Teaching always moves through ups and downs. Sometimes it feels like too much, sometimes it feels just right. This week, it feels like exactly where I need to be at exactly the right school with exactly the right children. I hope this is symptomatic of my personal growth over time, as opposed to the winding down of a school year or the change in weather, but whatever the cause, I’ll take it.
Too often Sundays feel anxious. Instead of a day of relaxation, they usually feel like the day before Monday, the day before my life shifts back into work mode. Lately, they’ve been different. They have felt untethered to the demands of the week. Likewise, where Friday used to feel like my saving grace, lately it has felt instead like an unexpected surprise at the end of the day, like I could keep going, like I still have more to do and do not mind.
I want to know what the difference is, so that I can make this how I always feel about my work. I know it’s not a change in the kids, they’re just as challenging and wonderful as ever. It has something to do with me.
Maybe I do better when the days are longer and the sun is out. Maybe the seven weeks until summer has me more relaxed or the promise of STAR testing being over soon is comforting. Perhaps it is the end of two years with the same kids and the knowledge of my real love for them as our days come to an end. Then again, it could be I have slowed down after work, making more time for nothing instead of cramming every moment with writing. Or, just maybe, I really did pick a profession I enjoy and this is the beginning of years of liking what I do.
Oh goodness, if I could only be so lucky. If to teach and write could be enough, my life would be full in a way I always dreamed but never expected.
Week 32 was test prep and our annual teacher appreciation days. I got sweet notes and gifts and words of encouragement. Smiles where sometimes there has been conflict. Little gestures of gratitude to show I am at the right place at the right time with the right kids. As I stood in front of parents yesterday for Saturday School, I thanked each family for giving me the honor of spending two years with their children. My eyes filled with tears. The right place.
Lately, I have noticed a trend in family dining. The mom and dad talk with the adults or each other, the kids sit at the far end of the table and watch something on an iPad to keep quiet. I get why this would sometimes be tempting, especially if you’re meeting up with other adults you do not often see, or you need a few quiet minutes with your honey, but it worries me that many kids are being removed from family dialogue.
In my family, we ate dinner together at the table every night. When we went to restaurants as a family, it was a special treat and everyone was involved in the conversation. The few times I sat too far away from everyone else, I felt sad. I still have a memory of one huge family dinner, where I was the odd little girl out, staring at the piñatas, disconnected and sulking.
To this day, even in my childless family of two, we sit at the table and talk. The couch is not for food, it’s for zoning out. On the rare night where we don’t make it to the table together because of conflicting schedules, everything feels off. We didn’t have our time to catch up and tell our daily stories, our thirty minutes together to slow down time and not focus on anything else.
Even in my much bigger family, we gather around the table together every Sunday night, a reincarnation of my dad’s family’s Thursday night dinners from another era. The participants may vary from week to week, depending on who is in town and what is going on, but it happens, without fail, every Sunday night, and Alex and I are always sure to be there.
I do not claim that family dinners are the secret to being the perfect family. No such family exists. Likewise, I am sure I will also keep an iPad in my purse someday, just in case I need a few minutes of quiet. However, I contend that family dinners are worth the sacrifice of figuring out a way to get everyone together, children and adults alike.
What does family dinner look like for you? Does it happen all the time? Sometimes? Never? I won’t pretend to know what other people need, I just have a soft spot for family and tradition.
This post was inspired by a cool info graphic over at Full on Fit. Did you know that teenagers who eat dinner with their families regularly are much more emotionally healthy? Makes sense to me!
Standing in the middle of a sea of people, I closed my eyes and tried to make everything stand still around me. Large crowds and too much noise overwhelm my senses. However, when the Lumineers took the stage, I was able to shut off everything else and just absorb the music.
This song was one that followed me home, the words etched into my brain. A perfect Sunday song, with a message I really need. Slow it Down. My goal every Sunday. Should be my goal other days as well, but Sundays are a good place to start.
Hope you find a way to slow it down today as well.
Sunday is childhood, the changing seasons, school the next day, family breakfast, homework, falling leaves, apple hill. Sunday is family, newspaper scattered in different sections throughout the living room. Sunday is walking the dog the long way round, potatoes with garlic and bell peppers, the sofa with my manuscript, yoga pants, dog squished up against me. Sunday is a couple hours’ solitude. Sunday is a drive up the hill for dinner outside, one big family, laughing, crying, together.
Sunday is life without tomorrow, life with tomorrow, life now. Sunday is sacred. Sunday is old and new, happy and sad, nostalgia and duality. Sunday makes me hold on tight to everyone I love.
Sunday is family.
Summer makes me nostalgic. It makes me want to slow down time so that I can savor each new memory. If I were a superhero, that is what my power would be, time manipulation.
Driving home from my family’s house tonight, my husband and I talked about our differing perceptions of time. For him, life moves at just the right speed, which makes me envious. I guess you do not have to be a superhero to appreciate life properly. Still, I’m not sure how to slow down. It feels like there are more things I want to do than there is time to do them.
I think this is part of why I like to write so much. It gives me the space to trap myself in time.
Tonight I want to trap myself in new summer memories. I want to hold them to my heart so that everyone in them will be with me always. If I could figure out a way for summer dinners to last longer, I would. Instead, it is the words and pictures that are left.
I was going to save this post for Father’s Day, but then I decided it didn’t have to wait.
Growing up, my dad would wake up early every Sunday morning to make our big family breakfast. All 7 of us. Eggs, bagels, bacon, english muffins, orange juice. Since most of us have grown up and left home, he went through a phase where he lamented that Sunday breakfasts just weren’t the same.
Until, at last, he shifted his attention to Sunday dinners. Now, Sunday dinners are a marvelous affair. He doesn’t just make food, he makes gourmet meals. Barbecued macaroni and cheese with bacon, grass-fed burgers, free-range barbecued chicken wings, fried organic asparagus and green beans. Turns out, my dad can really cook.
This little act of love, of cooking for all of us gathered around the outside table, means a lot to my dad. What he probably doesn’t realize is that it means even more to us. Of course, it’s not just the food. It’s having all of us, (or almost all of us depending on the Sunday), back in one place.
Each week, Sunday brings mixed emotions for me. My job as a teacher can be all-consuming, so Sunday reminds me that it’s time to gear back up and get ready for the week to come. It requires grading, planning, and refocusing to minimize my stress during the week. It is also the day that I visit my family and attempt to catch up on my book. Writing is requiring a lot of patience because I have so little time to do it and so much desire to lose myself in it… Not to mention grocery shopping or making sure that our house is clean for the week!