I have always been a fairly independent individual. I tend to rely on myself to get things done, and I have a hard time asking for help. I am one of those people who cleans up the table at a restaurant before we leave because I don’t want the server to have to do any more than necessary. I leave 4 pages of sub plans every time I am out of my classroom, complete with stacks of teacher manuals and copies, in order, labeled with sticky notes to correspond to the plans. I seek out opportunities to carry the burdens of others, but for whatever reason it is really hard for me to allow others to do the same for me.
Enter Baby R.
Long before he was born I was forced to begin the slow process of letting down my “I can do it myself” toddler mentality.
I think the first time this really hit me was when I ended up on bed-rest in the beginning of my second trimester. On Thursday I was trekking around Washington DC with 100 5th graders, and on Friday I was in the emergency room. For the next month, I was pretty much confined to the bed or the couch. I cannot even begin to tell you how hard it was for me to be at home, knowing that my students needed a teacher, my small group needed a leader, my husband needed a wife, and my house desperately needed someone to clean it! I spent so much energy trying to be everything to everyone, but I realized that, more than anything, my tiny baby boy needed a mom. And to protect him (and me), I had to let go.
That month changed me. I realized that I can’t be everywhere, and that as much as I try to plan, life is unpredictable. I reluctantly gave up my role as a small group leader, and began to let go of extra responsibilities at school. I relied more on Nick to take care of things around the house. Even after getting the all clear to go back to work, I tried to take it easy and slow down. But the self-sufficient part of me didn’t quite go away.
Knowing that there was a good chance that I may be put back on bed-rest during my third trimester, I spent the month of December preparing for my possible departure from my job early. I set out to create a fool-proof system for whoever would come after me and take over with my sweet students. I created a lesson plan binder with plans for all of 3rd and 4th quarters. I filled in a gradebook with the titles of every assessment they would take, so that it could easily be filled in with grades. I created projects with specific rubrics so that anyone would be able to grade them. I wrote detailed summaries about each students strengths and needs, complete with pictures, so that the new teacher would benefit from getting to know them a little faster.
Yes, this was overkill. I knew that then, and I know that now. But I love my job. I love my students. I wanted the transition from me to sub to be as seamless as possible. I wanted them to have a successful end to their school year. After watching them grow for a year and a half (some of them far longer), it didn’t seem fair that they would miss out on getting to enjoy their last months of elementary school. I wanted to be prepared for anything.
As it turns out, the inevitable happened. On February 28th my water broke, and on March 1st Caleb entered the world, 4 weeks ahead of schedule. Despite my best efforts, the transition after I left has not been seamless. Things have not gone the way I had envisioned. My amazing 5th grade team has been saddled with far more work than I could have imagined, and for the last few months I have been overrun with guilt about this. I have blamed myself for not being prepared enough. For not being involved enough. For not being enough.
But slowly I am realizing that this is just the way life goes. I can’t be everywhere. I can’t do everything. I made the choice a long time ago that when babies came I would give up my career, no matter how much I loved it, because I know that I am incapable of doing both well. Once again, I can’t be everything to everyone. If I let it, the stress of trying will steal my joy and replace it with unnecessary anxiety. The more I allow guilt and worry over things I can’t control to consume my thoughts and attention, the less I have to give to him.
Instead I am choosing to trust that I am really not in control of anything anyway. God can hold the oceans back with grains of sand. He created the universe and everything in it. In those moments where I feel like my figurative world is spinning out of control, he is holding the actual world on it’s axis. I believe in a God that not only cares about the existence of the world, but about the peace of mind of everyone in it. And while it is cliché to say that I am leaving it with Him, it is 100% the truth. (Ok….98%….I am doing my best.)
4Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
So I will allow the amazing people that God has placed in my life to help carry the “burden” of being the mom of a newborn. I will allow my team to take care of my students. I will allow the other amazing leaders at Hope to care for my high school girls. I will take my sweet friends up on offers to keep Caleb overnight so that I can get a full night of sleep and spend uninterrupted time with my husband. And I will cherish each and every moment that I get to cuddle with this sweet little boy, because before I know it these days will be over.
This life is a precious gift, and I refuse to waste it.