Thursday, December 23, 2010

Two Blogs in the Family

As some of you may be aware, my husband, Chad, writes his own blog at Daysinthepark.com. Tomorrow, he will feature his newest guest blogger, me!  Check out the post I wrote about our anniversary and Disneyland's Holiday Tour.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

My Christmas Wish

My Christmas wish is to get back to blogging.  I miss it terribly, but November and December have been non-stop!  Be on the lookout for a few post-holiday posts :)

Merry Christmas!!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

A Cave of One's Own

My husband informed me that he has come to a conclusion: "Women don't like men very much. And the worst part," he says, "is that they see nothing wrong with it." Lest you fear that this revelation might have come as the result of some action on my part, let me assure you the comment was not made in connection with anything I have done.  Actually, we were discussing the recent coinage of a new term -- the mom cave.  HomeGoods and designer Elaine Griffin have developed the concept of a mom cave -- a place for mom to sit, store items, work and visit.  I had first heard the term on the Thrifty Decor Chick blog and then again this morning as the DJs (one male, one female) argued about whether mom caves are really a need.  Funny that the male DJ and my husband had very similar reactions -- women can't let guys have man caves without stealing the concept for themselves?

Now, as a proud graduate of a women's college and a longtime feminist, I understand that this reaction is, to a degree, ironic.  I mean, how many things have men over the centuries parlayed for their own without allowing women to have a share?  However, as the mother of three boys, sister of two brothers and teacher to hundreds of young men (and women) over the last fourteen years, I see where the guys are coming from and I wonder about the expectations the world has for them.

Modern sit-coms seem hell-bent on presenting the man as an insensitive, backward doof while his too-good-for-him-ever-to-get-in-real-life wife belittles, mocks and patronizes him.  In the end we are supposed to see that she is justified, but because of love, they forgive and forget and we are then ready for the next episode which will once again reveal her superiority. 


Recently, I was speaking with a parent at school about her two sons.  Our conversation turned to the raising of boys and how boys were fitting in (or rather not fitting in) to the academic and leadership programs at the high school.  This doesn't mean boys are absent from leadership or silent in the classroom, but what we have observed is that they are more often than not perfectly willing to allow the girls to take charge of whatever task must be completed. Even my own eight-year old confided to me tonight that girls can be "rude and mean" and that in his table group at school, he and his buddy have no idea how these "crazy girls think" so they just try to stay out of their way.

So, as a teacher, how do I work toward allowing both boys and girls to feel valued and capable?  Not all of their learning needs are necessarily determined by gender, but  am I doing anything to encourage both genders to move away from what is so common now -- the girls in a group running the show and the guys being the cut-ups and tagalongs?  And in my own life, are my sons getting what they need to be confident contributors while demonstrating a degree of chivalry and humility as well?  Am I careful to consider my husband's feelings, cognizant of his desire to be a leader in the family, but also able to maintain my own sense of identity and worth?

I know one thing -- if my husband wants a man cave, I won't complain a bit.  And I won't try to counter his space with a mom cave of my own.  Besides, isn't that what the salon is for?

 

(PS: No matter how these two guys feel about girls in general, I am pretty sure they are crazy about me!)








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Thursday, November 4, 2010

Friday, October 15, 2010

Good Grief, Not Grades!

I hate grades.  Even before my teaching career began, I had an aversion to grades.  When I applied to colleges, my first choice was Reed College in Portland, OR, a decision largely influenced by their practice of not distributing grades to students, but instead, a narrative of the strengths and weaknesses demonstrated regarding the expected learning of the course.  This type of personal feedback attracted me as a student; even though my grades had always been high (maybe because they had always been high), I felt that a single letter was not an accurate depiction of the level of my learning.

