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What This Teacher Said Changed Everything

The end of every school year is a mad rush to a maddening finish. There are parties and performances. Pool passes, camp sign-ups and plans for summer childcare. Teacher gifts and report cards. Meetings for activities, meetings for school programs and meetings for meetings about the meetings.

There is so much to do. And for many parents, we have very little energy to do any of it. Frankly, sometimes it feels as if I'm being held together by paste and popsicle sticks.

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Besides energy (and the will to open our kids' homework folder one more stinking time), many of us are also lacking perspective. I include myself here. It's as if I have end-of-the-year tunnel vision: all I can see is the super-busy schedule and "important" decisions right in front of me. Recently, I even had a mini-meltdown (all right, a major meltdown) over how to coordinate a night of Little League games, a fourth-grade math meeting, class play preparations, a field trip to the zoo and then dinner.

It was chaotic, but it was not life-or-death. Yet in the midst of my meltdown, I couldn't quite see how much perspective I was lacking.

My first-grader's teacher corrected my perspective when she added this message to her end-of-the-year letter to her students and their parents:

"We have engaged in many academic tasks but also in the unseen works of the heart, those that help us to become the best persons we can be, learning how to treat others well, to be willing to help, to give generously and to receive graciously, to appreciate beauty. These are the ongoing works of life, the most important skills we will ever acquire."

I cried when I read this part of her letter. I took a deep breath and hugged my kids and did all the things a person does when someone reminds them of what truly matters in life.

Because meetings, schedules and big decisions? The chaos and noise of the end of the school year? They matter, but often only on a superficial level.

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My son's teacher knows what matters more. And my son and I—all of us, in fact—are lucky for her reminder.

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