Dear Talented and Devoted Teachers,
We found out a few weeks ago that Hadley got into the school we’d applied for this winter, which is a really wonderful thing for so many reasons. I should feel elated; it will be her school until she graduates fifth grade and we can literally walk her there, something that has always been a fantasy of mine. I am absolutely positive that Hadley will love it. As you so often tell us, she is ready for big kid school and she makes friends wherever she goes. And, to top it all off, it’s a fraction of the cost, which alleviates some of our financial stress as we welcome the new baby in September. Yet, as much as I should be excited, I am scared about how it will impact me not her.
This is the first time in Hadley’s life that I’m more worried about how one of her transitions will impact me rather than how it will impact her, and that feels terribly selfish. Getting to know each of you has been a difficult thing for me to do, not because you have made it hard but because I spend a lot of time wondering what other people are thinking about me. I pay attention to how the people around me take me in and it has always been important to me that you thought I was a good parent. Even before I met you, I felt like I needed to show you that queer and genderqueer parents can raise amazing children.
You not only accepted our family, but each of you embraced us. You saw past my boundless awkwardness and discomfort and were patient not just with Hadley, but with me. We worked together to find common language to talk about my gender and our family, and you never made me feel like you were doing extra work even though we both know you were. You were so gentle with me when I needed to talk to you about my work in the anti-sexual violence movement and my own childhood experiences, and you didn’t skip a beat when I suggested different ways to talk about consent and “tattling” with Hadley’s classmates. As a new parent, you helped me to feel brave and confident in my parenting.
I have watched Hadley grow and develop into an independent, capable, and confident child under your careful care. While I would like to credit Amanda and I with how amazing our little girl is, I know that the education and love that she has received from you is a large part of what makes her who she is. I have looked to you for guidance and advice about parenting because you are so knowledgeable and so generous, and you have readily shared your thoughts and opinions. I value you not only as teachers and caregivers, but as parents, grandparents, and partners with lifetimes of experiences.
Looking forward, I’m having a hard time finding the courage and energy to start all over. I know you will tell me that we will all be just fine, but I’m not so sure. I put so much of myself into getting to know others that when they transition out of my life, I feel lost. As I spent the next four months getting myself ready for Hadley to start at her new school, I hope to continue to use the lessons you have taught our family. In her new book about parenting, Danya Ruttenberg describes love as “you stretch and extend, because someone needs you to, so that they can grow.” That is what you do every day, and it is what I aspire to as a parent. You are among the most talented, generous, and kind women that I have met in my life and I will forever carry each of you with me.
All my love,
The Marshmallow Mom