A list of things for which I’m thankful:
The Usual (but no less important):
My family and my friends.
The Every Day (but not for everyone):
my bed, heat in winter/air conditioning in summer, warm socks, running water, a refrigerator.
boba, pickles, Indian food, lemongrass, pancakes, GARLIC, quinoa, cereal, home-made doughnuts at 715 restaurant.
Things I would be thankful for if they didn’t suck:
free babysitting by grandparents, my fake Frye boots that look awesome but were only $20, poetry, my grandparents, E.B. White, Josh Ritter, people who adopt, my mini-van, the fact that I’ll never be in junior high again.
Junior high was awful in most ways. After feeling totally confident in elementary school, I entered seventh grade magically void of any self-assurance. Any time I began to feel comfortable in my own skin, something embarrassing or unnerving would happen – I would fall forward up the stairs, forget my cheerleading bloomers, see a fight in the hallway, not wear the most popular jeans, be asked a sexually explicit question of which I didn’t know the meaning and could never answer, be unable to get my bangs exactly right, get a new zit, grow freakishly tall over the summer, never know if anything I did was lame or great. Throw in hormones, and by the time I got to high school I wasn’t sure about myself at all.
Enter Mrs. Bailey. She taught Social Studies, one of my favorite subjects, and she rocked it. She was smart, sassy, and didn’t take any of the high school boys’ crap; she demanded respect and got it. She loved us, that was clear, but wasn’t going to let us run the show. For that very reason.
I was a little scared of her at first – her no-nonsense manner, her expectations, her steely stare when someone got out of line. But I soon found in her a role model; this was a woman I wanted to emulate. To have so much confidence you didn’t care what the kids thought of you seemed like something I could only imagine in my nerve-wracked adolescent mind. I observed her quietly all semester, working her magic on the class, making even the jocks want to learn about the three branches of government. I watched and I learned, and I leeched spunk from her by osmosis.
It may have lain dormant for years, but eventually my self-assurance emerged when I, myself, started teaching. I knew from Mrs. Bailey that my 35 sixth-graders per hour weren’t all going to love me, and that was okay. Even good. I had to put their needs above making them love me. But I’ve used it even more in parenting. When I ask my kids why I’m making them eat their broccoli or go to bed on time, they roll their eyes and say with exasperation “Because you love me.” That’s right. I could let them eat candy all day long and stay up ‘til they passed out and they’d think I was really cool. But I’m a mom – I’m not supposed to be cool. I’m supposed to keep them alive and well as best I can. So it’s vegetables and 8:00PM and all kinds of things they’ll be thankful for someday.
Therefore I will add Mrs. Bailey to my thankful list. And I’ll mention her to my kids on Thursday, telling them she’s the one to blame.