This week, two significant things ended: schooling at home as I have known it and having a child in Montessori school with “Miss” Barbara. I had my last morning of one on one teaching with Julia and Brighton “graduated” from Lambs and Shepherds. As Julia and I savored the last page of our favorite fiction book this year, All of a Kind Family, we said goodbye to Starbucks and made our way to the school to see Brighton march in his cap and gown.
Rewind 3 summers ago: I remember driving up to the church- turned- school on the unfamiliar west side of Fort Worth with two kids still buckled in car seats. Carrying Brighton, I walked Julia into the activity- filled yet completely organized room for her orientation with the, now, beloved Miss Barbara. When I returned for Julia, I reluctantly let Brighton out of my arms, loose in the room filled with a zillion pieces. While Miss Barbara and I talked, she gave him “work” to do without missing a beat of our conversation. It wasn’t until about ten minutes later did I realize we were STILL talking (in complete sentences) and Julia and Brighton were STILL engaged in their “work”. My bewilderment must have been all over my face because I, then, heard her say, “You know, your son is ready for this, too.” According to her, my bewildered face turned into disbelief. In my head I was thinking, he isn’t 3 yet, doesn’t the sign on the door say 3-6?, he's barely walked for a year, he’s only mostly potty trained, should I remind her he won’t be 3 until October? So I did and she still wanted him! I told her I was in if Jeff was and I immediately started praying he would say yes! I couldn’t think of a better environment for my energetic, curious, “ALL boy” little boy during his early developmental years.
Dropping them off that first morning, I felt excited, heart broken, proud, and anxious (for me AND Miss Barbara). Miss Barbara reminded me that when I would drop him off those first few months, I would just say, “I am sorry” and shoo him in. When I observed only a couple of months later, no one would have ever known he was the youngest in the class, unless, of course, they caught sight of his adorable cheeks. He had his “work” to do and his barely 3 year old self was serious about it. She had worked her magic and so, after that, nothing surprised me. Julia and Brighton thrived in the atmosphere she created with seeming easeand they absolutely loved it.
They sewed, they polished, they sliced, they played instruments, they dissected, they made snakes, they danced, they ran, they were quiet, they drew, they served snacks, they made toast, they painted bread, they hammered, they made mazes, they traced, they punched out the continents, they dug for treasure, they cleaned, they made number lines, they painted, they tiptoed, they planted, they learned phonics through "sound boxes", they sorted, they sang, they listened to stories, they acted out stories, they earned prizes, they made butterflies, they made topographical maps, they learned to read, they mastered the brown stair and the pink blocks, they learned to print, they made full size kids complete with skeletons and organs………….I could fill the screen. Amazing.
A SHORT three years later, she said he was ready to move on. Yikes. She was right, of course. (As far as I know, Miss Barbara is never wrong.) My only hesitation—his transition from teacher to teacher- from her to me! There is only one Miss Barbara. It matters not how much of a “wanna be” I am, her shoes cannot be filled- even my sizey 9 ½!. My “Mom” title is my SOLE qualification and I can hope that will carry lots of weight come September……………..and the fact that I feed him.
On Thursday, as Pomp and Circumstance marched off the piano keys, four little cap and gown clad students made their way down the aisle of the church. Two girls in pink and two boys in black. B’s grin was as wide as the square rim of his black hat. When it was Brighton’s turn to stand with Miss Barbara, she read him the letter she had written for him. The entire letter is an absolute treasure, for sure, but the parts I will share are, “You have never been one to keep your thoughts to yourself,” and “If there is a desire in your heart you will go after it with great passion and convince everyone around you to do the same.” It was nothing new to me, but comforting that she knew and understood him so well. My “Big B” has been in incredibly loving and discerning hands a few hours a week for three years.
She then gave Jeff and me an opportunity to speak a blessing over Brighton and we took turns. I am convinced, as much as I would love to imagine how great my influence is on him, there are no more powerful nor more influential words than ones spoken from Daddy to son. Jeff focused on his name reminding him of how he “brightened” our lives and the lives of those around him. Brighton’s moment in the spotlight ended with handing me a pink rose with a big hug and a soft, smiling “I love you, Momma.” We all sat down, Brighton sitting just in front of us with his four “fellow graduates”, and I heard him lean and whisper to his buddy Claire, “THAT was fun!” He squirmed himself into a comfortable position, took in the rest of the ceremony and never stopped smiling.
And it was, Miss Barbara—“fun” from beginning to end. Your creativity, energy, passion and "magic", as I like to call it, bear evidence as gifts from God. Thank you for challenging and inspiring Brighton to learn, to use self control, to motivate himself, to explore with purpose, to set goals, but most of all, thank you for investing your love in him. He is different and better for having spent time with you. You have sown a harvest in the lives of my children and we are all reaping the benefits. It's beautiful.
By the way, I think I owe you a few cases of pasta noodles (especially the ones that look like wheels), toothpicks, gallons of glue and maybe some reams of drawing paper.
The first use he found for his diploma!