As a family, we have a tremendous amount on our plates right now. If I told you everything that we were juggling, you wouldn't even believe me.
I thought about whether I should write a blog about all of it. But each time I tried to begin - even I couldn't get my brain around the unfolding events.
I remembered that I ran across a "stress list" earlier in my life.
You know - one of those lists that gives you a certain number of points to tally for each horrid or happy event that has taken place in your life over the past year.
I took the test.
I scored 315.
When I scrolled to the key for the "scoring" system, I was off the chart.
I didn't need a quiz to tell me that. I knew it.
But I admit I felt a bit of validation that I had been feeling pressure in my chest over the past several days.
Then I started thinking. Like I tend to do unceasingly.
I remembered that I was seeing through half empty eyes right now.
My mother in law told me on a regular basis how much she enjoyed reading my "stories." If I were to write a story right now, she wouldn't want to read how tough things were for us. She would want to read something positive and uplifting.
So in honor of my determination to find a silver lining through the stormy days of our lives right now I am not going to blog about all of our difficult times right now. Consider yourselves saved from our gloom and doom.
Instead I am choosing to share this story. The story that reminds me "We begin and end with FAMILY."
This Sunday I was sitting with my husband watching Son #3's baseball game.
"I can't believe how happy I am that I am not working now."
I turned to my husband and took his hand.
He held my hand in return and nodded.
As Commissioner, Head Coach and Assistant Coach of our boys' local wrestling team for the past 10 years, he responded...
"I imagine after I finish my last year with the wrestling program this year, I will feel the same way."
I said, "It feels good only to have to focus on my family. Not be sidetracked by preparations for work, classes, conferences and stuff."
My husband and I have done alot over the past decade. Leading. Teaching. Volunteering. So many things we have stepped up and done for our children.
Taking on my part time job was one of those things. It was a bit of a surprise. It was not something I had been in search of.
As a stay at home - homeschooling mother of four, I was not in the market for a job other than the tasks already on my plate. But several years ago, my daughter was taking ballet lessons and the studio owner, knowing I had been a ballet teacher prior to having my children, asked me if I was interested in teaching a couple of classes the following year.
This came at a particularly interesting time, because I had decided that my daughter was not going to be returning to dance the following year.
She cried nearly every time she had to go to class - which was only once a week. She had been doing it for several months. She was very unhappy with her teacher and was developing a dislike for ballet as a result. A friend that she had in the class - had been doing the same thing and her mother had let her quit.
I had told my daughter that she needed to finish out her commitment of that year and that I would not force her to return the following year. Knowing this was my only girl - I wasn't willing to risk complete rebellion. She was only 7.
I told her that the studio owner had asked me to teach some classes. She immediately wanted to be in my class. Going into my class meant that she would repeat the same level she had already finished - but she didn't seem to mind at all. I was surprised that her refusal to dance had flip flopped so greatly. But figured we would give it a shot. I didn't really know where the road would lead us.
I didn't share that my daughter had wanted to quit - I simply "held her back" for her own benefit. It felt good to be back teaching again but more than anything I was doing it for my daughter. I'll admit that my only girl despising ballet was hard for me to imagine. So if my taking her under my wing for a bit, helped encourage her, I was certainly willing.
I was able to spend time with her as her ballet teacher with very objective eyes. I realized that there was a talent inside of her that for some reason had been "untapped". Her extreme dislike for her prior teacher had muddied the waters too much and her ability was left unnoticed. Even by me, watching as her mother.
Quickly, I saw a change in her and it took off by leaps and bounds. Before I knew it, she was seeking more challenge. Asking me to help her at home. She became interested in the many facets of ballet. All that it entailed.
Another teacher at the studio recognized that there was something happening. She began to work with my daughter privately on her ballet technique weekly while I continued to work with her in class and at home. Suddenly, she took off. Like a sponge she absorbed everything she could. She pushed herself and began to develop a confidence in her ability. Her greatest pleasure came from ballet.
