Thursday, June 16, 2016

Each One My Child: An Open Letter of Healing and Hope

I have spent much time these last two days grieving for a child not my own, for a family I don't even know. By now news of the tragedy from Disney World has spread across news outlets and social media. And although it has been one of the most upsetting situations in recent months, it's hard for me to not read the latest information as I try and make some sense of this horrible tragedy. In my online travels I've been touched by how complete strangers have reached out to one another to offer shared sympathy and support. On her blog Scary Mommy shared something today that absolutely brought me to tears. In her plea for parents to stop judging one another and instead follow a path of kindness and understanding she wrote:

"To the mother and father who went for a walk on vacation for the last time with their little boy yesterday, I am deeply sorry that you had to experience the worst kind of tragedy possible, an accident. I grieve with you. Your baby was my baby. Your son was my son. I have nothing but love for you, love to help you get though the pain yesterday, today, and for what is gonna seem like a thousand tomorrows. I wrap my thoughts and prayers around your aching heart and soul. May the God of this universe in some miraculous way bring peace to you and your family."

Scary Mommy summarized perfectly what I have been feeling in my heart. An unbearable pain for a child and family miles away. And although we do not know each other, I carry their anguish with me. You see, I am an educator of young children. And although those in my care are not biologically mine, they are like my own. I love and care for them and want the very best for them. So when there is a devastating event that affects the lives of young children, even those I do not know, it personally affects me because I cannot help but imagine how I would feel if it were one of my children or students. It causes me to hug my own children a little tighter, and smile a little brighter in the classroom.


My sorrow drives me to do what often brings me solitude and reflection; write. Writing is a way for me to share my passion for early childhood with others. It helps me reflect upon my practice and consider how I might continue to better myself while advocating for the lives and education of young children. And as I was at school today, looking around at the classroom and considering how the last few weeks of school might look as we enter the middle of June, I was drawn to the idea of crafting this blog post. First as a way of releasing the emotions I have held within for the last few days, but also as a way of sharing with my families just how much I appreciate being a part of your lives. When I decided to become an educator, I could not have anticipated just how much of an impact the little children in my care would have on me. They have shaped who I am as a person, educator, and mother.

So to my cherished families, please know this. Your child's time in my classroom might be a brief moment in a long and wonderful childhood but their impact on me will last a lifetime. I am a better person for those whom I have known, whom I have cared for, whom I have loved. And although I am always thrilled when your child has mastered basics like learning to write, read or add, I am most satisfied when I see the look of wonder in their eyes in our classroom. To experience the moment of pure joy a child feels when seeing a rainbow in the sky, hearing the song of their laughter when catching a hopping insect, or quietly witnessing them caring for another are my most rewarding moments. These might not always been captured in our documentation or shared beyond the classroom but they are what make my role as an early childhood educator so magical and satisfying.

When the last day of school arrives and the walls are cleared of artwork and the centres tidied of toys, there will be an empty sadness hanging in our classroom for me. Your children are my children. Just like you, I want the absolute best in life for them. Their happiness is my happiness; your family is my family.  When that final dismissal bell rings and the children are gone, I will stand in my empty classroom and sigh, satisfied knowing that I did the best I could for them in our time together, but sad that this time is now done. Summers are a much needed way to refresh and recharge (many of you have noticed my extremely hoarse voice...) but as soon as August nears I will look forward to readying the classroom for another interesting year - with it bringing a new group of children who will become my own.

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