Now, on the other side of the red pen, I have even more difficulty reconciling the grading process.  For the last thirteen years, each grading cycle has produced anxiety in me.  Each time, I have wrestled with whether or not I am a fair grader, if the grade I assign to a student is the most honest evaluation, if there was any way I might be wrong and if so, how would that mistake impact the student's life.  Assigning each piece of paper a point value and then equating the amassing of points to a particular letter grade has never felt right to me.  It is simply how my grades had always been determined as a student and how I was expected to determine grades for my own students.  It was unquestioned, accepted, even made a certain type of sense, but what seemed to be missing was a real sense of what the student actually knew.

But this week, things have changed.  This week determining quarter grades has been a pleasure. In fact, it has been more than a pleasure.  The grading practice I am implementing allows me to have a conversation with my students about their growth toward the learning goals of the course.  In the course evaluations I had my students complete this week, one actually included the comment: "I would like even more opportunities to show my progress toward our course standards."  Doesn't that blow you away?  A students asking for more work  -- and not extra credit or to get more points, but to show how he is progressing as a learner in the class. 

This summer, I worked with many other teachers from my district on developing learning scales on the essential standards for our courses.  Our district school reform is being guided by Robert Marzano, both his research and his actual physical self.  I spent much of my poolside reading time annotating Marzano's books, rethinking my teaching and reorganizing my assessment practices.  Tossing out a points-based, percentage-producing grading system was liberating and exciting, but I still worried about how things would come together once grades had to be reported.

I won't go so far as to claim every student is ecstatic about this or that all of them even fully grasp how the new grading practices work, but honestly, the transition has been smoother than I ever could have imagined.  Now, the students' grades are based on what specific skills and knowledge they have demonstrated.  Points and percentages really have nothing to with it.  As each student conferenced with me, we agreed on their level of proficiency on eight standards for the quarter.  Then we determined an overall score for three categories (Reading, Writing and Academic Skills) and put those together to ascertain the level of proficiency in the course as a whole at this time. 

Basically, what I really feel this all comes down to is that I have finally found a way to evaluate my students that treats them with respect -- as if they are valuable and important regardless of what the grade they earn happens to be.  I hope as each of them sat with me and we talked about their progress, that they felt like they mattered.  Because they do.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Has Anyone Seen My Pom-Poms?

This year, our boys have made their first forays into the world of organized sports. What will come as probably no surprise is that I have absolutely no experience in this world other than being an enthusiastic and sometimes knowledgeable fan.  Michael started us off with baseball in the spring and Nicholas is now well into his first season of flag football.  He had to sign up way back in May, so waiting all the way until September to begin felt like forever to him.  He was literally counting the days until his first practice.  And now, each day begins by determining how many more days until the next practice or the next game.  He practically has his game schedule memorized!

Of course, I worry a bit.  Will he get hurt?  Will he keep up with the other boys?  Will the coach give him a fair shot at the high profile positions?  He is only six and, like any momma, I want to protect him.  But it is easy to put those worries aside when I see him with that football in his hand.  When he says to me, "Mom, I am going to warm up with my teammates."  When he re-enacts his best moments from practice for the rest of the family.  It is easier to let go of those concerns pulling at the edges of my heart when those moments happen, when the joy on his face cuts those weights loose and lets my heart fly.

What is so exciting about being a mom and a wife is watching my husband and sons discover what they love.  And while we may influence each other, ultimately, each finds his own passion.  For Nicholas right now, it is football.  For Michael, it is books and video games.  Lucas is a bit young, but I see that sparkle in his eye when Zoboomafoo comes on TV.  And for my husband, the passion of the moment is his Disneyland blog.  He asks if I think it is silly for him to be working on a venture like this, and I reassure him that pursuing our interests, using our gifts and finding happiness in the experience of learning and growing, isn't silly at all.  In fact, those are exactly the most wonderful parts of teaching, which I have long known is what I love.

