On my way into work this morning, I found myself behind a Big Bird yellow school bus. It stopped at the end of a driveway where a Dad waited with his two young children. The bi-fold doors swung open and the little girl, probably a second grader, boarded first. Her brother, who was either in kindergarten or first grade, followed. As the bus slowly pulled away, Dad, obviously dressed for work, gave them a hearty wave and then put his hand to his lips and threw them a kiss.
. . . put his hand to his lips and threw them a kiss.
This beautiful Hallmark moment took no more than a minute, if that, but it instantly catapulted me back to when my daughter, who turns 30 this year, was that age. In my mind's eye I can see us standing on the corner waiting for the bus. But this fleeting memory quickly triggered another, much stronger, memory.
Just before she started high school, I was hired to be the school's new technology coordinator. I remember with vivid clarity, sitting her down and telling her I realized when children reach high school, their parents suddenly, and for no apparent reason, become embarrassing.
I told her if she wanted I would not speak to her in the hallways or anywhere else in school so she would not be embarrassed. I told her I understood and would not be hurt if this is what she wanted. She surprised me by saying she wanted me to talk to her if I saw her. This made me very happy because I wanted to talk to and acknowledge her when I saw her. But I wondered, and secretly hoped, I wouldn't embarrass her.
My office was located in the school's library and there were times when I'd return to find a scribbled note from her saying, "Mom, just wanted to let you know I was here." Or, "Hi Mom, hope you're having a good day." Other times I'd swing into my office after some technological meltdown to find her sitting in my chair waiting for me. She came because she wanted to, she left notes because she wanted to. While she never said so, I suspect, and hope, she was proud and happy I was there.
When this story comes up, she loves to tell people the teachers never gave her a hard time because they all knew I worked in the school and would probably be on their classroom doorstep if they did. Nothing ever happened and I never had to call her bluff.
For many parents the opportunity to work in the schools their children attend is not always an option. But if I died tomorrow, arrived at the pearly gates and God asked, "What is one of the best things you ever did?" I would reply with this memory.
This was an extraordinary opportunity . . . no, an extraordinary gift and one I am blessed and grateful to have received. It is also one of my most treasured memories of time with my daughter.
My late, incredibly wonderful mother-in-law gave me two pieces of excellent advice about parenting I have never forgotten.
First, don't be in a hurry to be a parent because once you are, you're one for the rest of your life. You never stop worrying, helping or loving them. And second, enjoy them as much as you can when they are little because once they start school, the time goes by so very, very quickly. She was right on both counts.
There is no moral for this story because every parent has to find their own way with their children.