Growing up I was the eldest of three. My mother stayed home to raise us, and my parents were resourceful and shrewd enough to make a single-income work.
As a stay-at-home mom, she was just the sort of mother for the job. Patient, optimistic, nurturing, creative; arts-n-crafts at the kitchen table, trips to the park, the zoo, baking together, hand-sewn Halloween costumes, my Girl Scout troop leader. If she ever felt lonely or overwhelmed or frustrated raising three children, at home by herself while my father worked, often long hours and late night meetings – which I’m sure she did – my siblings and I never knew.
After the youngest of the siblings started kindergarten, my mother had time to think of her next steps. With her children in school, she decided that she wanted to go back to school herself.
Picking up where her community college associate’s degree had left off, she earned a bachelor’s degree and then a master’s in special education. No small feat for a woman who looked back on her poor grade school performance with a self-critical eye. “I never liked school,” my mother would respond when people congratulated her on going back. What she left unsaid was that her childhood was tough. A daughter of immigrants and divorce, planted in a gritty New York City school system, she could have blamed her bad grades on her environment growing up, but she never did. When she gave herself a second chance at an education, she did so with flourish, graduating cum laude and walking to accept her diploma with the happy family she built in the bleachers.
After graduating from her master’s program, she started teaching. First kindergarten and now second grade. As a teacher, she is just the sort of mother for the job. The same positivity and zest for life that she wove into our days as a stay-at-home mom, she seamlessly weaves into her classroom.
As a teenager, I remember her staying up late at our dining room table with lesson plans strewn about. “It’s a good thing I’m a kindergarten teacher,” she would say, “the kids only need to know how to count!” Anyone who knows her, knows that this self-deprecation is cover for how talented an educator she truly is.
Everyone remembers their kindergarten teacher, and for those who had my mother as their’s: if only we could all be so lucky. With my son starting kindergarten in just two short weeks, I’m thinking about the teachers in my life and the teachers who will be in my son’s life. An education is a privilege and teachers are never thanked quite enough for dedicating their lives to being a vehicle for that privilege. It’s a gift to teach people how to be people.
I wanted to give my son’s kindergarten teacher something to start the school year, so I put together a School Survival Kit. Nothing crazy, just a few travel-sizes items that everyone could use while they’re stuck at work.
The box is from ikea. I glued a bright, floral patterned wrapping paper on the lid and around the sides. The paper is a sheet from Papyrus that I cut to size and glued to the box using tacky glue.
I wanted a box with a lid that was big enough to fit everything but small enough to fit in a desk drawer or on a shelf. When I was walking through CVS to purchase all the items in the kit, I almost wanted to keep the box for myself! I might have to make a survival kit for my own office drawer next.
To add some more decoration, I stitched “School Survival Kit” with pink embroidery thread onto a scrap of magenta felt, and glued the felt with tacky glue to the top.
You could put whatever you’d like in your kit, but in mine I added:
- Emergen-C packets
- Chewing gum
- Advil & Tylenol packets
- Tide To Go stick
- Lip blam
- Facial cleansing wipes
- Hand sanitizer
- Travel toothbrush & toothpaste
- Cough drops
- RX Bars
To teachers everywhere at the start of another school year: we are grateful for you! I sent a picture of my kit to my mom and she texted back: “I wish I had a parent like you in my class!” I texted back that my son better be Line Leader and Star Student for the whole year, but what I really meant to say was that I’m the parent that I am because of the teacher that my mother is.