Warning: I’m Mad

A few sessions ago Patsy and I were discussing the way children of alcoholics turn out. There are three ways that children of alcoholics combat what they see. Let’s say there are three siblings. As they age one of them will become self-indulgent and most likely repeat the behavior they saw as children. So they themselves will become an addict of some kind. Find a way to numb the pain. Then there is the martyr. The one who feels like they have to take care of all the people and all the things and it is the way they deal with their childhood. Then there is the functioning adult. The one who escapes it all, seemingly unscathed (usually with plenty of mental illness) but who can see it all, and them all, for who they are. This lines up perfectly with my family. Guess which one Patsy says I am: The Functional Adult! I know, I know, I was just as shocked as you are. Here’s the thing though, that word “martyr” kept popping up in my brain. Because I don’t always feel like a functioning adult and when I don’t, I feel like a martyr. And I’m really fucking tired of feeling that way, but I think I’ve been programed to feel that way. I think all women have.

Before you ask, no I have not read Untamed by Glennon Doyle, per my last post, but I do want to and I know she talks about this because I have heard her talk about the book on her Insta stories and I’m ordering the book today and it’s now catapulted to the top of my reading list. But this word “martyr” and I go way back. Way, way back. Back to the day I chose to end my pregnancy in 2011 because my daughter was “incompatible with life.” Since I made that decision I have always felt part murderer, part martyr. But what I didn’t see, or realize until Patsy told me about this whole idea, is that that word and I actually go back even further than that. Way, way back.

When I was a little girl I would not tell my mom, for example, that my friend was having a birthday party because I knew I couldn’t afford to bring a present. So instead I would stay home, call my other friends after and ask all about it. I would feel this rage fill up inside of me, but I had nowhere for it to go. Or on Friday nights I would sit at home alone all night and wait for my mom to come back after the bars closed at 2am, just to make sure I unlocked the door for her (because she never could, she was too drunk), make sure she got into pajamas, had some bread and milk so she didn’t vomit, and then fall asleep. That’s a thing 10-year-old Missy did. And 10-year-old Missy was trained to do that. Not intentionally, but still, trained to do. The next day I wasn’t allowed to talk about it with others. I wasn’t allowed to ask questions, or laugh at my mom for falling down the steps, or bring it up at all to anyone else, because that isn’t what good girls do. And that’s when this whole thing with this word and I started. And I think it happens, nay, I know it happens, to all little girls in different ways.

Be quiet. Be sweet. Say thank you and hello. Hug your relatives. Offer your assistance. Always be helpful. Don’t tell your business to strangers (something my family still attempts to make me feel guilty about for doing).

These little girls grow up to become women who are partners, and mothers, and daughters, and friends, and members of the community. And they are active. Active to the point of having breakdowns because they do too much. Give too freely. Don’t talk openly about their problems. We actually want to be viewed as martyrs, because that’s how we are supposed to be. We want people to look at us and go, “Oh poor Missy, she has so much on her plate.” We think that means we are doing what we are supposed to do as women. Meanwhile, we are suffering. We start to take less care of ourselves. We start to skip doing things we want to do, we start to give more and more to people who now expect it. If we are lucky we have partners, like mine, who try to tell us to stop. Show us what we are doing. Tell us to take care of ourselves. But we don’t listen. We are programmed to know what is best for us. What is best for everyone.

We hide behind lies. We hide behind PTAs, room-parent responsibilities, we hide behind “hectic” jobs, behind “challenging” children, or ailing parents, or partners who don’t know how to do their own laundry. Guess what, they are adults, they can learn to do their own fucking laundry! We hide behind “projects.” We hide behind “my time management skills are not great.” You’re an adult. Learn better time management. We hide. It’s all just excuses, and we as women nod at each other and say we understand. Because we do, we are trained to. We hide and do all the things for all the people, then when there is a little bit of time for us we squander it by faking a headache to get alone time. Or crying in the shower (raising my hand here). Or, or, or…

I’m done with that shit, y’all. Done. And I’m done coddling family and friends who are okay playing the martyrs too. I love y’all, but if you can’t stand up to people, say things like, “No, I need this time for myself.” Or “Hey, cook your own dinner, clean your own laundry, let someone else worry about the thing” and take care of yourself first, I can’t help you.

