People, I need you to hear this…

It is disheartening, to say the very least, to realize yet again that the public’s perception of your work as a professional is characterized as being whiny, over-paid, indulged, lazy, self-centered and existent so as to be servile.

I have spent the past number of years in deep contemplation of my teaching practice- writing, thinking, reading and reflecting almost daily. And I am coming to comprehend that the overall public perception of teachers who run in North American circles, anyway, is extremely negative and it probably will stay that way until we as teachers re-invent ourselves.

Interestingly, I am conducting thesis research on the ethic of care and its relevancy to classroom experience. In this endeavor, I am coming to realize more and more that care is the absolute primary concern of teachers. We teachers are there in our classrooms because we care about what we are doing and the people we are doing it all for. However, unlike caregivers such as doctors (who at least have the potential of making sick people well), teachers do not always seem to serve the immediate betterment of the children they work with. While a doctor has the immediate function of providing relief (through medication and treatment), a teacher’s impact often is never realized until well after the children they have taught are moved on to another classroom and grade level. Furthermore, unlike doctors, people do not come to us of their own free will. There is compulsory attendance in school. Generally, no one is going to force you go to the doctor’s office.

But if doctors can be perceived in a positive light as care-givers, well so then can teachers. It just might take a little blood, sweat and tears to get there.

In writing about teaching as a profession (and in turn, trying to debunk the myths that teachers are money-hungry, union slaves that think solely of how to raid public coffers), I am also realizing the need for teachers to present another alternative image to the world than the one currently being upheld. I think what is needed in our profession is for teachers to show those that are unclear about what teachers really care about- that is, the public at large, the truth of our identity. As young people fresh out of high school, we were not drawn to the teaching profession because we couldn’t wait to one day be part of a union that would help us get rich. Hardly.  We were drawn to teach because we cared about the ideals of the profession and because we cared about connecting kids to those ideals. Then, as we became employed, we realized something even more important (if we hadn’t come to the conclusion already): we realized how incredibly important the kids in our classrooms were to us.

They in fact were everything.

As such, we started to care for them personally- and deeply care. Care about what they were eating both in school and without. Care about who they were friends with. About how much sleep they were getting on school nights. About what they were watching on television/social media. We started to care about their personal history and their present situations. We began to notice when they looked sad. Started to tune into their moods and feelings.

We noticed when things began to change from their typical interactions. Started to notice so much more than even this. In short, we were not really expecting this part of our calling to occur. It wasn’t exactly what we trained for in university; but somehow, in conjunction with the first day of our teaching contract, we realized that teaching content would sometimes take a backseat to caring for kids as people. Actually, we learned rather quickly this would happen A LOT of the time. Because our job as a teacher was profoundly about the students- their concerns, feelings, beliefs and identities. Our calling was wrapped up in the whole student- not just concerned with their brain. Wrapped up in the health and well-being of their body, heart and mind.

When I read comments like this one: “whine , whine , whine , move on and get a different job”; and this “what teachers want is more money”; and this one “get back to work, public servant! If you don’t like your job, get another one. Got that , public servant?”, I am extremely saddened. I think what bothers me the most is that we as teachers have not been enabled to truly represent ourselves in the media so that people can understand what we truly care for- after collective bargaining time is over and done with. I think the public MUST know about the absolute and incredible gift it is for us to be a teacher all those other days of the year. They must hear directly from us and often about what exactly our job entails. The highs and the lows. We need to share with the public about our well-founded concerns as well as our ample ‘gratitudes’. Need to tell what it is like to struggle with meeting the needs inside our classroom and what it is like to triumph in spite of the shortcomings. And we need to continuously share the importance that a teacher can make in the life of a child.

