Safe Havens and Soft Landings

You know, I have had many people tell me over the years that they could never be a teacher.  Could never do my job. That they don’t have what it takes. That it is too demanding in terms of the behaviors and the complicated issues children present. Too hard on the nerves. Too taxing on the stress levels. Never mind the additional stressful academic responsibilities that come with the job.

Honestly, it isn’t the easiest profession. It isn’t the easiest calling to be drawn to. It hasn’t been the smoothest sailing I’ve ever known. There are many challenging days, many hurdles to jump. Many deep waters to traverse.  There are many moments when I wonder myself. That all because: it is hard being there for people, day in and day out.   Hard staying the course when the ride gets bumpy.  And truth be told, the ride is very treacherous.  And all because there are so many variables.  So many children with so many stories.  For in our classrooms, there are children who have seen things I will never know about in my lifetime. Who have heard things I will never hear. Watched things transpire that I can only envision in my worst nightmares. Who have lived lives in their short years that I will never live.

It isn’t easy being a kid at the best of times. Try being one at the worst of times.

There are days when these same children come into the classroom and they just your push buttons. They try your patience and test your resolve. They act out, cry, push, scream, whine, slap, punch and spit. They holler and run. They pull things off the walls and shove things on the floor. There are days when you just want to give up and walk out the door.

There are certainly days when you wonder why you ever thought teaching was a good idea in the first place.

But sometimes, there are days when everything comes together for you.  When the pieces of the puzzle just FIT. When there is clarity and everything murky is finally clear. Days when something happens and a door is opened, a view is granted into the inner sanctum of a child’s private life. And you see for the very first time why it is, this child is angry. Is hurting. Why it is this child is wounded, frustrated, broken and scared. And all of the moments that happened before- when you thought seriously about pulling out your hair and giving up the fight- those moments are all but forgotten.  All but a memory. Because you’ve just seen a child for who they truly are for the very first time.

Seen that their anger is just a disguise for pain.
Seen that their screaming hollers are sometimes a cry for help.
Seen that the physical aggression they exhibit is sometimes a response to what they know as familiar.
Seen that their hurtful words are just the everyday vernacular of their private world.

And in those moments of clarity, you realize: I am a safe haven. I am a lighthouse- a beacon of hope. I am a soft landing for this child. And I am such so that when they come to school, when they come to my classroom- they know they are loved.  Know that they are protected, accepted, wanted, appreciated, valued, enjoyed, liked and seen. They know they don’t have to be afraid. Don’t have to fear.

Because here…they are safe.

That is all I could ever really hope for as a teacher- to be a safe haven and a soft landing for my students to fall on. A person they know who will be there for them, each day and every day… through all the moments, both shining and otherwise.  There to be a caring, loving presence in their lives.  Unwavering through the storms.

As a teacher, it’s all I ever really needed to be.

{photo retrieved from crislorenzana.wordpress.com}

Joyful in God’s hand of protection…

Little girls should never have to worry when they fall asleep at night.

Mine is sweetly sleeping, her hair a cascade of gold fanning her pillow.  Moments like this one are precious.  Cherished.

Minutes ago, she came padding down the stairs, wearing those fuzzy jammies with the puppies on them that are so cuddly after a bath.  There are worry lines written across her forehead.

“Mommy, can you lay down with me for a while?”

I am busy, and truth be told, I just want to sit and decompress after a draining day at work.  But instead of sitting, I am doing the dishes.  The housework seems so pressing just now.  The crumbs under the table, coffee stains on the counter, left-over potatoes still waiting to be scraped into a plastic container.

I sigh.  Then, I tell her to go back to bed.  I feel guilt almost immediately because this I know for sure: little girls should never have to worry when they fall asleep at night.

I go back up the stairs, and make my way into the dark room.  She is sniffling, her head turned, facing the wall.  I sit down beside her on the bed.  I am still feeling a bit miffed, as this extra visit was not part of tonight’s game plan, but I try to exercise patience.

“What is it,” I ask in as tender a voice as I can muster.  Can she sense my impatience?

She confides in me.   She is worried that when she falls asleep, we will leave, and she will be all alone in the house without a father or mother.

The impatience washes away, even though I know that she should know better.  What reason have I ever given her to feel this way?  But, she does feel fear, and I will validate her feelings, however unreasonable.

“Mommy and Daddy would never leave you,” I say, my voice softening.  “We will never leave you.”

I pivot so that I am now laying down next to her.  I reach my arm out and draw her close to me.  She is still whimpering, but I sense her relief in my embrace.  It is confirmation and assurance all wrapped up in one warm motion.   I hug her tightly and stroke her hair.  I gently reprimand myself: she should never have to worry when falling asleep at night.

Little girls, much like my own, are falling asleep tonight all over the globe.  Some, like my own, have been loved and patiently tucked in to make sweet dreams of bright tomorrows.   Their worries are brushed away with a gentle manner and kind touch.  Others have not been so blessed.  Their fears and worries much greater than that of my own dear child.   Worries for some of dangers that are real and present.  Fear that hovers in the dark.  Fear that isolates and shames.  Fear that destroys a little girl from one day becoming the woman she was meant to be.

This I know for sure: whomever the little girl, and whatever her life, little girls should never have to carry worry with them into the night.    God bless and watch over our precious little girls.