This is a Love Story…

It is Valentine’s Day evening and I am just finishing up washing dishes- having made four cups of chocolate and two bags of popcorn as a bedtime snack for four kiddos. They sit now on the living room floor with that stash of goodies, plus various bowls of candy and chocolates besides. And that is where they will remain for the rest of the evening as they watch their Friday night movie. I sit down for a spell with a mug of Earl Grey tea while Husband goes through the newsfeed on his phone beside me.  Every once in a while, Youngest comes out to check and make sure that Mom and Dad are still here. Especially during the scary parts.

This is our love story.

It’s the story of a family. The story of a home. The story of us.

It’s the story of a boy who met a girl when she was young and foolish. Before she had yet found herself or discovered who she was. It’s the story of a boy who took that girl out to a brunch one Sunday afternoon and the story of a girl who said yes. In spite of it all. A story of a girl who started noticing that boy- paying more attention- and the story of a boy who later took that girl to the ocean one starlit evening where they sat shivering together on a blanket in the cool August air. The story of a boy who one day told that girl he loved her- that she was the only one he’d ever loved. Had ever fallen for. The only one to whom he’d ever whispered those three little words. And it is the story of that boy who eventually led that same young girl back to the same sandy shore he’d taken her to first so as to bend down in front of her and hold her hand. And tell her that his love was for her. And her alone.

It’s the story of a girl who had many dreams. Had plans and goals. The story of a boy who understood. Who waited for her while she followed those dreams. Waited while she followed her heart. It is the story of a girl who one day realized that a dream without love is no way to live. So the story plot unfolded as the boy asked that girl to stay with him on this fair isle and thus follow her dreams by his side.

It’s a story. And like all stories, it has its twists and turns.

It’s a story that has not always been an easy read. There are times the girl wanted to close the book and say those words “The End.” There were times the boy felt the same way. And together, they wondered if it was time to start a new story with new chapters and new characters. Something more exciting. More adventurous.

But something compelled them to continue. The story- it was theirs. And it truly wasn’t finished yet. So they stayed the course, and the story continued.  Continued because: it was still a story, no matter how difficult it was, at times, to grasp.  Continued because: it was still worth it.  Continued because they had invested so much- there was so much to lose and still so much yet to gain.  And no matter the storyline they both knew through it all: it was their story. And because it was theirs’, they persevered.

And so they did. They persevered.  They worked harder than they had ever had to work before.  Because that’s the way of stories- they require engagement, concentration, commitment.  Thought and deliberation.  Intention.

It’s Valentine’s Day night. But I have never loved this holiday. Too many years, it has felt that I could not live up to the expectations that it brings. It ask too much of us- to put our love on display for all the world to see and judge- as to whether or not it is worthy. As to whether or not it is romantic. As to whether or not it is exciting. Thrilling. Exhilarating.  As to whether or not it lives up to the standard. Sometimes this holiday makes us feel that our story is not enough.  That it needs to be more.

This is the story of a girl who decided- somewhere along the line- that dirty mugs coated with cocoa powder in her sink and leftover kernels of popcorn hidden in the recesses of her couch with the ones she loves by her side are all a story she ever needed so as to be complete.  It’s the story of the boy who loves her.  And that’s all that really matters.

To the girl.

And so, the story continues…

On being a spirited child…

An open letter to teachers, care-givers and parents of spirited children everywhere:

Dear Caregiver,

I am sorry my child lay on the floor today and refused to participate in your class.  I also apologize that she further disregarded your implicit instructions pertaining to scheduled activities, not to mention more than once did exactly the opposite of what you requested.  It was unfortunate that she also had an accomplice in carrying out these distressing actions and behaviours, and I am sure these two precocious youngsters were good reason enough for convincing you to stay home in bed and to decide NOT to show up for work.  If it only were so easy a decision.

But of course it is not.  It is a tireless task: teaching, parenting, coaching, guiding, training, care-giving.  The epitome of motivating is to choose going to work each and every day only to work with children that have a mind of their own.

Just like these two impish little ingrates.  Deplorable, really.

Being the parent of spirited children is not exactly a bed of roses.  We care for children who are inbred with boundless energy, curious minds and great imagination.  (Where do they get it from?  Which parent is truly responsible for this ‘free-for-all’ of behaviors?  Is it from him?  From her?  At whom, exactly, can we point the finger?)  Parenting a spirited child is often a thankless, exhausting undertaking, the benefits of which are not realized until much, much later on in life.

These children are risk-takers: fearless, driven and determined.  They learn the hard way- never taking the given word of the adult as the law.  They must think through for themselves and try out new hypothesis.  They often have a hard time looking back, because their minds and sights are always fixed on looking forward.  On the next best thing. They run full steam ahead, often forgetting to check that the way before them is safe to travel.

Being themselves children who are spirited is also no easy task.  One defined as spirited must always be up for a challenge.  They have a harder road to travel than most.  These kids are often flagged in daycare and pre-school as troublemakers, difficult and ‘problems’.  They are square pegs trying to fit into a round world.  They are the ones asking ‘why’ when others are saying ‘yes.’  They are the ones pushing the limits when others are content to live the status quo.  And by the time these children are school-aged, they are the ones who make teachers earn their well-deserved paycheck.  And then some.

I know.  Because I am both.  I am a teacher, and I am a parent of a spirited child.

The other day, I asked my students to sit quietly while I went out to grab a bite to eat.  Upon finishing  supervision of a newspaper club over my lunch hour, I had just enough time to grab my bagged lunch and go back to class.  I asked my students to stay in their seats, only getting out for reasons defined within realistic classroom expectations.  I knew that if the boundaries were not defined, a kind of ‘free-for-all’ chaos would be my greeting on returning from my reprieve.   Although there was another adult who would be present in the room while I was gone, her time and efforts would be devoted to working with a special needs student in the room. Thus, the strict orders.   It was a test, really.  A hypothesis was formed in my mind.  What would happen while I was absent for the next five minutes?  Would the students follow my instructions?  What would be the action of my unpredictable lone star?  My little outlier?

I returned and sat down with my lunch.  The students were all quietly sitting in their seats.   And I was pleasantly surprised by how easily I had made both my exit and return.  Until one little voice interrupted the reverie.

“You know, ‘so-and-so’ got up after you left and ran a complete circle around the room,” reported the little gal.  Just because.

But of course.  I fully expected this follow-through as the result of my impromptu theory-making.  It was exactly what I thought would happen, but quietly willed would not.  But then again.  Is it not, dare I say it, a good thing?  Good in the way that one has been freed to try out a child-like experiment of sorts, within the safety of the known?  Within the constant of the classroom?  I think that this is where it all starts.   And that this is really what all great achievers do.   Push the envelope- challenging decision-makers, living vicariously, going boldly where no one has gone before.

And I can’t help but wonder.

What great and amazing things will this child do next?  And when will they decide it isn’t worth it to be a risk-taker anymore?

Sincerely and humbly written by,

A strong-willed child turned adult