In my blogging, I have made this my goal: to raise awareness about teaching. To be a voice in the wilderness, if need be. To be a rally cry for teachers to unite and care about our profession enough to invest in it. To be a clear and concise storyteller so as to draw people into the world of education. I want people to care about what we do because we are teaching the children that people care about. What we do inside classrooms is incredibly significant, particularly when it gets personal. I have written before the following words:

Until we as people are impacted personally by this care-giving aspect role that describes a true educator, we really don’t understand how important it is.
And what I mean by this is the following:
Until your child has been bullied, you don’t realize what it means to have a teacher calling you to see what they can personally do to rectify the situation.
Until your child has been without a lunch, you don’t realize how much it means to have a teacher offer half of hers to your child.
Until your child has been excluded, you don’t realize how much it means to have a teacher notice your child and seek them out.
Until your child has been owing money for an event, you don’t realize what it means to have a teacher notice and make up the difference in the amount.
Until your child has lost a loved one, you don’t realize how much it means to have a teacher take the time to make a homemade card for your son or daughter.
Until your child has been scared, anxious, worried, fearful, hurt, overwhelmed or endangered, you don’t realize what it means to have a teacher in their corner- rooting for them, whatever it takes.

Because until it hits you personally, it is really hard sometimes to remember what a monumental role care-giving plays in the day-to-day life of a school.

Care-giving is the heart of teaching.  And it is absolutely crucial that the outside world- the one not caught up in education- become aware exactly what this adage means.

Why Motherhood Has Impacted my Teaching

Being a Mom has rewarded me in so many ways, particularly in my understanding of things concerning parent-teacher relationships and student-teacher relationships within in a school system. Disclaimer from the get-go: I realize that one does not have to become a parent so as to teach well and make a difference. I would never want that message to be understood because of anything stated (words or ideas) that is to follow. Good teachers come in all forms and packages. I know this with all my heart.

However, having stayed as a teacher without having had kids myself, I personally (knowing my unique personality and tendencies) would have been ‘less than caring‘ in my interactions with children; I know this about myself. In this way, having children was really the answer for me specifically in enlarging my understanding about care relationships within education. I have a friend without children and she is naturally (from probably birth) an absolute saint. She is so kind and sweet and tender-hearted toward children- something that took me years to even begin to master. I had to have four kids and fourteen years of parenting before I started to ‘get it’. And there are still things I am working on and know I never would have quite ‘gotten’ so well, had I not become a mother.

I absolutely salute anyone who works with children- parents, teachers or otherwise. We have much to learn from one another.

But for me—as a Mom, I am able to understand kids as children- not just as students. Each time I walk into a classroom, hallway, playground or corridor- I am reminded that these children I am interacting with are someone elses’ children. They belong to someone. Someone loves these children and these are treasured beings. They are absolutely beloved- cherished and adored by someone. And I hold this knowledge in the forefront of my mind as much as is possible- because I know how I want each of my four precious four to be treated. Just the way I am dealing with the children in my school: with the knowledge that they are someone’s loved child.

As a Mom, I am also able to understand parents as allies- not as the enemy. I am a mom to four fabulous kids. But I am also a teacher to amazing, fabulous kids. Each and every time I walk into my own four children’s world (whether that be a classroom they are situated in, a basketball court, a piano studio, a recital hall, a baseball diamond or a hockey rink)- I understand that this zone of proximity is not my official turf. I am physically outside my comfortable school-based perimeters. Put me in a school, and I am feeling that I am on the inside circle. But place me inside someone elses’ circle of influence, and I suddenly find myself somewhat outside my comfort zone. This is not a bad thing, but it reminds me how I want to be treated when not on my own turf. That is, with respect, dignity, thoughtfulness, justice and kindness. Outsiders wish these things for themselves because they know what it feels like to be on the borders. In the very same way, put me back in my classroom and I suddenly find myself on the inside again- in a comfortable place of respect and influence. But as I was on the outside at some point in time, it is never lost on me what this feels like. To be outside. I hold it again at the forefront of my mind with the greatest of regard. When a parent comes into my educational world, comes into my classroom and meets me on my turf: it is never lost on me what that feels like to be in their shoes. I don’t want to be viewed as the ‘enemy’ when I am outside my comfort zone. Neither do parents. We are all in this together- parents, teachers and otherwise. We need to see one another as allies and partners in purpose.