Since school began in August, I have received email or a personal visit from no less than 20 former students.  Hearing about how they are moving forward, about the experiences shaping them and about the opportunities coming their way fills me with even more motivation to be the best teacher I can for the students I currently have.  They need as many voices as possible on their own personal sidelines encouraging them, and I want to be one of those voices.  (I never made cheerleader in high school, but I always suspected it was more due to my lack of athletic skill than the need for a more encouraging spirit!)

In my home, the voice on the sidelines that needs to be loudest is mine. I want others to join me as we cheer them on, but I want my husband and my boys to know that seeing them do what they love brings me the most incredible pleasure and I will always support their pursuits. I am eager to see what new discoveries my family will experience and which will capture their hearts.  They have certainly captured mine and I look forward to being, if not their most nimble, certainly their most ardent cheerleader!
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Monday, September 27, 2010

Eudaemonia #2

hearing students talk excitedly about their upcoming field trip for AP Art History to LACMA

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Eudaemonia #1

kids eating cake

Introducing Eudaemonia

When my friend and colleague, K., gave this mug to me two years ago, I knew it would become one of my favorites.  Seeing it in the morning, filled with freshly ground, just- brewed Starbucks coffee, inspires me to think about what recent little moments have produced happiness.  I am a firm believer that we find what we seek, so I am on the lookout for happiness.  Sharing these moments with others makes them even better, so this new feature of More Than I Should Bear is born.  And please, share yours, too -- either here or on Twitter at #eudaemonia.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Wonderfully Weary

I have been tired this week.  The kind of tired where I can hardly keep my eyes open once I sit on the couch after the boys are in bed.  The kind of tired that has me hitting the snooze button three times in the morning. As I sat here tonight wondering why I have been less-than-energetic, I reviewed some of the highlights (and low points) of my Thursday.  Today, I (and not in this order):
  • Cheered for our outstanding, improved and inspirational students at a rally
  • Joined in happy birthday for a colleague at lunch
  • Laughed with a student about planning a “whine” and cheese party in pre-finals December
  • Conferenced with four students, two of whom are not “mine,” about their college essay applications
  • Had an impromptu, hour-long heart-to-heart with my mom
  • Took the boys out for ice cream
  • Helped my first-grader do three pages of math word problems – amazed at how he is growing!
  • Read the boys a chapter from Hatchet
  • Allowed a headache to increase in severity until I left work 30 minutes early and came home to puke, then sleep for an hour
  • Responded to several student emails requesting progress updates, recommendations, and advice
  • Chatted with a friend on Facebook about families and why we love and “the opposite of love” them
This is not unique to me .  We all have days, weeks, like this.  And I am not trying to garner sympathy or pity (although the "nursing" I received from my husband and boys was certainly appreciated!) because this is not an accident or misfortune.  This is the life I have chosen for myself.  And crazy as it sounds, I wouldn't have wanted to do any less with my day.  One verse I have tucked into my heart, James 1:2, keeps things in perspective: "Count it all joy..."  I may get tired at times, but even learning to admit that is a sign of my growth.  No matter what each day brings -- the temptations, the failings, the trials, the triumphs -- each teaches me something about myself and others.  Each makes me wonderfully imperfect.  And ready for a nap :)
This isn't post-related, but I love pics of the boys conked out in the car

Monday, September 20, 2010

Mission Statements

"Any entity that attempts to operate without a mission statement runs the risk of wandering through the world without having the ability to verify that it is on its intended course."  Missions.com


I spent the morning leading a workshop on teaching Sunday School for pre-schoolers.  We talked greeting visitors, establishing sign-in procedures, preparing the classroom environment, engaging our learners -- every aspect of the Sunday School hour.  As we neared the end of our time together, I shared with the group that even though everything we had covered was worthy, that ultimately, the single most important element of Sunday School for pre-schoolers is that in church, they feel love.  In church, they feel love.  All that we do to prepare for and deliver those Sunday School lessons will not make one bit if difference if we do not accomplish our primary goal -- in church, they feel love.

As I stated this, my confidence in the statement made me sit up straighter, made my voice more steady and made my heart full.  I knew the truth of this statement, I believed it, and I wanted to share it with others.