I have yet, in my life, to meet a woman who does all the things for all the people, who keeps herself feeling well, and who keeps herself happy by doing what makes her happy with regularity and doesn’t drink a ton. Or doesn’t have to hide in her closet from time to time, or who is told she can’t share her truths with the masses, so she holds it all in until the first chance she gets to spew all the things to her best friend because she has no other way to let it all out. I haven’t met her. She doesn’t exist.

Listen, I know this is hard for some of you to read. It was hard for me to process. I kept thinking of people in my life who seem to have it all together and then I would be like, “Ope, wait, she hates her husband,” or “Hold on now, she has a secret gambling addiction,” or “She thinks she is a horrible mother” or “Now I remember, she’s the one who lost her shit at the PTA meeting.” We are all flawed, every single one of us. And most of the flaws come from deep, deep family shit from way, way back in our childhood. Our alcoholic parents. Our absent parents. Our abusive parents. And most of us are repeating that cycle, just in a different way. We are repeating the cycle of making ourselves feel less than. And our children are watching. Jesus, they are watching. That’s the biggest problem, children are always watching. We were watching as children, that’s how we got here. We were watching, and listening, and learning, and repeating. So ask yourself this, just this one thing today: When my children look at me what do they see? I hope what you think they see, and what you want them to see line up.

Stand up for yourselves, ladies. Reclaim your time. Take care of yourselves.

I’ll be here, trying to sort this all out.

M.

Becoming Time

I was complaining to Jerimiah the other day about my lack of writing. Not on this here blog. I write everyday here, but as you can see it’s not important stuff. It’s not my “real” writing. It’s my musings, mainly for posterity, mainly because I promised myself on January 1st of this year that I would strive to write a blog post every single day for a year just to prove to myself that I could do it. And so far I have, even on days when I feel like shit and don’t want to get out of bed, or see my own family, I still manage to write a few paragraphs on here. It’s healing in some way, just haven’t had the time to consider how or why or any other W there might be, because truly my brain is a messy fog and I can’t keep it together right now.

Anyway, I was complaining to Jerimiah the other day that I am not writing anything substantial, and that is scaring me because I start an MFA program in the fall at Mississippi University for Women (Go Owls!) and I really wanted to have some stuff, some new stuff, going into the program that I was working on and as it sits I got nothing. Nada. Zero new “things.” I was feeling pretty shitty about it. I was telling myself all sorts of lies, like I bet I’m the only writer this is happening to. I bet “real” writers have their shit together and are getting so much done. I suck. Yada, yada, yada. Then Glennon Doyle, one of my favorites, shared this:

Okay, what? I mean, I know she is busy with a virtual book tour for “Untamed” which I have yet to read so don’t spoil it for me, but it’s on my list (so many books on my list) and what not, but it made me feel immediately better to know that I am not alone. That this thing we are living through is doing things to creative people. Empathetic people. Writers. Artists. Musicians. We are all struggling right now, and it is making the art sort of struggle too.

I also know there are people who are writing, and making, and creating, and my hat is off to them. I’m amazed at the people still out there doing it, but I can’t feel bad for being immobilized anymore. I just can’t.

Last week I got another very nice rejection letter. This one came with a note that my work had made it to the final round with the editors, and they loved it, but couldn’t make it fit in with the issue they were working on. Then the editor gave me some great feedback on how to help it a bit, asked to continue to send them more pieces for consideration, and said she knew this work would be picked up by a lit mag soon. I love those kind of rejection letters. It was for a submission I made at least six months ago, so not new work, but it did light a fire under me to start editing. So I’ve been editing for a week now, hoping this is my way back into writing. Small steps, you know?