For we do better when we see each other for whom we truly are: people. We are People- all of us! People who care (albeit in different ways), people who want the best for their children (albeit again-sometimes in different ways) and people who would be willing to make whatever sacrifice is necessary so as to do what needs to be done for the benefit of the child. Parents are our greatest allies and we serve not only them but ourselves best when we strive to preserve and grow these relationships.

As a Mom who is also a teacher, here is something else I have been able to understand.  I am able to put the school day in perspective. School is part of life, but it is not all of life. Today, I asked a kindergartener what school was all about. Here’s what he said: ‘playing, eating and some working’. If this isn’t what school really is in kindergarten, then we have a problem Houston.

As a Mom, I have been challenged to act in my classroom as if there were always a parent in the room. Each of my students has a family support system behind them. They all have parents who love them, grandparents who adore them and a family network of aunts and uncles and cousins who are in their life vouching for their best interest. In my classroom, it is never far from my mind that each and every one of my students has a team behind them, working off the record at home and in the community, to support their learning. When I teach my students, interacting with them inside the classroom, I keep at the forefront that someone ‘outside’ loves them. Keeping this principle in my mind has enabled me to consistently act in ways that are loving (besides- if a parent was sitting in my classroom, wouldn’t that be the way I would respond to each child?), act in ways that are fair and just (because again, a parent would insist that this be the standard by which I deal with their child- and so should I), as well as act in ways that are compassionate (because what parent does not want a kind adult dealing with their children?). Added to this would be that I strive to act in ways that are positive and assistive (because every child deserves to learn in the ways they are equipped to learn by best).

Being a mom has grown me, stretched me and enabled me. But being a teacher has also done the same. In both capacities, I am learning that love is the most important foundation on which to build; am also learning that there is always enough love to go around. We always can find more, for each and every one of the students who have been placed in our lives. They are there for a reason. We are in their life for a reason. And much like the saying that emphasizes ‘we don’t often get to choose the children God places in our families’, we also don’t get that privilege as teachers either. You love the ones you’ve been given.

Because just like our own flesh and blood children: our kids at school need consistent caring love from us. And they know when that love is genuine and real. Their responses to us, much like those offered by our own children, are cushioned in the beliefs they have about themselves along with the beliefs they think WE have about them too.

So may all our beliefs as teachers be those that choose to support and uplift- just as an effective mom (or dad) would cherish the God-given brood they were given, so must teachers care for the ones they’ve been given as students too.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the Dads (who have to be moms too)

You can read this article again at the Huffington Post Canada.

Paul Bradbury via Getty Images

This Sunday is Mother’s Day, a day we traditionally honour and celebrate the mothers in our lives. Moms, grandmoms, great-grandmothers, step-mothers, adopted moms, surrogate mothers, mothers-to-be: they all get at the very least a nod of appreciation (if not a full-out display of love and affection).

So they should, of course. But I have been thinking more and more of the unofficial ‘mothers‘ who never get recognized on Mother’s Day, and I’m talking about the dads.

This is not to say that dads are mothers in the truest sense of the word. They will always be first and foremost a father — and as such, will always place most importance overall on their interactions with their kids as it concerns their being a father. But for some families, particularly for those who have lost a mother due to death or separation or some other form of difficulty, dads are playing both parental roles to the best of their ability.

Let me pause to say that I also recognize women do these very same things (act in dual parental roles), but let me save that blog article for Father’s Day when I recognize mothers.

Back to the fathers. These guys are moms to their kids, all while they are still being that incredible father they always were. I can think of one such dad close to our own family’s heart who lives this reality. He is currently dad and mom to his girls (girls who are still needing his love and attention in both a maternal and paternal way), as well as he is doing what his girls’ mom formerly did for them prior to her death.

