When your child blossoms, all is good in the world
The earliest expressions of our daughter’s deep and abiding affection for cute, fragile creatures were frightening and very nearly catastrophic. When she was 4 years old, she liked carrying our helpless cat, Bubby Tomas, around the house with her arms squeezing his torso tightly as if she were performing the Heimlich maneuver, his eyes wide with panic, pleading for rescue.
When she was 5, she tried feeding her baby brother oatmeal, most of which ended up plastered on the sides of his face and down the front of his giraffe-themed onesie. When we came back into the room, she was so pleased with herself that she was beaming, her face round and bright as a little sun.
By the time she made it to middle school, she started working in our church’s nursery. She peppered us on the way home with stories about baby Samuel, or little Ellie, the shy one who would hide behind things and grin like she was keeping a secret. She loved them all, and they loved her right back. More than one parent had said, “I think our child would rather go home with Kayden than with us.”
It came as no surprise, then, when she decided to major in Elementary Education at Appalachian State University. If anything, it had the ring of inevitability, especially for someone who has always loved nurturing children, while also being the center of attention (she is the family’s only extrovert). Most of all, she loves teaching, explaining things in vivid and comprehensive detail to anyone who will listen. I will always remember her description of movies she had seen and I had missed. I could have seen the actual movie in less time than it took for her to tell me about it.
Now she is in her very first classroom in one of the Watauga County schools, not yet in total control, but as an apprentice or aid or helper or whatever they are calling it these days. She is in a middle-grade classroom on Mondays and Fridays, and already she is bonding with the children at an astonishing pace, even though she wasn’t too sure whether she would do as well with kids that age as she thought she would do with first- or second-graders.
She needn’t have worried. They love her, and she loves them. Of course, every few days we get new and exciting chapters of the “grade-school chronicles,” which run the gamut from harrowing to heartbreaking to hilarious.
Last week, one of them informed her quite matter-of-factly that she was a direct descendent of Lady Godiva and — in case Kayden didn’t know much about her — she liked to ride around on her horse without any clothes on.
It is hard to know just what to say when a kid tells you something like this, so Kayden said the first thing that occurred to her: “Well, I guess you better not do that.”
Without pausing for a moment, the girl looked at her and said, perhaps a little haughtily, “Well, I can’t help it. It’s in my blood.”
Another girl writes her long, detailed letters complete with touching drawings of the two of them walking along a quaint road in some pastoral setting, holding hands, with a giant heart looming above in place of the sun. Make of that what you will.
Yet another girl is a recent arrival from a faraway place, still in the early stages of working on her language skills and doing her best to adapt and fit in when that is the very thing most people her age are trying to do in elementary school.
Kayden spends a little extra time with her, trying to find ways to connect. She called me one night and asked me if I had any ideas, and she told me some of hers. For nearly an hour, we talked not as a father and daughter, but as an aging teacher near the end of his career and a youthful teacher at the very beginning of hers. It was one of the most thrilling experiences of my life.
Among the things you dream about for your children, surely somewhere near the very top of the list is that they find a way to make a living that feels not like a job, but like a calling, a blessing, a moral imperative, a natural extension of their own being and character. In simpler terms, when you find a job you not only do not dread, but actually look forward to doing every day in your other home, the classroom.
I like to think she can’t help it. It’s in her blood.
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Wow. Powerful story of a family legacy, coming from a very long line of educators.
Chris another best seller…not only does Kayden perfect the art of telling a story like you were there watching yourself…but you have this amazing ability as well to write in-depth. The apple didn’t fall far from the tree. Keep putting the pen to paper…
Love it! Love it! Love it!
Wonderful! Moving! Wish her a beautiful career that she and her students are blessings to each other. Hugs and much love.
This is lovely!