I love Thanksgiving. When the girls were young, we would make a big paper tree trunk and then collect and trace leaves from the park onto construction paper. Our dinner guests and we would write notes of gratitude on the leaves before taping them to the tree. Every year I am thankful for the same things: my family, my friends, a roof over my head, and flannel sheets on cold nights. Some things never change.
On this week of Thanksgiving I’m also feeling thankful for Sam’s school. We just left parent-teacher conferences, where I was amused by how many of her teachers started with, “Oh, she’s so much better now!” How bad was September, I wonder? Mostly, though, I was impressed and grateful for the level of thoughtfulness and sensitivity their comments revealed. Her history teacher has her write questions and comments in a journal for the two of them to discuss after class if she can’t get to Sam when her hand is raised. This teacher has also figured out that Sam does not realize when the tone of the class discussion has changed from free-wheeling to tightly structured, so she tells Sam explicitly. No irritation, just guidance. Sam’s Spanish teacher is adamant that we work together to figure out why Sam keeps failing the trivial computer-based assignments when she is earning A’s on everything that is more challenging. She says that if we can’t figure it out, all of us together, we may have to change the IEP to exempt this assessment from her grade. Again no irritation, just a dogged effort to understand. The math teacher worked patiently with Sam when she got off to a rocky start, and he took the initiative to talk with her teacher from last year about how she learns. Now he says he has to stop her from answering all the questions. Again, no hint of irritation. Sam’s P.E. teacher is bursting with almost as much pride as I am about her passing her CPR test on the second try. She emailed to prepare me when the first attempt went badly, and she emailed to celebrate as soon as Sam passed. And finally, Sam’s English teacher, who openly discusses her own Asperger’s diagnosis, explains my own child to me. Why does she keep saying she'll be accused of racism for coveting Scarlett’s clothing in Gone With the Wind? Because it’s safer to worry about things that will never happen than to address the real fears of adolescence. How can I get her to stop, since reassuring her doesn’t work? She can’t stop. Not until she replaces it with a different unreasonable fear or grows up. Her brain cannot not worry and obsess. It’s not what I’d wish for, but it does seem right, and I appreciate the insight.
All in all, conferences went pretty well. If Sam did not have such good teachers, I can imagine the day playing out much differently. Lots of research shows the health benefits of experiencing gratitude, and right now that’s feeling easy to me. I hope you, too, can find your reasons for gratitude. Happy Thanksgiving!