And then I started to wonder, could I make a statement about that for the work I do in other areas of my life? The single most important element of education for high school students is that in school, they_______.
How about for my family?  The single most important element of my family is that as a family, we ______.  These were much harder for me to complete than the Sunday School one was.  Then again, Sunday School is one hour a week -- maybe that limited time frame allows for a more focused mission.  However, shouldn't it be easier to determine the top priority for something (like family or career) that dominates our lives?

As a family, we...care about and respond to the needs of each other?

In school, they...learn how to learn?

Those seem good, but are they the essence of what we do?

As part of my school's staff and leadership team, I have discussed mission statements, vision statements, goal statements, all kinds of statements over the past year.  I like the process and feel it is worthy, but it seems no matter which statement we craft or choose, someone takes issue with it.  Someone wants it stated a different way or worries it will give us permission to ignore other needs.  I think another problem may be that we fear making these statements because they immediately make us accountable.  What happens if we do not accomplish the statement?  What happens if someone realizes we fell short of our vision, our mission, our goal?  And perhaps most scary of all, what happens if we actually have to change in order to fulfill the statements we make?

So, facing that fear, here I go:

The single most important element of Sunday School for pre-schoolers is that in church, they feel love.
The single most important element of education for high school students is that in school, they matter.
The single most important element of my family is that as a family, we take care of each other.

And I am willing to fail, willing to fall short and willing to change to make each of those statements as true as it can be.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Patricia Gulino: Love and Light

I am so thrilled to celebrate the wonderful Patricia Gulino in the first Teacher Testimony of the 2010-2011 school year.  I am moving beyond the walls of my school to feature Mrs. Gulino who teaches at one of the other schools in my district, Chaffey High School.  Although I have known Patty for years (she is the GATE Coordinator for her school as I am at mine), I asked her to participate in Teacher Testimony after she was nominated by a former student of hers who described her as "one of the most influential people of my life." Patty has been teaching for 22 years and currently teaches Art History for 11th and 12th grade students. 

SE: Why did you decide to become a teacher?
PG: A complete love of the history of art and a need to communicate that enthusiasm to others led me to look for an avenue to spend my day talking about it.  While I could have chosen work in a museum, I believe that the museum environment would not have offered me the daily opportunity to bring the subject alive.

SE: How did you choose what subject/grade you wanted to teach?
PG: After spending some time student teaching in a high school, I knew that high school-age students were the right audience for me.  I guess I am still very much in touch with the teenager I used to be.

SE: What have you learned about yourself and the world by being a teacher?
PG: The young adults I teach are open, caring and generous people….because of them, I am optimistic about the future.  I am honored to be in their presence every day…they are a great gift to me.

SE: Did you have a teacher who inspired you when you were in school?  
PG: I had some wonderful university professors who still inspire my teaching today.  Perhaps because I did not experience especially inspiring high school teachers…I am dedicated to helping my students see our study of art history as valuable and worthwhile every day.

SE: When your students look back on their time with you, what is it you hope they remember?  
PG: I hope they remember that my love of art history, and respect and caring for them, resulted in a memorable learning experience.

SE: If you were speaking to a brand new teacher, what one piece of advice would you pass along? 
PG: Respect your audience…good preparation is a must.  A positive teacher will result in an affirming and collaborative learning environment.

SE: What has been the most touching?   
PG: The incredible tears when seniors graduate; their expressions of gratitude and love of the visual arts.

SE: What goals or dreams do you have for yourself in terms of your craft?  
PG: Excellence.  I want to be able reach every student every day.

SE: What metaphor would be most appropriate for you as a teacher? 
PG: I strive, like so many of my colleagues, to be like a ‘lamp of knowledge’…warm, illuminating and compelling.

SE: Any other info you'd like to share?   
PG: I love Paris.