As I watch the various dads I am coming to know and truly appreciate, many of whom have lost wives to cancer, I can’t help but observe the grace with which they have handled the passing on of their spouse. I am amazed and humbled to see that being a mother has been added to their job description. In true motherly-form, they are willing to do what it takes to be there for their kids.

What a legacy they leave for their beautiful families.

These guys are doing things they never use to do (as per the varied division of labour that occurs in any given family), and they are doing some of the things that Mom only once did. And playing these dual roles, solo; without the benefit of another partner to complement their parenting.

Things like being that sole parent there when their kids get home from school.
Things like planning birthday parties, attending festival performances and watching shows they aren’t accustomed to watching.
Things like attending meetings, appointments and practices without the advantage of tag-teaming with their other parenting counterpart.
Things like letting their kids know it is okay to cry — because they do too.
Things like arranging work schedules around their children.
Things like brushing hair and putting up ponytails.
Things like being that soft, warm place their kids can fall when life gets rough — because kids need this sometimes.

Are these aspects of parenting solely mom’s domain? Of course they are not. Surely, there are fathers out there who take charge in all these areas at the best of times, freeing up their wives to do other just as important parental tasks. But for those dads who NEVER had to take leadership in some of these areas before (or weren’t quite comfortable assuming this predefined role), this is new territory for them. These are unchartered waters.

And the fact that they are doing these new tasks solo is what endears them to me, a mother myself.

Rather than being criticized, these dads need to hear the words that they are doing an amazing job at parenting their children — playing the role of both partners in the absence of their female counterparts.

To all the dad-moms out there: “I know Father’s Day is coming up, but it is never too early to say that we appreciate you. As moms, we support you. You are doing an absolutely fabulous job at being there for your kids. Keep on keeping on, Dad. You make us all proud to be a parent.”

Happy Sunday to one and all — mothers, fathers or otherwise. And for all those dads out there who are both dad and mom: “you’ve got this, man.”

We’re all rooting for you.

Dear Teachers (From All the Parents)

Dear Teachers,

It’s April.

We parents are hardly able to clasp the few shards of fading sanity remaining from Spring Break (as they slip nimbly from our hands into the oblivion of another work week). So we can hardly imagine how other adult human beings around the country are faring out. (Can I get a witness?)

Spring this year feels like a continuous week of non-stop Mondays- no thanks to the mountains of shard-like snowdrifts left in our backyards still covering swing-sets, clotheslines and anything else less than six feet in stature. It is no wonder we are all feeling the challenge of the April Blues.  What with the lagging seasonal change, the joys of flooding (spring thaw), the onslaught of standardized testing now in full-gear (provincial assessments), political elections underway (at least in certain areas such as our own P.E.I), along with the general chaos, craziness and confusion of everyday living- added to that joyous of all emotions, end-of-school- year exhaustion- IT’S NO WONDER WE ARE ALL LOSING OUR MARBLES.

We can hardly believe the school year is quickly coming to a close.

And with that in mind, we are sure that you teachers need no reminder why you do this good, good work of teaching and advocating for our children (while we mop ground water out of our basements and pray desperately for sunshine). We know it is innately in you all to CARE and STRIVE for our kiddos. We KNOW you want to be there for our children.

It’s just what you do.

But we also realize that this last mile toward the finish line is a treacherous one. There are numerous pitfalls and potholes in the road. There is the weariness of traveling to contend with. The fatigue of long hours. The arduous work of putting one foot in front of another. The pain of injury and harm that is accrued along the way. This journey is not for the faint of heart. And we are all too aware of the reality that travelers can so easily drop out of the journey when faced with these and other taxing obstacles.

This is the reality of the work you teachers do.

Let me be the first to say: “You can do this, teachers.”