Then I saw this from Glennon and I was like THANK YOU! It was seriously the permission I needed to be okay with what is happening, or not happening, in my case. It reminded me that I am the kind of person who is always “writing.” Meaning, I think about things all the time, I slosh my way through these big things, and eventually, eventually they become something. I’ve been so scared about what writing will look like for all of us on the other side of this, that I was consumed and unable to actually do the writing, but that doesn’t mean I’m not working still. Thinking still. Taking this all in. And who knows, maybe one day it will all become something. Until then I’m gonna try to give myself some grace. You should give yourself some too. We all need a little grace these days. It’s time to accept that and do it.

Stay safe and sane, y’all.

M.

And Just Like That…

Poof! Elementary school is over. I’m sitting here in a bit of a haze, trying to remember how it all started. The day I dropped him off for Kindergarten, kissed my husband bye in the school parking lot, then drove to Walmart, alone, crying. Then proceeded to sit in the car at Walmart, alone, and cry. I wasn’t used to being alone. I was used to my little 50-pound shadow following me everywhere I went. I was used to arguing about whether or not he could ride in the cart. Used to having to hit the toy aisle to look at Hot Wheels, when all I needed was milk and bread. Used to a little voice coming from the backseat to ask, “Can we stop for ice cream if I’m good?” Of course we stopped for ice cream. Of course he was always good.

Today when I do a Target run he says he doesn’t want to go. He’d rather log onto Minecraft with friends. But then right before I walk out the door he comes running up, throws his arms around me. “Mommy, bring me back something,” he will say. It’s pretty different now, but also pretty much the same. Now I have a 100-pound shadow. This shadow follows me around to tell me about YouTube videos and this “sick” arrest he made in this “pretty cool” cops and robbers game on Roblox. Now I have to remind my 100-pound shadow to wear deodorant, to do the dishes, to figure out where that smell is coming from in his room. And I hear it only gets worse.

Friday morning we all gathered around the living room television to watch the live stream of Jackson’s Fifth Grade Graduation. Jackson wore a suit, with my cap and gown on top of it. Jerimiah wore a button-up, I donned a summer dress. We watched for an hour as the teachers and administrators shared touching memories, heartfelt messages, and love, so much love, with the only class in the school’s history to not have a Fifth Grade Graduation on stage. It was different, but also the same.

Jackson won several awards, including being named a DeKalb County Board Scholar, along with five other fifth graders. He is one of the smartest, the brightest, of the group. Of course we didn’t need an award to tell us that, but it was nice to be recognized for all the hard work. His hard work, our hard work as parents, and his teachers’ hard work as well. For being a kid that went to four different elementary schools, in four different districts, in three different states, you certainly would never know it. He’s been steadfast about two things: Making friends and doing his best, and that has been abundantly clear over the last few months. His friends blow up his phone all day with messages, emails, FaceTimes, and then there are the cards that arrive in the mail from different places. We shouldn’t be surprised, but sometimes we are.

Mr. Budd read a poem to his class this afternoon and it was the only time that I wanted to cry. The past two months have been a blur of activity and of hard work. Of moving from one fire to another, but the hardest part was stopping myself every time I made a decision about my son. Was this going to be good for him? Help in some way? Do I make him structure his day like school? Take breaks? Get it all done in one setting? Do I let him play Minecraft for four hours on a Tuesday while he Facetimes a friend? Of course the answer to that one is yes, because I have a social child who needs interaction. He saw his classmates six hours a day, now he could sit in isolation all day long if I let him, but I refuse to do that. I don’t want him to be lonely, to feel left behind. I want him to know that there is a wide world of people out there just like him, and hopefully they have parents that understand this too. The poem reminded me of this. Reminded me of the way we are all probably feeling from time to time right now. Alone, without a clear path. The poem Mr. Budd read was Wild Geese by Mary Oliver. The last two lines go like this, “Whoever you are, no matter how lonely/the world offers itself to your imagination/calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting–/over and over announcing your place in the family of things.”

