My beloved 8-year-old son lost his father 8 months ago. At such a tender, impressionable age, he hand selected the dapper suit and tie he would wear to his dad’s funeral, he delivered an incomparable eulogy that inspired both belly laughs and gut-wrenching sobs from the audience, and he lovingly shoveled dirt on his grave, per Jewish tradition. (Disclaimer: I told him to do only what he felt comfortable doing; it was his choice to do it all.)
On that dreadful day, I could no longer call him a little boy; the profound loss of his dad instantly made him a young man.
I remember sitting in the front row in absolute awe of my son, and I wasn’t alone. His teacher from this year was there. His teacher from last year was there. His vice principal was there. His school psychologist was there. They sat together in a row, willing my son on, encouraging him from a distance. If I close my eyes, I can still see their supportive nods, their concerned eyes, their sad expressions.
I did not tell the school about my ex-husband’s funeral. I alerted them that my son would be absent to grieve his dad, but I didn’t ask them to come. They came on their own, knowing one of their students needed comfort only they could deliver.
This week, during Teacher Appreciation Week, I received an email from my son’s teacher. During her lesson planning, she thought about how this Father’s Day will be especially difficult for my son. She offered to skip a class craft activity in honor of Father’s Day if it would make my son sad. This extraordinarily empathetic gesture floored me.
Here it is, Mother’s Day Weekend, and his teacher, a mother herself, is worried about Father’s Day and how my son will handle it.
In my world, teacher appreciation is an understatement.
My son opted to give the green light for the craft–he adores his stepdad and grandfathers– but felt so good about his teacher asking him first. I felt so good about her asking me first.
Educators like my son’s are real life heroes. I swear, when he saw them at his dad’s funeral, one would think they were wearing capes. They made him beam on the saddest day of his life, and they give him the support he needs to keep going…and keep smiling.
Thank a teacher today. They have earned it.