Your journey is long and hard and tough and fraught with hazards and risk, but it is worthwhile. Not looking to the peril, your focus is ever on the children and what they can accomplish. Your eyes are continually on the possibility and potential- not focused on the pitfalls. And you teachers know in your caring hearts that it’s the students that matter- not the test scores or the assessments results or the glowing progress reports. It’s the kids that matter.

And this is a truth you remind us all to remember, each and every time you are working your magic with our children.

We know you believe that the students are why you are there.
Your acts of kindness do not fall by the wayside unnoticed.

Whether it be the extra hours you put in at recess.
The special little things you do to make learning fun.
The hours and hours you spend writing notes and making phone calls.
The little smiles you share when you see your “kids” out and about in the community.
Whether it be the food you so generously share at recess.
Or the special little gifts you buy for them ‘just because’.

We know you do it not for accolades or attention: you do it all because you CARE.

Teachers, you make learning happen all while you under-gird this quest for emotional and academic growth with a spirit of love and concern.  You make magic happen every day in your classrooms- even for small moments, so teachers we want to tell you: we know why you do your work. You do it for our children.

For all you do.
For all you are.
For all you help our children to grow and become.
Thank you.

We can’t ever say enough how much we value your place in our children’s lives.

And one more thing. We know that there is still the very genuine reality that tomorrow is another day with more hurdles to jump, puddles to slosh through and mountains to climb- there is much, much more legwork to be accomplished on your journey. Forty-four days worth of legwork, to be precise.

Hang in there, comrade. We ‘got your back’.

All The Parents

In Defense of Helicopter Parenting

Four months ago, after traveling home from supper with friends only to witness a near-fatality involving two children, I wrote an article– the title of which was “Why I am Glad to be a Helicopter Parent”. In the article, I wrote shamelessly about being a helicopter parent as it concerned the issue at hand- safety of children on roadways where traffic can be found.

Fast forward to this week in which two children ten and under were picked up by police officers walking home from a park in Maryland. Their parents defend the children’s freedom to travel without a parent’s protective watch, calling it ‘free-range’ parenting.

As a result of this latest story on parenting extremes, I have given some thought to my strong feelings about my own parenting with a protective stance towards safety on the road, as well as why others feel differently about the issue. And because of this, I thought I might weigh in on the issue again, giving a bit of a defense for parents, like myself, who are more prone to be protective- and thus deemed to be helicopter parents.

In my own situation, I am a helicopter parent in this issue because of my history. In my extended family, three aunts were in serious, life-altering car accidents- killing one and leaving the other two with paralysis. Add to this, three years ago, my own children were involved in a car accident due to teenage drivers not paying close enough attention to the roads. Add to this, on our road alone, there have been three tragic car accidents since I have lived here, one of which involved two walkers being hit and killed. And if this were not enough, at the end of our driveway is a small culvert. I can call up five accidents to mind that have occurred in that spot since my son was born. And that is just a quick estimate.

That area of which I speak is potentially where my children play- and certainly an area that we as a family have walked together many, many times over the years. I am just saying- who could ever say that an accident wouldn’t occur during one of those times. I err on the side of caution.

Car accidents happen everywhere and if we lived our life in fear of them occurring, we’d never go anywhere. However, for the precise reason that car accidents do happen- and some of these accidents occur in certain highly-susceptible areas (like the end of our road where the Yield sign is ignored), then parents need to act defensively. This is an issue where parents must make a risk-assessment and ask the question: can I take a risk by letting my child have freedom to travel roadways alone or is the risk too high based on the probability that something might go wrong?

This is not about NOT trusting your child in this situation- and everything about having very little trust in the driving public.