It was shocking to me that this was the same child who had cried about going to one 45 minute class each week. This same child was now taking 4 hours of ballet each week with 3 different teachers and absolutely loving every minute of it - begging me for more.
Over the course of the next five years, I continued to teach at the studio. My daughter increased her dance load. More classes. More performances. Competitions. My husband encouraged me to continue teaching to offset the cost of her tuition and I took on more classes. My daughter was doing more than I had ever thought she would.
My classes grew in number and that did feel good. My students were doing well and achieving great things. But - I was working for my daughter. I was working so that she could do what she wanted to do. Her classes were free and my paychecks paid for all of the additional bells and whistles. My working had suddenly become a financial necessity that I had not expected it to be. But along the way she and I had bonded in an unimaginable way .
We attended conferences, summer intensives and master classes together. She as a student and I as a teacher. Throughout the years that I taught, my daughter always remained in one of my classes, even if she was above the level of the class. She just wanted to be with me. And I loved every minute of she and I together. We were able to share so many amazing memories. We were a team.
After a few years, teaching was not so much fun for me anymore. I tolerated many situations and scenarios from people that I should not have. I swallowed alot. I turned the other cheek over and over. I did it all so that my daughter could continue to train. However, I was acutely aware of many things going on and choosing to pretend that I didn't know was growing increasingly difficult.
Then this summer, my daughter was invited to attend a professional ballet school on a significant scholarship. She begged me to accept. It was her dream. It was truly what the past 5 years had been all about for her. She worked towards a goal and had accomplished it.
It was during this time that we also learned of my mother in law's illness and the gravity of the situation. I knew that I was not able to do it all.
I could not hold down my job, commute several hours each day for my daughter, homeschool, be engaged in my eldest son's Senior year, support Son #2 with the love and encouragement that he needed, be the supportive wife that my husband was going to need while his parents faced their difficulties.
So after much deliberation and prayer - I decided not to return to teaching at the studio.
I realized that despite everything that I had put into that job - I would never mean much there. I was replaceable. They didn't care about my trials or tribulations. They were paying money for a service. A service that anyone could provide. To them I was nothing special. In fact, that had been evident to me for quite sometime.
BUT to my daughter? I am special. She needs me. She always had. She and I together - THAT was the original catalyst for my working.
To my sons? I am special. Every wrestling match, football game, lacrosse game, awards banquet, choral program, field trip and family dinner that I had missed - never went unnoticed. I missed precious things. I remember having to leave my 11 year old son home alone vomiting while my husband was away on a business trip because I had to go teach class one night. After class that night, I heard some parents gossiping in the hallway about me. I never forgot that night. I never forgot that I turned my back on my sick child - and nobody cared.
To my husband? I am special. Having me home in the evening to prepare meals, address parenting issues, hold hands on the couch, sit together on the bleachers...it changes everything. We are a team again. We aren't dividing and conquering in opposite directions. I am able to give him my full attention. My love and my support while he deals with the loss of his mother.
Last night was Wednesday night. Wednesday nights were my big nights teaching at the studio. The nights where I didn't have a sub to back me up. So I always had to be there. I've counted the number of things that I would have missed that have fallen on a Wednesday already this year. Son #1's Senior Night and my mother in law's funeral included.
Last night I sat with Son #1 for hours. We searched colleges, scholarships, filled out forms, read and talked for hours. He contemplated. Asked questions. And I parented. I am pretty sure that what I did here last night was extremely appreciated. Certainly irreplaceable.
I checked my email late last night and had received a letter from the ballet council. They were announcing winners for student scholarships from the ballet conference held this past weekend. The ballet conference that was held while I was at Son #3's baseball game this weekend. The ballet conference would have caused me to miss his baseball game. The game that Son #3 made two fabulous plays from Center Field. Anyhow - one of my students of the past 4 years was on that scholarship winner list - printed under another teacher's name now.
To them I am replaceable.
But to my family...
I am not.
Never will be.