reminds me of the joys of this work, that education, true lifelong learning, brings forth so much beauty.

This morning also reminded me of the gift of being a teacher educator and the privilege of doing the work in my new context. What a privilege to walk alongside and learn from teachers, to advocate for space for teachers to grow and learn together, to be able to do research that can be used to amplify teacher voices. What an honor to be welcomed into teacher community, to learn and unlearn myself, to remember the importance of joy and rest as part of resistance.

It has been an undeniably exhausting two weeks. There is so much more I could say about these two weeks, about love and mentoring, about frustrations and growth, about speaking from my heart when I cannot be silent, about the complexities that make the world so difficult to navigate, about humanity.

But those things to say are for another day.

I couldn’t be more grateful to be going home.

AND I am grateful to have another home I am building alongside a new-to-me, but beautifully inspiring and growing community.

I am learning to listen to my heart, to stay in my body, to find integrity in the spaces in between. Sometimes it is a space only I know, but I am learning the value of those spaces.

I am growing. I am finding spaces to blossom.

It can be exhausting. I am still working on sustainability. I am finding beauty in community and grounding in the struggle. I am sure I will still have moments when I question all the things.

And also, I think that I can find many answers when I look to community.