I wasn’t sure if she would recognize me. To me, she looked the same as she had seven years ago, only a little bigger and a little older.
I’m never sure if people will recognize me, so I often wait a while before establishing a connection to our common past.
“I’m Mrs. Nicholson. I used to teach at your school.”
Her face twisted a little and then relaxed as she remembered.
She spoke slowly and positively, a look of love in her eyes.
“You were the one who taught me to tie my shoes.”
Now the shock was all mine. I had? When did I teach her how to tie her shoes? I had never had her as a student. It must have been during the time I had worked in the after-school day care program that I had taught her this valuable skill. And now, years later, that is how she remembers me.
It nearly brought tears to my eyes.
The truck broke down on the road in front of our house. I wanted to help, but as I was home alone with the kids, I didn’t perceive it as the safest option.
When my friend showed up a while later, he went out to the truck to see if he could be of assistance. My friend came back into the house with a tall, handsome young man.
“This guy says he knows you,” my friend chirped.
“Hi, Mrs. Nicholson,” came a voice that was much deeper than the last time he had spoken to me. Yes, I did recognize this boy. He was the son of one of the teachers at the school where I had worked. Here he was, ten years later, in my kitchen asking to use my phone.
“You’re the one who taught me to tie my shoes.”
How wonderful that I had given those children that kind of time and attention.
I used to pre-school. It was my first “real” job out of college. I was young and newly married. I was hired for the position just a month before school was to begin. From the get-go, I was unsure of myself.
It didn’t help that some of my students’ parents were unsure of me, too. One mother even had the audacity to ask me how old I was. It appeared to me as though youth was equated with incompetence. But I perservered. For four years.
I listened to the children’s stories and played with them. I gave them my full attention when they were in my care. What I lacked in teaching experience, I made up for in good, old-fashioned love.
Now I am a stay-at-home mother of three. Life is busy. I look back on those years that I taught school, and I think, I was a great teacher for those children. I gave them my undivided attention. That is something, I’m sorry to say, I seldom give my own children.
I am so busy taking care of them that I don’t take the time to play with them and just enjoy being with them.
Realizing this fact, I have great respect for those parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, baby-sitters and guardians, teachers and mentors that take the time to give children what they really need and what we all crave—time and undivided attention.
This irreplaceable gift of oneself, often dubbed “quality time,” is a precious commodity in our world now more than ever. We need to slow down and look into our children’s dreamy eyes. We need to listen attentively to the stories they tell and the hopes to which they aspire. We need to get outside and toss the ball around with them and get busy in the sandbox from time to time.
We need to remember that the adult who teaches a child to tie those sneakers may be that child’s biggest hero.
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