We have a running joke in the house. Jackson was working on a project early in the school year and as usual his mind was working quicker than his mouth and he was trying to say, “I’m in fifth grade” and “I’m a fifth grader” at the same time and he blurted out, “I grade five!” We all cracked up. And all year whenever he thinks too hard, or gets frustrated with himself because he thinks he can’t “get” a math question, we stop and say, “I grade five!” It gets us back on track. Let’s us laugh. Slow down a minute. Reminds us that we are all in this together. That we have each other. It means love. So yeah, we are proud of this kid of ours beyond measure. And yeah, we hope that his successes in elementary school equate to big successes in life, but we know there will be struggles along the way. We know there will be crying in parking lots. There will be hours upon hours of virtual playdates. We will feel lonely. He will feel lonely. Because we know this isn’t fifth grade anymore. But we are ready.

We love you, Jackson. We are so proud of you. We hope you always listen to the geese.

I grade six.

Mommy

Fourth Grade

My fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Albright, was sorta a hot mess. At least that is what I thought of her in fourth grade. She seemed a little scatterbrained, when in reality I think she was one of those people whose brains worked faster and harder than she could communicate her thoughts. Plus, she was a fourth grade teacher at a Title One school in the middle of Leavenworth, Kansas, she had other troubles. Jackson’s fourth grade teachers were absolute saints and you won’t change my mind. And he had several of them.

We were still in Charlotte, still at Mallard Creek STEM when fourth grade started, and he got Mrs. Duggins, the teacher I had met at the end of the school year, heard amazing things about, and decided I wanted Jackson to have. I tried to figure out how I could to that, but you have to remember I was new at this school, not well known, and my pull wasn’t that great. But I did know people… Anywho, you know the deal, he got the teacher I wanted him to get, she had some smart kids, and he even tested right into the “Gifted” program during the first week of school, which means he also had a new teacher, Mrs. Campbell. And she was THE BEST!

At this point at Mallard Creek STEM we already knew most of the other teachers, and had our favorites, like the STEM teacher Mrs. Chambers, who introduced Jackson to Lego Robots and his first foray into the STEM Club. Matter fact, in Mrs. Duggins class they had their very own 3D printer! Right there in the classroom! This was a very tech-savvy group of teachers, and Jackson fell right into line with them.

The only problem was that we knew by mid-november we would not be finishing fourth grade there. We had already been told we would be moving to the Atlanta Metro, and I had already started freaking out. Two moved in less than two years! AHHHHH! But Jackson took it all in stride. We often reminded him that had we not left St. James, he wouldn’t have all these awesome new friends, nor would he have been in a school play, or be able to 3D print in his classroom! He recognized his luck and began the process of leaving again.

Before we left though, we did some cool field trip, made some kick-ass robots, and secured some lifelong friends, as one does.

In December of fourth grade, Mrs. Duggins had her baby, and went out for maternity leave. This threw a small wrench in the plan, but I was already very involved with the classroom, I was a room-parent again, and Jackson had a steady stream of work with Mrs. Campbell keeping him busy. Plus their long-term sub, Mrs. Kinney, was sweet and smart and funny, so it all worked out. Jackson became her “tech guy” always getting her connected to what she needed to connect to and generally fixing glitches around the classroom.

Truth be told, Jackson did most of the year there. We didn’t move to Georgia until April 1, 2019 which was the first day of spring break down here, so he only did about seven weeks of school in his new Georgia school, but it was just long enough to make some friends and make a name for himself as a funny, smart, trustworthy guy, which made his transition into fifth grade much easier. In fact, we had only been there for six weeks when I was asked to help out in the classroom, which also made my transition into a room parent easy for fifth grade as well. The more you know… stars and what not.

Mrs. Butler was his fourth grade teacher at Midvale, and she was young and sweet and totally reminded me of Miss Honey from Matilda. As soon as we saw her we looked at each other and Jackson mouthed, “Miss Honey.” I was all, “I know right?!” She turned out to be just as sweet, albeit a little overwhelmed, and she recognized Jackson’s potential pretty early on, which is usually the mark of a great teacher. Though we didn’t get to know her much, we are appreciative of the time she gave to Jackson, and the trust she instilled in us from the beginning.