***
Patty has been an inspiration to me in so many ways. Her passion, her confidence and her love of the arts make her a natural superstar. But her graciousness, her vibrancy, and her willingness to celebrate the talents and beauty in others make her shine even brighter.  Instead of basking in the spotlight alone, she widens it to include all of the students and colleagues who are blessed to have been touched by her.



 


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Friday, September 3, 2010

Writing, On Purpose

I want my students to love writing.  I want them to know the power of language and I want them to wield their word power thoughtfully and with purpose. But what purpose?  And whose?

We (meaning us crazy, dedicated English teachers) often say we work to instill a love of writing in our students; yet, we determine almost all of what (and why) they write.  How can that inspire love?

We love that which helps us be our best selves.  We love the friend who gives us honest, sincere advice.  We love the parent who encourages our endeavors.  We love the job that allows us to change the lives of others.  We love the hobby that provides a vehicle for our creativity.   We love the spouse who listens to us so we can face each new day with confidence.  We love the child whose sense of wonder at the world and lack of restraint when doling out kisses gives us a fresh perspective and renewed hope.

So, if we want students to love writing, the purpose must be personal.  As Jim Burke stated in his blog this week,"all writing is personal, an extension of ourselves, a record and part of the process by which we create ourselves."  If all writing is personal, what is the writing of our students saying about them?  What are we giving it a chance to say? If all we do is teach students how to address a prompt on a standardized exam, we have not really taught them to write.

And, "So what?" some might say.  So, not every student leaves his English class itching to write. So, not every student enjoys composing an essay.  Is that so bad?

I might not think so if I had never seen a writer be born.  If I had never seen the excitement that comes when she finally has just the right words on paper to explain how she feels.  If I had never seen the pride that comes when his words make people stop and listen.  If I had never seen the one who blends into the background finally find that words are a way to stand in the spotlight. But, I have. And I have seen the struggle and the shame of those who cannot express themselves through writing.  They hide their thoughts and, in turn, themselves, fearing that someone will see them as less because their knowledge of grammar is lacking or their words become a mud puddle on the page.  When we teach our students to see every piece they write as a reflection of self, when we teach them how to balance writing for a purpose determined by someone else with writing for a purpose they determine, we give them the armor they need to walk in the world with a wonderful knowledge of and peace with who they are.

The blogging bug has bitten some people close to me.  I could feel threatened -- hey, I'm the one who blogs around here! -- but I'm not, not at all.  I know what writing does for me (see my About Me page if you have not)  and I am learning that it has the same effect on almost anyone who finds the courage to do it. Anais Nin said "the writer shakes up the familiar scene and, as if by magic, we see a new meaning in it."  I believe, as if by magic, when we are writers, we see a new meaning in ourselves.


 
PS: Blog away, boys.  Write until you love it.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Tell Me What You Want

My husband and I have been married for almost 12 years.  We are starting to figure each other out.  Just now.  Recently, we had a very long, emotional "discussion" at 1:00 in the morning -- when most of our relationship breakthroughs occur.  I will spare you the details and simply say that in the end, I realized that if I want my husband to be the husband I need, I need to tell him what that means.  This is not to say that he has never been the husband I need.  In fact, with as little direction as I have given, he has done an amazing job of figuring it out.  But ultimately, he can only do so much when it comes to reading my mind, and even more difficult, my heart.

As hard as it was, though, for me to tell him exactly what I need from him in our relationship, the impact it has had on us has been tremendous.  Now, for some, being as direct with someone about what you want or need is not a challenge.  I have always struggled with it, though, because I feared hurting him.  I worried that sharing what I needed would make him feel judged or betrayed.  What I had to realize was that what I saw as protecting him was actually keeping him from growing.  It was like giving a plant water and food, but hiding it from the sun.  When we do not tell people what we want, we diminish their capacity to meet those expectations.

