I've been holding on to this pin since 1995. Not a hoarder. Nope.
As we were saying prayers last night, Daniel caught me a little bit off guard.
Daniel: I'd like to pray that Jackson has a good day at school tomorrow. Especially since I won't be seeing him there.
Daniel: Yes, I am not going to go to school tomorrow.
Me: Why, D?
Daniel: Well, there is this test. . .
Ohhhhh, Daniel. I just held my (giant) little guy in my arms and listened to him tell me his worries, and it took me right back to 1993, my first week of Freshman year at HSE. I was so in over my head, a new kid in a big school of kids who seemed to have known each other for a long time. Everything seemed so overwhelming to me, especially my first period class, Spanish I. The day started off OK. . .we would watch Channel One for a sweet fifteen minutes of Anderson Cooper and Icebreakers Gum commercials, but then it was game on. Our Spanish teacher was strict. She was smart. She was sassy. She was not going to be accepting anything less than the best español from any one of us. Considering I had never even heard the word "Hola" before the first day, I felt totally behind. "Como estan ustedes?" she would call out. "Bien gracias, y usted?" all the kids would chime back. I distinctly remember blinking back tears and being so grateful that all of our desks faced the front of the room so no one could see me starting to cry.
Of course, my mom asked me how school was and I told her about Spanish class. How I didn't want to go back. I just wasn't going to go. I hated it, I was in over my head, I was going to fail. I cried big, heaving sobs in the tiny hallway outside my bedroom door while my mom looked on quietly and listened to me pour it all out. Then, when she finally opened her mouth to speak she said something that has stayed with me for the rest of my life. I can feel everything about that moment. . .my hunter green and navy color-blocked suede loafers, the worn beige hallway carpet, the door of my bedroom half-open, the upstairs air warm with the weight of August.
"Jennifer, your Dad and I don't care if you pass Spanish class. What we DO care about is that you have done your best, and that you are a kind person. "
BAM! My mom just dropped the ultimate parenting knowledge bomb.
"But the teacher is SO MEAN!!!, I weakly protested.
"Just go back and be kind and do your best, that's all we expect of you."
And she left it at that. So, I let that settle for a while, and I went back to class, knowing that I couldn't really fail in the eyes of the people who meant the most to me. I tried really hard, but without the worry that was on my heart before. And it turned out, my teacher was not really mean after all. She was, in fact, pretty awesome. Also, Spanish was really fun. A lot like English, only easier and with flan and Trini Lopez and Destinos! I ended up signing up for four years of Spanish class, becoming the secretary of the Spanish club and even being my Spanish 1 teacher's student assistant my senior year. A far cry from the tiny freshman who didn't know what "Hola" meant and was terrified of first period!
I dug around in my box of treasures found my pin from high school Spanish class, and I will give it to Daniel when I tell him this story tonight. I also found the test he was referring to this morning, in the pile of not-quite-ready-to-recycle-in-case-someone-asks-about-them papers I keep in the kitchen. It wasn't a test he was about to take, but one he had already taken. His spelling test had been carefully tucked in his cubby instead of the turn-in basket and came straight home with him without being graded. He was afraid to turn it in, afraid that he hadn't done good enough. When I showed him the test I had found over breakfast, his face turned red. I asked him if he could please give it to his teacher today, and without looking up at me he said that he just couldn't. Then he glanced up and gave me the most pleading face. . . "Could you just grade it, Mommy, and put a sticker on it and an A+?"
I looked at the test. Out of 10 words, he had missed 2. The bonus words on the back were a wash. . .with 27 hard enough words to study I don't even go there. He worked so hard with Daddy practicing his words on his Magna Doodle last week. Honestly, considering that it is only the second month of school and the words were challenging, I thought he rocked it! But, it wasn't my job to grade his paper. "Tell you what buddy, I'll go put a sticker on it before you give it to your teacher." He smiled. I went and found a fancy post-it note, and this is what I wrote. . .
"Daniel, I am so proud of you for studying hard for your test. You did your best and that's what matters. Love, Mommy"
I handed him the paper, and he looked up at me with a half-smile, and a face that said, "Really?????" I could feel the wind coming back into his sails, just like mine when my mom said the same thing. "D, just do your best. Mommy loves you no matter what your grades are, just work hard and do what you can do!" I tucked the paper in his folder, and I hope he turns it in to his teacher today. . .not to mention the other test he told me that he hid in his reading folder. AAAHHH!! Daniel. I also hope he knows that no matter what the grade on the paper says, what matters is in his heart. And D has a beautiful, beautiful loving heart- even when he forgets to make his bed for the fifth day in a row, or gets a 6/30 on his math paper or loses one shoe for the millionth time.
Numbers don't determine our worth.
We are worthy of love because we are.
Thanks, Mom and Dad, for giving me the gift of that worth. I'm ready to pass it on to mis niños.