Secondly, I am a helicopter parent in regards to safety issues. I am NOT a helicopter parent in regards to everything the Children are involved in as kids. I know I should be more vigilant about checking their i-pods and social media sites- but I am not. I should be better at applying sunscreen in the summer- I haven’t always been on top of my game in that respect, so I am not a helicopter parent there either. And I give my children a fair bit of lenience with regards to freedom in our home. The latter, primarily because I have deemed this home a safe place- what my children do with their time here is largely up to them, give or take. It is understood that the children can make choices about how they spend their free time, and I leave things like homework largely up to them to figure out (unless it is something requiring my attention).

This is not to say I never check i-pods, never apply sunscreen and never get involved in homework- I do. I just wouldn’t take a strong stand of labeling myself a helicopter parent in these issues. Which is to say: every parent finds themselves at one time or another- on a continuum. Free-range might be at one end of the spectrum and helicopter parenting at the other or perhaps disciplinarian at one end and lenient at the other. There are no end to the ways in which parents label themselves, no end to the ways in which we can be divided.

So helicopter parent today might be free-range tomorrow depending on the issue.

With regards to the two parents in Maryland- I really do not feel strongly one way or the other about their parenting ‘feelings’ on letting children roam free and unattended. I am sure there are a number of reasons for why they feel less-protective about safety than I do- many reasons of which would take time and effort to discover. The feelings they have are personal to them. However, the minute they let their children out on the street- it is no longer just them involved in the scenario- it is now about the children and the world at large. And in my experience, at least when children are driving in a car with me, I know the exquisite value of the passengers- which is more than I can say for some drivers who give not a thought to anyone except themselves.

So to let children walk unattended or not? That is the question. To this I say, if we are willing to take that risk, we gamble a lot. But we know as parents intuitively when it is a risk we can wager on.

As for me- at this point in the game, it’s just not a lottery I am willing to play.

My Five Wishes for the Upcoming School Year

It’s August. And as it happens to be my holidays, I am knee-deep in summer lovin’. I have paint spatters on my legs from the fresh coat I applied to the veranda this afternoon, a good book waiting for me on the couch and the idea in my head of a glass of iced coffee just waiting for me to drink it. Thoughts of school, teaching and work might be a million miles away from my immediate consciousness.

But are they?

As a teacher, this time of the year is one where my mind drifts to ‘what ifs’ and ‘how abouts’. To possibilities. Summer is the time of year when teachers are finally afforded the TIME in which to breathe, take stock and think about what is yet to come. So while I am not ready to cash in on summer yet, here are a five wishes I have for the upcoming school year, set to start in a few short weeks.

1. I wish for this upcoming school year that we as teachers act on the principle that education be not only about the mind. It be about the person. That is, the whole person. I love what Nel Noddings has to say on the topic:

“…school, like the family, is a multipurpose institution. It cannot concentrate only on academic goals any more than a family can restrict its responsibilities to, say, feeding and housing its children. The single-purpose view is not only morally mistaken, it is practically and technically wrong as well, because schools cannot accomplish their academic goals without attending to the fundamental needs of students for continuity and care” (Noddings, 2005, p. 63).

What Noddings is saying here is that school must function in continuity for the purpose of caring for students as whole persons, not just merely as empty minds which require regular and constant filling up of knowledge. Students have minds, yes- but they also have souls and bodies which both require care and attention in the course of the day, along with caring for the student’s mind for academic, physical, emotional and relational pursuits. My wish is for educators to remember that there is more to student learning than simply pumping the mind with facts and information. The possibilities for growth and development are endless.

2. There is a lot of wasted time in school. Time wasted before school while waiting for all the buses to arrive, time wasted in line-ups, in wait time, in coming and going places. Another wasted time of day is lunch time. Sure, it gets used for eating and sustenance- but wouldn’t it be great if lunch time was an opportunity for growing community, in the very same ways that those families who see it as a priority use it to grow family attachments? What I am talking about, and this is another one of Noddings’ beliefs as well- is the importance of mealtime. Breaking bread in the very real sense of the word. Mealtime is a time to talk and listen, a time to discuss and reflect. A time for sharing and caring. A time when what is said is not evaluated and assessed- but taken at face value and respected. If students were given this opportunity, to sit face-to-face, as might a family eating a meal together, how might that benefit in a positive way the dynamics of social interactions amongst students? We’ll never know until we give it a try.

