Humbled by my Middle Schooler
My son and I had a recent conversation that humbled me. Our school district requires students to perform at least 75 hours of community service. They have to fill out a form, have it signed by the coordinator, and remember to turn in said form. Service hours are counted beginning in middle school and are collected through senior year of high school. The schools offer service hours and also have them incorporated in lessons. For example a class lesson might be a field trip to do a stream clean up. My son is in 8th grade. This happens to be the same year that he will be confirmed in our church. His Religious Education coordinator told the students that it is expected to do community service hours to support our parish in three ways: individually, with the family, and with fellow religious education students/community. She said that she expected them to do it and no, she will not collect forms, sign forms, or count hours. She is going to trust them to complete the required community service. They will take time throughout the year to discuss the work they are doing and the value of the work they are doing. Several of the students were put off by the concept of not being recognized by the work they were doing.
Go back to my conversation with my 8th grader. He has completed his 75 hours of community service required by the school system. He's turned in the required paperwork and I can see online that it's been counted. He said he's done and he's not filling out another form. I started to argue with him that he can keep doing community service and why not fill out the form? He'll be recognized at high school graduation for doing more! He still has 4 years and the rest of 8th grade to rack up the hours! And this is where he stopped me and humbled me. He said, "Mom, just because I don't fill out the forms, doesn't mean I won't continue to help the community or our parish. I just don't see the point in tracking the hours. I've completed my hours, but it doesn't mean I'm done helping." And then he proceeded to list where is going to help and when. He has a plan. He had one all along and I missed it. I missed it because I was looking for the accolades and the recognition. And he is doing exactly what I am trying to teach him when we talk about corporal and spiritual works of mercy.
Doh. He is so right. Isn't this what I try to instill in my kids on the daily: We are called to serve one another. We don't do things to gain recognition and credit. We serve others because it is what is right. He just remembered it better than I did. I was both proud and humbled.
His reminder is coming at a time where I am feeling dismissed in my personal life. I do try to live by the motto: We are called to serve one another. I bring meals to others, take people to appointments, support behind the scenes, volunteer at school and activities and to do it without looking for accolades or recognition. And sometimes it does become overwhelming. There are weeks where I am out of the house everyday because I am checking in on someone or providing a service and I have little time do the things needed for my own family. And there are weeks when things slow down and I'm not needed. And I love serving. When all of my kids are in school full time I have discussed with my husband about several charities and organizations where I feel called to serve as a volunteer.
And I have to be completely transparent: there are times I am looking for that thank you or recognition because I feel that people see me solely as "that mom with all the kids" and I want to be known for more than that. I have felt and heard the disgust when people realize that I have a brood and they feel the need to comment on my procreative activities (None of their business thankyouverymuch). I have also been told, "Oh, I didn't recognize you without all of your kids" on the rare occasions I've gone out solo. I have felt the dismissal because people do not see the value of staying home with my family and supporting my husband. I remember the year that I had my third child. I frequently came to pick up the oldest from kindergarten with some new spit-up on my shoulder. I usually wore the same sweatshirt at pickup with my messy mom bun. I was pushing a stroller with two kids in it to meet the oldest. A teacher, knowing that I was looking to connect with other moms suggested to a mom with a child in the same class that maybe she and I could connect and she flat out told him that she and her husband are educated and that they don't associate with those kinds of people. I could only assume she meant me; The mom with the spit-up on her shoulder and disheveled clothes and the gaggle of kids in tow. She didn't bother to get to know me or know that I have a graduate degree in education. All she saw was the efforts of my labor: tired mom with the messy clothes and the gaggle of kids.
Recently a principal I know asked me if I was willing to come back as a substitute. He said they are waiting for me whenever I am ready and I have to admit that it felt damn good. He said he can give me as many hours as I wanted. He said he knew my family was important to me and that I can be flexible. This came at a time when I have felt dismissed, unappreciated, and undervalued. Maybe it's up to me overcome those feelings, but sometimes it's hard to push through when no one sees you. I am taking a class right now and my professor is totally dismissive. I thought maybe I was seeing something that wasn't there, but after three classes, he's definitely not a fan. And the unprovoked dislike is more than I can bear right now.
I'm not looking for sympathy. I am sharing this because I'm transparent and I had to be reminded by my 13 yo that our work is greater than looking for recognition. I am hurting and feeling dismissed and my innocent son reminded me that I am called to serve others and not to look for recognition. He did not know that I needed to hear this right now. My reward is not here on earth. The work that I do will hopefully continue after I'm gone. My goal is raise children who follow their faith, know that Jesus loves them, to serve Him by serving others, and to be kind. Saint Teresa of Calcutta reminds us, "We cannot all do great things. But we can do small things with great love."
What things are you doing with great love? And to those who are feeling dismissed, invisible, and unrecognized, peace be with you. You ARE doing great things, for without you, there would be less hope and less love. Continue to love.
Peace be with you.