Posts Tagged ‘family’

Post Empty Nest Syndrome

God, I hate June.

I hate it.

I wait all winter for the warm weather, grumbling and growling through every snowstorm and every icy morning.   I bemoan the short days of winter, yearning with all my heart for the late evening sunsets of the warmer months.

But I hate June.

I love the first barbecue of the year, and the smell of smoke that lingers in my clothes and hair.  I love the fireflies and the butterflies.  I love the gorgeous bursting colors of the rhododendron and azalea, and the heady perfume of the peonies.   I even love to mow the new grass, breathing deep as the fresh clean smell of it surrounds me.

But June?

I just hate June.

June reminds me that my nest is now empty, and all of my fledglings have flown.  June brings back the deeply aching sadness that comes with letting go of children you really love.

When my own three children moved out, I thought about them every single night.   The same thing happens those first weeks of summer vacation, after I have said goodbye to my class.

When my  home nest first emptied, I heard the “ghost voices” of my children, telling those familiar jokes, sharing those familiar stories.  The same thing happens to me each summer.

As a mother, I knew that my children had to grow up and move on.  I knew the day that I gave birth to each of them that I would only hold onto them for a while, that if I did my job well, they would be ready to venture out on their own.

As a teacher, I know each September that I am only borrowing these little ones for a very brief time.  I know as I learn their nicknames that in a few short months, if I do my job well, they will be ready to enter the next grade.

As a mother, I knew that I had to love them deeply but not possessively; to hold your child back is always wrong.  To let him go, wrapped in your love, is always the right thing to do.

As a teacher, I know that I have to love them in order to reach them, but I also understand that they are only supposed to love me from September to June.  To send them off, independent and confident, is always a teacher’s goal.

So I hate the month of June.  The month of goodbyes and thank you’s and “I will visit you next year”s, when I know that if I have actually done a good job, and if all goes well, these children who I love so well will come to see me the first week of school, but will then slip seamlessly into the life of their new classroom, their time in my care fading to a hopefully happy memory.

June breaks my heart.  Every single year.

June reminds me that all of my nests are empty now.

Jeez, I really hate June.


The eyes have it.

When I was a little girl, I learned that I had “nice eyes”.  Like the rest of my Italian family, I was born with eyes that are round, and deep, and chocolatey brown.  I remember our family being stopped by strangers in restaurants who commented on our “beautiful brown eyes.”

When I was in middle school, I realized that having big, dark eyes could get me noticed by the boys. They made comments about my “Italian eyes” or my “owl eyes”.  I soaked it all up, of course. I was never a beauty, but I sure seemed to have pretty eyes.

As I grew up and came into my own sense of myself as a woman, I realized that I had more to offer than my dark eyes, but I still felt a thrill as the students in my Russian class got together to sing the Russian folk song “Dark Eyes“.  I was the girl with the flashing dark eyes, and I liked it.

When I was a young mother, I remember walking into a children’s museum with my baby girl in my arms. I remember a handsome young man smiling at Kate, and saying, “What a beautiful little girl!  She has her mother’s eyes.”

And years and years went by.  My girl grew up, my eyes grew dim.  I began to wear reading glasses, and then bifocals.  I have circles under my eyes now, and wrinkles at the corners. It has been a very long time since anyone commented on my “nice eyes.”

Yesterday I was at school.  It was an hour or so before the official start of the day, but the kids who come in for “extended day” were heading to the gym.  I was on the stairs that lead to my classroom, my mind filled with thoughts of the day to come.  I heard a voice calling my name, a sound filled with joy and desperation that caught my ear and made me turn.

I saw a little boy on the landing, grinning at me and waving his hand.  It was a familiar and very dear face; this little guy was in my class last year, and I know him well.  He is a child who struggles every day with anxiety and fear.  He questions himself at every turn, never feeling quite good enough, quite smart enough.  He is impulsive and hyperactive.  He is terrified to fail, and so he is terrified to try.  Last year he and I did a complex dance of pushing and coaxing and withdrawal and encouragement.  Over the course of the year, although we drove each other crazy, we learned to trust each other, and we learned that we liked each other.  A lot.

Yesterday he saw me on the stairs, and he felt a need to reconnect.  He is four short weeks away from leaving the safety of our little elementary school.  He is only a month away from facing the rigors of the middle school, and he is scared.

So he reached out to a familiar face, needing to connect with an adult who felt safe.  We talked for a few minutes about the weather, the ending school year, the upcoming math placement tests.  We reminisced about the class play where he had taken the stage last year.

And then a little silence fell. We stood face to face, me a step or two above him, both of us holding the iron railing of the main staircase.  He looked at me for a few heartbeats, his face so sweet and still. He gave a little laugh.

“I like your eyes”, he said.

“And I like yours,” was my answer.  He gave a flashing, impish grin, then headed down to meet his class.

And I stood there for a moment, my throat tight.

Of all the compliments I have every received about my eyes, this one was the best.  This was not about the color or the shape or the the beauty.  This one was about the person behind those brown eyes, and the love that must have been shining out through them.


This is why we teach.


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