With my parenting, I have had far less trouble with this.  In fact, I work quite hard at not just telling my children what I need them to do, but modeling for them the appropriate responses and requiring them to practice.  For example, if one of the boys demands, "Get me some milk!" I do not say, "Please ask more nicely next time," have them agree and then proceed to get the milk.  Instead, I try to say, "That was not a nice way to ask for milk.  Instead, you should say, 'Mom, could you get me more milk, please?' Now, let me hear you say that." This does not always translate into perfect behavior (what an understatement!) but I am confident that the boys are  clear about my expectations and because of that, the likelihood of them responding and interacting in appropriate ways is increased.

In the classroom, I have been somewhere between these two ends of the spectrum.  I believe my students always sense the expectations that I have for them, but I do not think I have been as conscientious as I need to be in this area.  Over the summer, I read a number of books by Dr. Marzano.  While much of what I read matched up neatly with my philosophies and practices, I realized that in terms of clarity and focus in terms of what I need my students to learn, I had some growing to do.  Not only do I think my students in the past have been fuzzy about exactly what they were expected to know, I was fuzzy, too.  I had a sense of what I wanted them to be able to do, but truly showing them how to get there was a leap I wanted them to make without the kind of direct instruction they needed to do so. 

Recently, we have been working with the concept of archetypes and their influence on literature.  Giving students a list of common archetypes is useful and all, but the skill I expect is that they can analyze the influence archetypal characters, images, and motifs have on a work of literature.  That step, from recognition to analysis, is one I have asked my students to make in the past without ever actually showing them how.  Honestly, the process is so natural for me, I had to slow down, and really think about what I do to move from one to the other.  This sharpened my ability to transfer this knowledge to my students and, in the end, resulted in their success.

Telling the people in our lives what we want or what we need is not selfish or hurtful if we are doing so to help them grow and if we do so with a heart and spirit of kindness, encouragement and love.  I believe this is happening with my children, with my students and with my husband (You can read his blog about our recent date to hear more!). Success is sunshine to their flowering confidence.  And if it makes me happier, too -- even better!


 

Friday, August 20, 2010

On Endurance

Behold, we count them happy which endure (James 5:11).


On the first day of school, I began my AP English Literature class with a poem, “The Seven of Pentacles” by Marge Piercy. As I read the poem aloud again and again – eight times over the course of the day, in fact -- the line that resonated with me was “Live a life you can endure.” Teaching seniors is a complex joy. I feel the pressure of preparing their minds and hearts for a world beyond the gates of high school, but I also experience the excitement and pride as they move confidently into this next stage of their lives. As we discussed the poem, I came back to the word endure. Often, the connotation of this word is negative, implying mild suffering or unwilling tolerance. However, endure can also mean allow or continue. Live a life you can allow. Live a life you can continue.

My son, Michael, has started third grade and getting back into the routine of homework and reading calendars and spelling tests has proved difficult. He tends to rush, make mistakes, become agitated and give up easily. I do not want homework time to become a nightly battle, but I believe allowing him to submit to his laziness, love of video games and the lure of television will not only weaken his academic skills, but his work ethic and intrinsic motivation as well. I have been encouraging him to go beyond what is easy, to be conscientious and to find pleasure in doing well on an assigned task.

Another poem we will read soon in AP Lit is also by Marge Piercy, “To Be of Use,” in which she proclaims that all people yearn for “work that is real.” That is what I want to unearth in my son, in my students and in myself – a desire for work. I have been telling my students that whatever comes quickly is too easy; they need to push themselves to read more deeply, think more creatively, question more voraciously. The literature we study is so incredibly rich that we could never exhaust its supply of insights, connections and revelations.

As a teacher, each year I begin with a renewed commitment to refining my practice, focusing my instruction, sharpening my assessment, sowing and reaping in a carefully planned manner, while relishing the miracle of growth. And I want to balance this deep commitment to my students and my craft with the loving and nurturing of my family, certainly the work that is most real. At school, 146 hearts and minds; at home, four, but the scales lean heavily in their favor. Often, this balancing is the thing I consider the hardest work of all. But it is the best work, too. It is certainly a life I can allow, a life I can continue, a life I can endure.

