Friday, September 11, 2009

I Get It, Mom

Today I had breakfast duty. Subbing always leads to random things you never imagined yourself doing, and today was no different. At 9 o'clock I reported to the elementary cafeteria to help students navigate the breakfast routine, but mostly to remind them to walk, not run.

It was the fourth day of school, so most kids were still figuring things out. Kindergartners entered with crisp new clothes purchased big enough that they could get some wear out of them. Their big, overwhelmed eyes took in the cafeteria and other students as they slowly managed to find a seat with their gigantic plastic trays. If I saw a bowl of cereal and a carton of milk on their tray, but no utensils, I would softly remind them to pick up a spoon. I gestured with a smile and an extended arm where available spots were to sit.

Some mothers were present as well, helping their small students transition and get their breakfast started. As I scanned the room, I noticed a young Latino mother eating with her two children. An Asian mom was hovering, watching as her small boy hesitantly found a seat at a table. An African mom lingered at the doorway, her body positioned halfway behind the door frame, unsure if she should come in to check on her son, or if she should head home. The connection these mothers had with their children could almost be seen, as if a line was drawn from their hearts to their children's. The moms lingered, unable to leave their children who seemed ever so vulnerable in the large cafeteria. I felt for them, not because I have any children of my own, but because I saw how tiny their children were, how small and helpless they seemed.

No matter that these children could throw tantrums like nobody's business. They probably have been known to make sticky messes on every surface at home. They've probably colored on things they shouldn't have, and pulled their sister's hair in an argument. These aren't perfect children, but they're vulnerable. They're small. They could easily get lost in the sea of students.

I understood the lingering mothers. It didn't matter what skin color any of us had, or if we were mothers or not. All of us adults in the room - parents, teachers, helpers, cooks, subs - we all wanted the best for those kids. We all wanted to proect them, to help them, to nurture them, and to love them.

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