… an ode to Park

I love meeting new people!  It’s the one thing I miss most about not working.  Getting to know someone, asking questions and digging a little deeper into someones life is just my thing!  I think my favorite question that someone would ask me was … “and what do you do?”  The reactions were priceless; some speechless, some engaging and to some it was an open invitation to debate the latest headlines from Fox News when I would respond with … “I work for Congress.”  It’s definitely not something you hear every day and I absolutely loved my job.  Helping someone, most days people I had never even met or would ever meet and expecting absolutely nothing in return … changing the life of one person at a time in their darkest hours was the most rewarding experience I could have ever asked for.  Well, right up until I decided to make the decision to stay home with the kids and spend my mornings in a classroom with some pretty special people; this is so much more fun than saying I get to follow around a Congressman all day and take care of his people!  Now, don’t take that last statement wrong because let me tell you I would do it all over again if life was just a little different.

If you have worked outside of the home and transitioned to being a stay at home mom then I think you will agree with me that life got a little crazier for you!  I had no idea how much my nanny did for me day in and day out!  Okay, let’s just stop for a minute and take a deep breath because I absolutely do not want to discount my dear friends who continue to chase their careers; you are my HERO!!  I still sit back and wonder how in the world I got up, got ready and made it to work with matching shoes!  These days I come home after morning drop offs, look around the house, then catch a glimpse at myself in the mirror; look down at my pajama pants that I pass off for super cute leggings and ask myself when was the last time I washed my hair!  Being a mom is hard!  There are days I have actually claimed out loud that I am running away!  No really, I will look at Mark and say … “I am leaving, really.  This time I mean it I am running away.”  When the kids get mad at me and head towards the front door as if to scare me that they might actually leave I usually beat them there and exclaim, “no way kids if anyone is running away it’s me!”  Did I mention that being a mom is really, really hard?!

So, if I loved my job so much and being a mom is 10x harder than fighting with Federal Government agencies you might be asking yourself why in the world would you choose to stay home all day?  Well, I found something really fun to do in the mornings and seriously you should try it, at least once!  There’s this group of kids who have come to know me as “The Mama” not a mama but THE mama and quite honestly I’m not sure my day would just even be the same without that hour every morning in their classroom.  After I take Alex and Caroline to school I run through Starbucks and with my cup of coffee in one hand and pushing Elizabeth with the other we make our way through the hallways of our high school to a classroom tucked away on the other side of the building where we are greeted with handsy hugs, sloppy kisses and the smiles of 9 kids all unique in their own way.  I know each one by name, diagnosis and how they react to me.  Our classroom is staffed with a few of the finest teachers, parapro’s and substitutes that I have had the privilege of meeting.  Our teachers, much like our kids have their own unique personality that allows them to relate to each student differently.  Let me stop again for just a minute here and say this …. there is no one that has my deepest respect more than these teachers.  They have made a choice to get up every morning, walk into a classroom where they have no idea what the day holds for them.  The day to day uncertainty of a Special Education classroom is real my friends.  I have seen it first hand and to know that no one forced them to choose this profession, that they chose to love a child who learns differently; who needs the kindness, the compassion, the forgiveness of a mentor.  Even as the mother of a child with a disability I am telling you I could not do what they do day after day and keep coming back for more.

We are new to the classroom this year but there is a man who we have known for several years and one of the main reasons we chose this school.  I have written of him often, singing his praises, thanking him for his incredible selfless love he has for these children; especially mine.  There is something about this tall, bald guy who wears shorts in the coldest months of winter and greets you every morning with a warm smile and arms that wrap you up that makes you feel like they were made just for you.  He’s not a teacher, he doesn’t have a fancy degree hanging on the classroom wall; he’s there early every morning, stays late every afternoon and does what he does all because he loves a classroom of some pretty special kids.  I often speak of how incredibly blessed we are to have him in our kids lives and his humble response is always the same; he is the one that is blessed that his life is better because of these kids.  His role in our classroom is defined as a 1:1 or a paraprofessional.  There are a few of our kids who need this, Elizabeth being one of them.  This person is assigned to one child who might need extra help with their work, transitioning from class to class or meeting their daily needs they couldn’t ordinarily do on their own.  It’s a selfless job that pays barely enough and demands all your attention.  It’s also one of the most important jobs in the classroom.  You must be willing to love unconditionally, forgive easily and smile when you want to cry.  Your paycheck will be next to nothing, not even close to what you really deserve and you will most likely never publicly receive any kuddos for your hard work.  You are expected to brunt the blame for their bad days, accept responsibility for actions you have no control over and be prepared to always defend your true love for this student.  But what makes him so special to our classroom is that he has made room in his life for each and every one of our students.

So who is this guy?  His name is Park and he is my dear friend, my mentor; he is our family.  A man whose love for his students is as pure as the love God has for His children.  He has endured his own tragedy in life and threw the love he had lost into a group of kids who could not have been more fortunate to have a man that has loved each of them as if they were his own.  His Heavenly crown is overflowing with the most precious of jewels and when it is his turn to stand before our Father he will be escorted to the playground where he will given the role of a lifetime with the children whose lives were taken from this earth.  He was hand picked to love a child who lives life just a little differently than others, he was given a classroom to live out his mission of changing lives.

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