 

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Stories to Tell

As I prepare to begin a new school year (I am still amazed that summer vacation is over!), my mind begins to consider the truths I hope to impart to my students. I want them to see that what we share in the classroom as we study literature is not manufactured there; it is not a hoop to be jumped through to satisfy a graduation requirement.  What we do when we read and study literature is so much more than that.  And what I share with them is real to me.

This summer when my son visited my grandpa for his 80th birthday, his gift was a small book of photographs and a narrative about the importance of stories. If you knew my grandpa, you would know that storytelling is one of his favorite hobbies.  I think it is a favorite pastime of most grandpas for all of the reasons we share in the book.

This gift for Great-Pa was a way for my son to show his great-grandfather that his life may be in its closing chapters, but that the story is one which never ends. We are all a part of that story and , if nothing else, I hope my students leave class in May believing that as truth.
 

Friday, August 6, 2010

The Summer in Pictures

A last look at Summer 2010... (click on any picture to see a slideshow of them all)

The boys loved Kids Kamp: Saddle Ridge Ranch

We had a wonderful time at the Salvadore home for the 4th
Toy Story 3 was the best!

Lucas playing in the sandbox

The water is so cold!!

Lucas and Michael wait to go into the dinosaur museum

The boys prepare to embark on their Etiwanda hike

Nicholas loves his Starbucks chocolate milk

Look at that face!

Brothers reunited after Michael's trip to Oregon

We are going to miss our mornings at the pool

Mondays were Library Days -- so many books read this summer!

If we weren't at the pool, we were at the park

Vacation's almost over -- maybe we need to rest


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Monday, August 2, 2010

If Renoir Painted at the Airport

When I was younger, I thought that Impressionist works of art looked like the world through tears.  No matter how lovely the image, a Monet always made me feel like there was somberness in the painter's heart.  I am sure research would prove this mostly untrue, but I also know that things of great beauty often possess an element of pain. Raising children has taught me that lesson well.

Earlier this week, my oldest son, fresh off of his 8th birthday, boarded an airplane and flew off without me.  He did not go alone -- my mom flew with him -- or far, but that did not keep me from crying.  I was holding myself together pretty well, aided by the fact that we had to be up at 3:45 am to be at the airport in time for his flight.  I could hardly remember how to drive; surely crying would require too much energy.  Wrong.  As soon as he stepped into the security line and I was on the other side of the crowd control barrier, the tears rushed to my eyes.  And when my son saw me  begin to blubber, his little face screwed up into sadness, too.

I cried as he went up the escalator and I waited until I knew I wouldn't be able to catch another glimpse of him.  Then, I walked to my car, drove home, and fell asleep on the couch, all while I continued to cry. I felt silly for having such a strong response to what is probably routine for many people, but then I remembered the day I left for college.

When I went away to college, I did not go far.  In fact, when traffic was light I could make the drive home in about ten minutes.  Nevertheless, on Orientation and Move-In Day, after hours of meetings and workshops and unpacking boxes, my mom and I stood on the sidewalk outside my dorm and bawled as we said our goodbyes.  It wasn't the distance that inspired the tears, it was the beauty of the moment.  What is more wonderful than bringing a child into the world and then being able to see that child become her own person, inspired by her own experiences and developed through her own education?

The pain comes from the reality that we don't actually get to see it.  In the case of college, this is probably for the best.  But with my son, the tears came because he was going to be making memories that did not include me. It was his first flight and I was not the one holding his hand. And no matter what happened, good or bad, I would not be the one to guide him through it. 

I had to say goodbye to my boy for a little while, but soon I will get to welcome him home.  He will have so much to tell me and while part of me wishes I had been with him, another part is excited to hear all about his adventures from his point of view.  He will have stories and insights all his own.  Even through the tears, I can see how beautiful that is.