“Hey, Mom, why does the road keeping going dark?” Just when I think the boys are asleep in the back seat, I get this analytical question.
“Do you see those clouds high up in the sky and the hills over there?” I gesture with my chin, keeping my hands securely on the steering wheel.
“Well, they create shadows on the road. We cross in and out of the shadows as we drive.”
“I guess…or maybe darkness has fallen over all the land…” he replies in a grim and telling voice.
“Or maybe it’s because I have my sunglasses on,” the youngest pipes up from his booster seat.
We dissolve in giggles and tears threaten my vision as we traverse the backroads home after a day at the beach.
I almost missed that story, just as I am sure I’ve missed so many others. My husband is often frustrated with me because I have “selective hearing.” It’s a consequence of teaching middle school for 14 years – there are conversations I just don’t want to hear. Besides that, with 34 adolescents crammed into a classroom, complete silence is impossible. At times, I have to tune out whispers and side conversations just to focus on taking roll.
There’s a true deficit in the ability to tune out the world, though. While tuning out the mundane or inconsequential to focus on what we deem most imperative, we miss out on the stories that truly matter. In Sunday’s episode of Chesapeake Shores, “All Our Yesterdays,” Nell warns Abby that she is “missing quite a story” when she chooses to continue working over playing Fairy Queen with her daughters. She reminds Abby that “no matter how important the real world seems, you’ve got to remember who you are doing this for.” Without that purpose, all of our work is meaningless and a chasing after the wind.
Even Kevin realizes this as he and Connor make sandwiches in the kitchen and discuss life’s quandaries. “Ever wonder why we do what we do?” he asks an age-old question. Both are lost, still searching for the motivation behind their life goals. Abby is in a much different place – she moved back to Chesapeake Shores to be with family and for a job that allowed her a more flexible schedule. Her family time became a priority, but even with the best of intentions, it is incredibly easy to get lost in the real world and miss the most important stories of our lives.
As a mother of two energetic boys and a teacher of 140 middle school students, I’ve learned that my character plays into each and every story…every day. I am here to be a part of those stories, not a bystander but an active participant. For some, I may become the hero of the story, overcoming the darkness that has fallen over their land and bringing back the light. Sure, I have mounds of grading and hours of planning, piles of dishes and floors that obviously need attention, but I gave myself a motto a few years ago to help keep both work and home focused on the most important story: If it doesn’t change where they go when they leave this world, it’s not that important.
The lessons I teach my students about the difference between a noun and a verb or the number of steps in the Hero’s Journey is not likely to influence their overall success in life. If my sink is full of dishes and my bookcases are dusty, my boys won’t even notice. What they all need is my presence, someone to help them navigate the real world and someone who can still play make-believe when the real world is overwhelming. They need someone who can help them dream about better, bigger, and brighter things like Fairy Queens who destroy evil and knights on white horses who vanquish the darkness that “has fallen over all the land.”
That is why I do what I do, every day – why a perfect lesson takes a rabbit trail to answer what inquiring 6th grade minds really want to know, and why I will always read just one more story to my boys before they drift off to sleep at night. I don’t want to miss being a part of their stories.