So my kids came bursting into my bedroom this morning at 7:30 a.m. where I was re-resting (since I'd been up much earlier) with Cienna, who had had an unusually restless and rough night (I think because we'd gone to the zoo yesterday and she was having nightmares and leftover anxiety about being so close to a real bear, etc.), and they happily shared with me their encounter with their favorite teacher as she was driving by our house this morning.
Kids: “We saw Mrs. Opitz when she was driving to school this morning!”
Me (yawning): “Oh, that’s nice.”
Kids: “She stopped and said hi to us.”
Me (raising my eyebrows a bit): “Oh, she’s so nice…were you guys outside?”
Kids (with great excitement): “Yes. We were down the street (a couple of houses away) waving to Dad at the corner as he went to work.”
Me: Speechless…because it was then that I put everything together (keeping in mind that I’m well-aware of and wanting to improve the “home-school family” stigma): Kids running down the street at 7:30 a.m (with no shoes, I'm sure, but I didn't ask)….favorite teacher of whom I have great respect…and yes, 2 out of 4 kids still in PJs, including young Allison wearing her bright pink nightgown (apparently hearing the commotion at the front door from her bed and not wanting to miss the spontaneously dramatic send-off for Dad, thus jumping up from her pillow and heading straight outside, bed-head and all).
I suddenly had that sinking feeling that most parents hope to avoid, but that we all know is inevitable and quite humbling and increases in frequency throughout the teenage years (I’ve heard). I know my children’s sincere intentions and try to be quite forgiving of their natural, impulsive decision-making (and of course I promptly and gently reminded them about getting dressed before playing outside…unless there's an emergency...like a good-bye to Dad), but I never feel good about contributing to the discomfort of the average person passing by who may make a quick judgment and spend the rest of the day feeling critical and a bit hardened.
But then I remembered: Mrs. Opitz isn’t an average passer-by.
She’s a favorite teacher not only because she’s good at teaching music, but because she understands the hearts of children and appreciates them for their innocence and zest for life. She looks past weaknesses and awkwardness and just makes people feel safe and loved for who they are. (Diggy made a card for her once and said, “I hope she likes it…(deep-in-thought pause)…I know she’ll like it because nice people like everything.”) She connects with kids (and adults) in a way that inspires them to be better people. She’s the type of teacher that kids remember for years to come…
And for me, she is also a dear friend. When I exchanged thoughts with her later today, she said she sincerely enjoyed witnessing the tender good-bye…and the PJs had made it all the more precious.
I think the world would be a different and happier place if there were more people who noticed and cherished life the way Mrs. Opitz does. We would all breath more sighs of relief (I sure did today!)…and at the same time feel more determined to walk a little taller.
Sorry, no pictures this time…thankfully.