3. There is very little choice for students in school- very little choice for teachers either. We have all been given the required curriculum and asked to adopt it as our own. But wouldn’t it be wonderful if students and teachers were able to work together to come up with themes and pursuits that might reflect curriculum ideals, using them as springboards for further areas of study and exploration. Using curriculum jazzed up with a healthy dose of imagination, critical thinking and creativity to make these extra-curricular projects work within the existing structure? I think the sky is certainly the limit for those who give it a chance. Who knows what new interests might be sparked for learning amongst students who are currently disenfranchised, disengaged and disempowered. The time is now for outside the box thinking and teaching..

4. My wish for teachers and students is that we remember that each person we see sitting in front of us each day, standing beside us at our desks, walking along in front of us or behind us in the hallways- each person going and coming in the hustle and bustle: each person is a person. A person with feelings, thoughts, emotions, complicated baggage, issues, story, problems, joys, sorrows, hurts and pains. They are a person with more than meets the eye. And I wish for all those who find themselves in the educational milieu, that is MY HOPE would be, that we never lose sight of the humanity of the people in our schools: the humanity of the students, the staff, the parents, the volunteers, the administration and any visitors that might find themselves walking through the hallways. May we always be known as a People that care. And may that define each and every one of us this year.

5. And as a final note- may we have fun! Is it too much to ask that we find time to play? Time to laugh? Time to breathe, and wonder, and imagine, and daydream? Time to doodle, and draw and sculpt and create. Time to rest and time to work. And may we never forget that learning is a life-time pursuit. We don’t want to burn out the creative fires until the very last embers of life have been snuffed out, when we find ourselves breathing our last. May we always be found learning each and every day of our life- and may it be a joyous, delightful, exciting, inspiring and worthwhile venture.

These five are among my wishes for you all- for we are all learners. And for those of us who call ourselves teachers, staff and students, as we set off in another few short weeks for another voyage, another adventure of learning, wonder and discovery: let’s not forget to take care of each other in the process.

Carry on, comrades!

{You can read this again on the Huffington Post by clicking on this link: }


Why I need my kids


I stand beside her, tipping the muffin tray ever so slightly so that the batter will have that much more of a chance of making it into the hollow. She is intent on her task: lifting two ‘full-to-running-over’ spoons dripping with banana cupcake batter up and over the side of the porcelain bowl, toward the final destination- the muffin tray. It is tedious work, requiring a steady hand.

“I don’t need you to hold the bowl,” she says more than once. I do not concede her the victory on this one, and so we continue to work side by side. I believe she needs me. She, one just learning this art of food preparation; albeit, I will admit that each time she takes on a culinary project, that much more competence is shown in her attention to detail. Even so, I stay- diligently by her side until every last rounded chamber has been filled with creamy goodness.

We are finishing off one cupcake tray and sending it to the hot oven to bake, when she turns and says to me, “You do the rest- I am baked out.” Which is to say, she’s had enough. And so, the Little One who didn’t need me moments before now suddenly discovers that she indeed does need me to immediately finish up her task. As I am her Mama and I love her dearly, I bow to her request. She needs me.  I intuitively know this, meaning I am ever at the ready to step in when she needs a helping hand.

I don’t mind being needed.

Yes, I am still in that stage of life- where I am needed.  Although this stage is seemingly passing quickly, like sand in an hourglass. This shifting stage wherein I find myself: a time of life when I feel the pull, the tug- of little hands. Little voices calling out, “Mommy?” Little cries. And then again, big cries sometimes too. Even the Big Ones need their mother. The steady constant in my life at present is that these little (and not-so-little) people in my life are always in need of a mother’s touch. A mother’s hand, her patient reassurance. I am needed, even in this evolving phase of motherhood. Even as the years move at lightning speed toward these uncertain years ahead of parenting, where I know I will find myself meeting new needs, new requests. Where I will find myself being needed by my Fearless Four in new and different ways.