There you have it, fourth grade. Short, but long. Long, but short. Five important teachers, two schools, and two states. It was much easier than fifth grade, and the whole mess we found ourselves in over the last few months. Though to be fair, it wasn’t so bad. Sad that we missed so much, or feel like we did, but we are healthy, we are safe, and so are all of our friends, so we count ourselves lucky. We hope you are safe too.

M.

New school!
New deal: We were al close we could walk/ride bikes to school!

Third Grade

Ahh, third grade. Third grade was unique because we moved from a large house on the lake in the suburbs, into a small, urban house about four minutes from Uptown (which is what Charlotte calls downtown). It was an amazing experience, living close enough to walk, or catch the train into the city whenever we wanted to, and we did that a lot. Jackson got involved in the Children’s Theater in Charlotte, and met new friends and had plenty of new experiences.

The first half of Third Grade was spent in Mrs. Fay’s class, another one of those “I hope he gets Mrs. Fay next year, ahem, cough, cough” instances, that worked. Again, I think it was because she got most of the higher-thinking kids, but still, we were excited. We knew, early on we might not make it through the year there, and we started to look at alternatives for school.

We knew we wanted to live in Charlotte, as close to Uptown as possible, but we also knew that some of the schools in that area were not great. I researched and researched, trying to find the best fit for him. We weren’t scared of Title One, or anything like that, but by this time Jackson was starting to show a lot of promise in STEM and we knew we wanted him to follow that track, which led us to Mallard Creek STEM Academy.

The great thing about Mallard Creek STEM was that you didn’t need to live in a certain neighborhood to go there. You didn’t even need to live in the Charlotte city limits. We had friends that went to school there that lived in several of the small, suburban towns around the city. And we got lucky to snag the spot of a kid who left mid-year. The stars aligned, you might say, and while we started Third Grade at St. James, we said goodbye on the last day of the semester and moved on to the next school, the next phase of our lives, and while we cherish the memories at the first school, the next one offered us even more fun and excitement. Here are some pics of the beginning of Third Grade. The last ones are of the pillow case his class made him and presented to him the day he left. Which of course he still has!

If I’m being honest when I saw that Jackson wrote, “I have a big house” on his “Things about Jackson” paper, I knew it was time to leave. I didn’t want my kid thinking that a person’s “goodness” or “worthiness” depends on how big your house is, and I saw some of the other kids “About Me” and this was something that several of the middle-class, white kids wrote. Hey, you live, you learn.

The two coolest things about Mallard Creek STEM, in Jackson’s opinion, was the fact that he FINALLY got to wear a uniform. Seriously, he had been asking to go to a school where uniforms were required since he knew that was a thing, I think in first grade. The other cool thing was that it was two stories, a brand-new building, with a brand-new ELEVATOR! I assumed him he would not be allowed to use the elevator, then around his third week of school he fell on the playground and sprained his damn ankle! Guess who got crutches AND access to the elevator?! Geez.

Anyway, the second half of third grade started at Mallard Creek STEM Academy, which was just off I-485 in a Charlotte. Jackson went from being a bus rider, to sitting in morning traffic with me. He enjoyed the ride in though, and it always gave us more time to catch up before and after school. He was placed into a class that just had a child move, and so he filled a spot already there. The transition seemed seamless, at first, though every once in a while he would cry and say he missed St. James. That is when we learned the busier the better for him, and when the first snow hit our Charlotte house, suddenly there were kids knocking on our door to see if Jackson could play, and well, that was it. There were about five kids on our block, and sooner rather than later he forgot all about our “big house” with the pool near St. James.

