Dear Mrs. N,
You were my first kindergarten teacher. Technically you were my son's teacher but you taught me along the way as well. One of my favorite lessons, the one I share most often with others, happened one day on the playground.
It was recess and I was there ready to do my table time volunteering when recess was over. We were standing on the blacktop chatting about this or that when a child cried out from the play structure. Up to this point in my parenting, when a child screamed or cried or made pretty much any uncomfortable noise at the park or playground someone jumped up and ran to see what was wrong. If it was my kid, someone else had probably gotten to them before I could since I was chasing three little ones at the same time most days. Not to mention I was not one to jump up and run to my kid. I knew their cries and knew which ones needed a reaction from me.
So when I heard the cry, I expected fast movements as the teachers rushed to the child. It was early in the year and I could not imagine you would know everyone's real emergency cry. But that didn't happen. Instead, you calmly called the child over to you.
And surprisingly enough, the child stood up and walked over to you. You helped brush the bark dust off and asked them if they were okay and when they said they were, you sent them on their way.
I was shocked.
Shocked that you had not rushed over.
I think you saw the look in my eye. The one parents try to hide but is so evident when we are judging one another or the situation. Because you then explained to me that when I child falls, you ask them to come to you. That is how you first assess the extent of the possible injury. Most of the time, the child will walk over, get the reassurance they need that they are okay, and then be off again. But if the child cannot walk to you, then you said it is time to call 9-1-1.
And so satisfying because I had used the same technique with my kids. I had thought it was just lazy parenting but you, a professional teacher, had just made my parenting style valid - a reasonable, even thoughtful assessment tool.
In truth, that was what I was doing all along. I had wanted my kids to learn to brush themselves off and get back to playing when they fell down. I wanted them to be tough and resilient. I was intentional about what appeared to be neglectful parenting to the other moms and nannies at the park. But I had been judged so often for it. Mostly just with a look, though occasionally with a "helpful" comment or two.
So on that day, on your playground, you gave me a great gift. You gave me reassurance that I was doing okay as a parent.
And then you told me how obvious it was that I loved my kids. Even if I parented differently. You reassured me that my methods, my parenting philosophy, was valid. Not only valid, but you used very similar methods in your classroom.
That day, and many others, you helped me understand that it was okay to parent in my own way.
You gave this mama confidence.