It’s that time of year… every educator knows what I’m talking about. It’s the most wonderful time of the year… no, I’m talking Christmas. I’m talking summer. It’s also the time of year when I get lots of raised eyebrows from those who do not teach as they say things like, “Well, I guess your boys will keep you busy…” or “I bet you get a lot done during the summer…” It’s interesting to me what non-teachers must think we do in our “time off”, so I thought I’d let you all have a little glimpse.
You see, I’m not just a teacher, but I’m also an assistant basketball coach, and wife to a teacher/the head basketball coach. I teach 8th ELA; he teaches high school math; we coach middle school basketball… blah blah blah. So when summer gets here, we are home together with our two boys: James (5) and Kody (1). We don’t take vacations. We don’t really leave the house much, if we can help it. See, summer is time to catch up. It’s focus on my kids, not someone else’s. I can hear the question now: don’t your kids always come first? Unfortunately, no. That’s one reason my husband and I are successful at our jobs. It’s a harsh reality, but it’s true. No, in fact, your kids often come first.
Yep… when we roll in on a Tuesday night at 6:45 after late practice (which our five-year-old sat through), after we picked up the baby from the sitter, after we grabbed a pizza for supper and dropped off the bills at the post office, we usually have about 45 minutes to do bath time, read a book, and get to bed. Then it’s off to make lunches, prep coffee, lay out clothes/school supplies, send out reminder messages to the ball parents, tidy the house, put a load of clothes in the washer, and then finally take a shower and pass out in bed… only to do it again the next day….
Here is the thing, when I go to bed, I’m not always thinking about my kids. I know my kids are snuggled safe and warm in bed- fed, clean, loved. However, I might be thinking about little Suzie in my class who thinks she’s ugly and struggles her way through depression by cutting herself… or I might wake up thinking about little John who told me yesterday that his mom got put in jail again and that’s why he didn’t have his homework. Chances are, I’m thinking about someone else’s kids. When I drop my baby off in the morning, I’ll be rushing to get to school to get my five-year-old on the bus so I can quickly make my copies and grade some papers before your kids enter my room– expecting me to be ready.
So when summer comes, it’s time for me to be just mommy, not Mrs. Martin. I get to do the most wonderful things, like be the one to feed my little ones breakfast. I get to put my baby down for a nap and be there when he wakes up. I get to sit down with James for an hour each day and teach him reading, writing, math, because I know when he starts kindergarten he’ll need to know these things, and I have more time now to prepare him than I’ll have later to help him. I make breakfast, dinner, supper, and then I clean it all up every time. I get to sit and drink my coffee with my husband and talk about what we have planned that day. I take my time during an extra long book at bedtime, while James annotates the illustrations and goes off on his own wild tale. I find out that Kody loves tangerines and enjoys squeezing the slice between his teeth so that the juice runs down his chin. I run bubble baths for the baby and watch him try to eat the bubbles. I watch The Boxcar Children with James and tell him about how I read this book when I was a kid. We make a plan to read it together soon. I dance with Kody to one of his favorite songs just before nap time, so when it’s almost over, he’s lain his sweet little head on my shoulder and already begun to doze off. I let James help me make homemade Chicken Parmesan for supper and don’t mind when he slows me down.
When summer comes, I get to enjoy my children the way God intended me to. I get to set aside the worries and stress that comes with caring for 70+ kids each day in ways that go beyond a textbook. I need this time. We all do. I couldn’t sacrifice time with my children for your children if I didn’t have time now to make up for it. I couldn’t ask them to say good night twice a week to a sitter while we coach a ball game. I couldn’t ask them to get up extra early because mommy has bus duty today or stay late because mommy has a faculty meeting. I couldn’t do it. I hope you understand what this time means to educators and why it’s more than just time off. If you want me to love your kids and teach them the best I can, then I need this time to love and teach my own.