As the years press on, I am coming to see that I need them too. I need my children. This care that I have given them- it sometimes aches for something back. The returns are there- I am reminded daily to keep my eyes open to see them, my hands at the ready to receive them. But I am aware: I need them as much as they need me.

I need my kids.

This afternoon, I was feeling pressed. I had twenty coming for a birthday supper and by 3:00 p.m., I knew I was either going to have to tear myself in half or invent an assistant. Daughter hopped into the van for a ride up to the dollar store to buy the necessities (plus a treat for her- of course) and on the ride back, I asked her to help me with a certain task for which I knew I would not have time to do otherwise. She agreed. The job: to decorate our log cabin for her brother’s birthday get- together. I handed her a bag and did not place any expectations on her one way or the other. As I drove away from the cabin and towards our house to prepare the meal, I regretted that I had not given her any string to hang the balloons.

Whatever would be would be.

Upon my return, I loaded up my arms with food and assorted other items, then walked the few short steps it took to take me into our cabin to unload. My eyes caught sight of the party center which my daughter had undertaken to prepare in my absence. And I was immediately taken aback. Not only had she decorated- she had arranged things far more neatly and tidily than I would have ever thought to do. A banner hung over the table, balloons graced the fireplace mantle. She had arranged candy on the table as party favours. The table was set with a brand new tablecloth and cutlery was sitting in cups ready for the taking. It was all arranged and displayed beautifully, again- more attractively than I would ever have taken the time for. And all this, from a daughter who had initially stated her uncertainty to take on such a task.

She had no idea how much I needed this.  Needed her.  And I wonder, do our children know how very much we need them?

We assume as parents our role is to be the providers, the caretakers. The ones who meet the needs. But if we never allow our children to take on this role, how will they one day be able to care for the significant others in their future lives? Forget the future- our children must also learn to care in the here and now, for there is value in coming to care for others even in the present. No child is ever too small to care. Our children from a very young age need to know what it means to take care of another’s needs, for the sheer value of contributing to those people in their lives at present as well to prepare them for one day being the caregiver themselves to those dependents they will ultimately responsible for.

I think children are born for this. Born to care. A newborn gurgles and coos in adoration at the sound of their mother’s voice. This is a responsive gesture, acknowledging the relationship that is being built between parent and child. Without that coo, that giggle or smile, the mother can easily find her own resources drained. We need our babies love and response- it is what keeps us going in those fragile first days when exhaustion threatens to undo us. A toddler’s little arms are made for hugging, for reaching out and stroking hair, lovingly caressing their loved one’s face. Their little bodies crave the physical touch- it is their way of meeting the need of their parent- a need to be loved in the best three-year old way that child knows how, love shown through touch. And as children grow, there are so many ways they can learn to say ‘I love you’- love letters and notes left hidden under a pillow, simple words of thanks, unspoken gratitudes expressed by a wink or a nod. These are all ways children learn to show care- things parents need and crave and desire in our relationship with our kids. So that we can sustain our own caring back to them.

We need these gestures as parents- they carry us through these long days that challenge and tire us. Because let’s face it: parenting is a tough gig. Parents are always giving. Always offering more and more of ourselves. Always sacrificing and placing our childrens’ needs first. And so we should. But sometimes we need to learn to receive a little- for the benefit of our children.

So that they can learn to care.

Because at the end of the day, when our children are enabled to give back, are enabled to learn how to care because we as parents afforded them the exquisite opportunity of experiencing the blessing, they are then given a blessing in return. The blessing of caring for another.

Truly, what greater human blessing can we give our children than this?