Kids are resilient. That is what we learned. And we were glad to learn that, because unbeknownst to us at this time, things were cooking in Jerimiah’s office, and he was about to be faced with a choice: Either stay with the company and move, or find a new job. And well, you know what we picked. But before we left for Georgia, we spent 13 glorious months in our tiny (1200 sq. feet) city house in Villa Heights. Where we met amazing people, had so much fun, roamed the city day and night, and ate at the best places, saw the best shows, and truly dug our heels into city-living. Something that was surprisingly fun and easy for all three of us.

Here are some pics from the second half of third grade, in Ms. Achee’s class at Mallard Creek STEM, as well as Jackson involved with the school’s production of “The Wiz Jr.” What an amazing experience that was, and one we never would have had if we hadn’t taken a chance!

Thanks for reading!

M.

He found a little blonde girl to impress, day one. And if you’ll notice here, he isn’t wearing his glasses (and he has his boot on his ankle) because she said, “I bet you’d be cute without your glasses on.” (Eye roll)

Second Grade

When Jackson was in first grade, I started substitute teaching. I went back to grad school, had a 20-hour-a-week GA-ship on campus, and then subbed a couple days a week. I was busy, but I picked up most of my sub jobs at his school. Which meant that I could drop him off, go to class, see him throughout the day, and then he’d just walk to whatever class I was in at the end of the day. It was a win-win. Plus I made $100 a day, and the kids in the school were pretty good kids. I knew the teachers and admin, so it made sense. I also got to check out all the classrooms and teachers. Like Mrs. Martin’s second grade classroom. The first time I watched them walk down the hallway, hands behind their back, silent and smiling, I was like, “Umm, how do I ensure Jackson gets into her class next year?!”

I’m not sure exactly how I did it. Or if it was even something I did. I may have overtly said to Mrs. Mattner, “Hey, can you make sure he gets Mrs. Martin?” I may have written a letter to the principal. I may have just hung around enough that Mrs. Martin started to recognize me. If could have had nothing to do with me. She seemed to get the “higher” kids, even though they vehemently denied doing this, so maybe I just lucked out because Jackson is supersonic? I don’t know. But sure enough he was in Mrs. Martin’s class for second grade, and suddenly I was welcomed with open arms back into the classroom again.

I spent a lot of time with that class. I went in every Thursday and did math problems with kids who needed the extra attention. I read with reading groups. I subbed for Mrs. Martin whenever she had to be out. I wasn’t the official “room parent” but the actual room parent was kind of a mess (I couldn’t stand her and she had this really annoying, squeaky voice). The good news was she’d often flake out and email me and be like, “Can you take care of this, Missy?” Sure thing, crazy lady. This is when I learned to navigate that role. Where I learned what NOT to do. How NOT to be. How you probably shouldn’t be a room mom if you spend all your time talking shit on the other parents, it’s uhh, not really a good thing.

Jackson, well, he sailed through second grade. I was starting to wonder if school would just be easy for him like this forever. Still not letter grades, but you know, all capital “Ss” on his report cards. A leader in the classroom. Talk started this year about the “gifted” class in third grade.

The class was good, for the most part, with the exception of a couple of teacher kids, who were like, legit nightmares. One of them was already a little racist, and the other one would sometimes stand on desks and scream things. This is when I started to feel really bad for teachers. Mrs. Martin took it all in stride and was often like, “Oh (insert name) stop being crazy and get down.” But I was like damn, how do you tell a woman you work with that her kid is fucking nightmare? I guess you don’t, you just deal with it.

By mid-year I was on to all the “behavior” kids, and had their number. They’d see me roll in and be like, “DAAAAMN IT!” But they also always had fun with me. Jackson had started to set himself apart from the crowd at this point. He’d come home and say things like, “I told so and so that he was being crazy and needed to calm down, or I was telling Mrs. Martin.” He’d walk the playground with his gaggle of little bling girls, and “Patrol” ensuring that the “problem” kids were being nice. He was well liked and trusted. Kids started to say things like, “Mrs. Goodnight, I’m trying to be more like Jackson.” And they really were.

