June 01, 2020

Letter For End of School Year 2020

You started this year with so many plans. It was your son’s first year of varsity basketball; you couldn’t wait to cheer him on. It was your daughter’s turn to be Editor-in-Chief of the school paper, and you so clearly remember the first scribbles in her first journal. Your kindergartner couldn’t wait to wear his cap and gown, couldn’t wait to be a “graduate.” Your 12-year-old was cast as Fern in Charlotte’s Web. You were finally given the chance to serve as Room Mom for your son’s third-grade class. You were a working parent who marked this year as the one when you would volunteer more in your daughter’s school. You were the after-school softball coach. You were the stay-at-home mom. You were going to watch him win the science fair. You were going to help her sell the most wrapping paper. You were his  biggest fan. You were her fiercest champion.

And then it was March 2020. Suddenly you were her full-time teacher. His full-time tutor. Their playmate. Now you had to remember geometry. You had to re-learn horrible things like diagramming sentences. Like solving for X. You had to reassure her that there would be other opportunities to run a school newspaper. You had to throw the softball with them in the yard, knowing there would be no tournament. You had to keep them on task while doing everything else you had always done. Like keep the house clean and cook the food. Like run a corporation. Like write your novel. Like all the things you had planned for you.

Now, like a dream, it is June 2020. You take stock of things and don’t know how you measured up. You feel like a failure for not knowing how to teach your first grader about division. You grimace remembering the time you snapped at your child for not understanding what you were trying to teach her. You suspect there was some fault in you for not being able to instantly pivot into being excellent at crafts, patient at lessons, innovative at scheduling, diligent at everything.

The truth is there were days you just gave them the video-game controllers and sprawled out on the couch. They watched more TV. You looked the other way when they sneaked their iPads. You didn’t make them do every assignment. Or you felt guilty that you forced them to complete every last one.

here is your report card text

You loved them. You got them through it. You got yourself through it. You survived. You did your best. You did everything you could. You had no road map or game plan. You didn’t see this coming. You weren’t supposed to know algebra. You weren’t asked to design crafts. You had the rug pulled out from under you and you had to watch them suffer so many disappointments. You had to stand by while they dispatched dreams, and held their hand while they faced uncertainties that would drive the most Zen adult to madness. But you were there for them. You were there with them. You loved them. You got them through it. You got yourself through it. You survived.

Maybe you didn’t give them the best algebra lesson or offer the most eloquent description of the Battle of Bull Run. But you bore witness and stood by them for a lesson that is part of life: that things are unpredictable, that they change, that many things are out of our control, that we only have power over certain things—like ourselves, and even that has limitations.

You may not realize it, you may not even believe it, but you need to hear someone say it, and maybe, just maybe, it will start to sink in. Good job, Mom. Good job, Dad. Good job Grandma, Grandpa, Teacher, Uncle, Aunt, Sister, Brother, Cousin, Neighbor, Coach, and Friend. In the quiet moments inside your house, you did it. You were there for them. And that’s what really matters. That’s the only thing that matters.

You were beautiful. You were brave. You were funny. You were clueless. You were hopeful. You were sad. You were persistent.

You were there. Good job.