This has been an emotional year for me at home. My oldest daughter is going through some unexpected health problems that have involved some hospital stays and learning an entire new lingo of medical terms.
I didn't realize how much all of this was weighing on me until her school pictures arrived this fall. She had the pictures taken at school in September, just a few weeks before she became ill. Through her illness, we dealt with side effects from medication that included changes in her appearance and in her emotional state. When her school pictures arrived, they showed a smiling, happy girl that looked nothing like the child that was sitting in the hospital bed. It broke my heart. I couldn't pass the pictures out to our family because I knew they might have the same reaction. The contrast of before and after were numbing.
Then, my youngest daughter brought home her own school pictures just a few weeks later. The girls are in different buildings because of their different grade levels. This meant they had different picture days. The little one's picture day happened to be on a day right at the beginning of my oldest daughter's illness. That meant that rather than being at home to help her get ready for picture day, I was at the hospital and grandma helped her. When her pictures arrived, my heart broke all over again. My youngest is my always happy, always goofy child and her school picture this year showed no smile. You can see the sadness and worry in her eyes. Yeah, that stunk. I wasn't ready to pass those pictures out either.
It's been a few months now since the pictures arrived, and I'm happy to say that even though life isn't back to the way it used to be, it is returning to somewhat normal. My oldest daughter is looking and feeling like herself again and even though we still have emotionally difficult days, it is getting better. My youngest daughter still worries about big sister but the silliness and laughter have returned. I even passed the school pictures out to family at Christmas. The pictures will always bring me a twinge of sadness, but they are also a reminder of how strong we can be as a family.
This entire experience has taught me many lessons, some personal and some professional. One of the things it has reminded me, is that every student comes to us with a story. My daughters' stories are complicated and emotional. I need to remember the same may be true for many of my students (and teachers). Whether it is struggling with illness, complicated living situations, or a host of other things, I hope that I will always remember that every child has a story. Every story is different. Every child needs someone who will listen to that story.