Second grade is also the time our home life was changing, and Jerimiah and I had secretly began discussing moving into Charlotte. We had good friends there. I was driving there three sometimes four times a week, and Jerimiah worked in Uptown, so he drove in everyday. There schools offered more. They had STEM schools, Charter Schools, Private Schools with rigorous course loads. We dragged our feet for too long, and Jackson ended up starting third grade at the same school, but we were already looking at houses on the first day of third grade.

But second grade taught us some important lessons. Mrs. Martin was very organized. She always had a plan, and she was incredibly communicative. She always had a good handle on what each kid needed, and she strived to get them to do their best work everyday. She expected a lot from the kids like Jackson, and she pushed them. And he was definitely better for the experience. He doesn’t look back so fondly on that year because he said he was “too busy.” Ha! That was exactly what he needed to be, and it would pay off later. Even learning how to learn with “behavioral distractions.” It all came in handy.

Thanks, Mrs. Martin, and whomever stuck Jackson in her class. Thanks for being welcoming to us, for always being fair, and for teaching Jackson that not everyone would act and think like him, but his life would be better for knowing those people, and having those experiences.

M.

First Grade

First grade was a trip for me. Mrs. Heim was my teacher, and by then I had developed into a shy child, who was advanced in reading, and a little behind in math. Go figure. I have always heard first grade is tough. Some kids just don’t “get it” yet. Kindergarten didn’t set them up for success, or they were still too young to dive into the “real” work, and maybe that is the case for some kids, but it wasn’t for Jackson. The only real problem in first grade was that I didn’t like his teacher. It wasn’t for any particular reason. She was never rude to me. She liked Jackson. She had been teaching for years and she was smart, straightforward. She wasn’t a beat around the bush kinda gal, and that can come off as abrasive, especially when his kindergarten teacher was the exact opposite.

But mainly I didn’t like her because one of my friends didn’t like her. My friend had subbed for the first grade classes and heard “things” about Mrs. Mattner. She spent the whole summer scaring me. And I fell for it it hook, line, and sinker. And because of that I never gave her a fair shot. But I also never let Jackson hear any of it, and up until this year, fifth grade, if you were to ask him who his all-time favorite teacher is, he would tell you it was his first grade teacher, Mrs. Mattner! He adored her! He thought she was “hilarious.” That was one of the first things she said about him, matter of fact, that she would make some funny joke that the kids weren’t really supposed to get, and Jackson would crack up. That’s when she knew he was “different.”

Like most teachers, Mrs. Mattner was saddled with a mix of kids. It is different here in Georgia. It seems they put kids who are alike together. But in first grade there is a broad stroke of “smart” and some straggling “behavior” issues and while Mrs. Mattner had been saddled with some really gifted kids whose talents were just starting to emerge, like Jackson, there were some kids who weren’t quite there. I didn’t spend much time in that classroom, because I still didn’t really like her, even mid-year (and I had started grad school, and substitute teaching, and I had a GA-ship) but from the things I heard about the classroom, they struggled a bit to get things rolling, but by the end of the year they were pretty close to a cohesive, fun, again really kind and sweet group of kids.

I went on every field trip with this group, and while I did see some of the “behavior” issues that Mrs. Mattner had to deal with, I mainly saw a group of kids that loved each other, supported each other, and said kind things. This was from the top down, no doubt about it. Turns out we were blessed with another awesome set of teachers in Mrs. Mattner and Mrs. Smith, and by May I had realized my errors, apologized to Mrs. Mattner for not trusting her more, and stopped taking things that friend said so seriously. Ehh, you live, you learn.

All in all, first grade was fun, albeit stressful at times, but again Jackson sailed through it, even on our his last field trip, the famed First Grade Zoo Trip, when it rained, oppressively, ALL DAY LONG, Jackson, along with the rest of Mrs. Mattner’s Class were the only kids out there dancing in it. While she yelled to, “Be careful!” and also, “Nice moves!”

Growing pains sometimes hurt, but they always heal.

Thanks, Mrs. Mattner and Mrs. Smith, and the kiddos of first grade. We will always remember you.

M.

Saying hi to Mrs. Mattner in 2nd grade