Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Letter

Between the morning and afternoon rounds of soccer and basketball yesterday, I stopped at the end of the driveway to grab the mail. On the top of the stack was an envelope bearing the school's letterhead, addressed to me in Thing One's scruffy handwriting.  Intrigued, I opened it immediately.

Six weeks or so ago, I received a frantic phone call from a friend whose daughter is in Thing One's class.  This particular friend tends to get herself more worked up about things than most people might, so I spend a great deal of time talking her off ledges.  On this particular occasion, she was upset about a book the homeroom teacher had assigned in the kids' Language Arts class, Sharon Creech's "Walk Two Moons," which she felt contained inappropriate themes for a fifth-grade class based on her daughter's comments.  Never having read that book, I asked Thing One to bring his copy home for me to look at, found it to be an outstanding and age-appropriate work (even though it did address difficult 'real-life' situations, particularly pertaining to mothers) and told my friend as much.  I didn't have occasion to think about the book again until yesterday.

Inside that envelope from the mail was a letter handwritten to me by my son in his best little-boy cursive, with a cover note from the teacher mentioning that this book had provoked a lot of class discussion about friends, families and mothers.  She asked the children to write letters expressing why they appreciate their own mothers.  It would have been deeply meaningful anyway, but having read the book myself and felt the emotions along with the kids, I understood just that bit more where the class was coming from with the assignment, and my son's letter hit me like a brick.

Dear Mom,

Thank you for all of the things you do for me.  I really appreciate it.  Things like laundry and the food you make and the dishes you do and the people I can have over.  I take you for granted, and I shouldn't.  

I'm sorry for aggravating you.  I don't know what I would do without you.  Thank you for making me happy and making me who I am and accepting me for who I am.  There isn't any other mom out there like you.  One last thank you to the greatest mom in the world.

(Thing One)

When he got home I gave him the biggest hug in the world and told him that I would be keeping his letter forever.  He smiled and said that his teacher told them that all their mothers would say that.

She's a mother too, after all.


  1. I LOVE LOVE LOVE Walk Two Moons. Read it with my students my first year of teaching and we were all balling.

  2. NOLA: out of curiosity, how old were your students? In this community, at least, miscarriages and babies born out of wedlock aren't things that the royal we discuss with fifth graders...I think those were more of a problem for my highly protective friend than the mothers leaving and dying, even though those seemed to be more of an issue for the kids.

  3. They were ... hm, trying to remember. 6th graders? I had blended classes so could have been 5/6 or 6/7 or some strange combination (for English at least we stopped using grades and went to levels for creating classes).

    I'm not a fan of protecting kids from truths, but I think we've already established that. :) At least one of the kids in the class had a mother who'd died and at least another had a mom who abandoned her. I can't remember the makeup ... oh, one of the mothers died the next year, oh, and another abandonment. MInd you, that was 1998, so my memory is a bit fuzzy.

    In 2nd or 3rd grade one of my good friend's father died in a hotel fire on a business trip. I vividly remember her sobbing on the playground and having no idea how to react or what I could do to support her. In 5th grade, one of my best friends died in a house fire. We had no idea how to process our grief and so the math teacher said any discussion of her was forbidden and the seating chart changed so nobody would notice her empty seat.

    Loss happens. I sure wish I had parents and other adults who could have talked about such things and helped me understand and deal with them.

    My favorite kid in the world, an almost 7-year-old, has long known that her mother lost a baby boy in the 2nd trimester and then immediately got pregnant with her. I was a little averse to this full disclosure, but the mom still mourns that baby's loss, and to see how this little girl processes such loss is so advanced compared to my friends' kids whom nobody discusses things with. Of course she's a precocious child, but still. She can handle it, and if people weren't honest with her she wouldn't be able to develop.

    I think we underestimate kids with things like this. But we overestimate them in so many other ways - like ability to handle and process violence on TV and video games, to go-go-go with school and activities without downtime, etc.

    And there's my child development lecture for today. :)

  4. I'm a fan of age-appropriate discussions of things that kids need to know. If they are old enough to ask, they are probably old enough for some version of the answer. That said, my kids aren't watching R rated movies or playing M rated video games either. Balance. The kids' school has been hit hard by loss...a classmate of Thing One's died of cancer when he was in first grade, and another child a year behind him also died of cancer two years later. The school did a phenomenal job of helping the kids process these deaths. I can't imagine just pretending they never happened and not allowing the kids to discuss them!!


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