Editor's note: This post by Allison Slater Tate originally appeared on her blog, AllisonSlaterTate.com. It has been reprinted here with permission. You can follow Allison on Twitter via the handle @AllisonSTate and on Facebook at Allison Slater Tate, Writer.
The day after Halloween is never an easy day for anyone associated with children. I have never understood why schools don’t just give up the (Halloween) ghost and make the day after Halloween a teacher work day. Should we really subject teachers to classrooms full of exhausted children with sugar coursing through their veins, makeup smudges and colored hairspray still faintly marking their faces and hair? It’s kind of cruel and unusual. On the other hand ... well, I am always excited to drop them off at school that morning.
In a wise move, my first grader’s hero of a teacher, the wonderful Mrs. Hoot (not her real name — I’m protecting the innocent, and she loves owls), decided to make the day after Halloween a Fall Fun Day. So at 8:45 a.m. on Nov. 1, I stumbled into her classroom along with a few of my mom peers, feeling hungover even though I hadn’t had a drop to drink the night before and dreading the inevitable table of seasonal crafts. I am not an arts and crafts mom.
The children were seated on a rug expectantly, their eyes big and their legs in constant motion. As the moms and I negotiated which centers we would claim — I happily escaped stringing autumnal bracelets and instead took candy corn bingo — Mrs. Hoot discussed with the children how they would divide up and rotate through the centers.
As is their way, the children began eyeing the moms and watching the classroom door. “My mom said she could come,” one little boy said plaintively, watching the door. “Maybe she’ll be here soon.”
“My mommy has to work,” another little girl said, her lower lip trembling. “My mommy has to take care of my little sister,” another little girl whispered.
I froze a little. Just the day before, my friend had lamented that her little boy had been sad when she couldn’t come to his class Halloween party because she had to go to work. She’s a fantastic mom who had stayed up late the night before to make her son his Halloween costume, and yet one complaint from him, and BOOM — she felt like she had failed him. In that moment in my son’s classroom, my thoughts went to her. The truth was, I could only be there for about 30 minutes, and only because my husband stayed home with my toddler. But my husband needed to go to work, and I was going to leave as soon as other moms arrived to take my spot. Even though I am a parent at home, and I write only in whatever time my toddler allows, it’s not as if I was free to be there either. I was squeezing every minute in, too, and I empathized with both the kids and the other parents.
Mrs. Hoot waved her pointer over the children’s heads. “Now wait a minute,” she said softly. “Do you know my son, Hootie, in kindergarten?” she asked. The kids nodded dutifully. They all know who Mrs. Hoot’s son is, and they report back to her whenever they see him around the school. “Well, Hootie’s Fall Fun Day was on Wednesday,” she said. “Does anyone know where I was on Wednesday?”
The kids paused, then hands started shooting up. “With us,” said one little boy. “You were with us.”
“That’s right,” said Mrs. Hoot. “You needed me to be here with you, so I was. Sometimes, mommies and daddies want to be at your parties, but they have other people who need them, too. And that’s OK. Hootie still had fun at his party, and you are still going to have fun today, too. And next time, your mommy or daddy might be able to come. You never know!”
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