Wise Woman

Wedding Day October 20, 2020

I hit a wall—hard—in March last year, and my daughter-in-law was there to support me. It wasn’t as if she had nothing else to do. She had just moved to Oregon to take a job in a nearby city—for the city— that she secured via a series of Zoom interviews conducted while she was still living in New Orleans. And she was staying with us, her new in-laws as of October, commuting an hour each morning without her husband, our son. He had remained behind to finish selling the house and to pack up their former lives.

At the start of the school year, September 2020, I had taken a job with my former employer in New Jersey as the middle school Language Arts teacher in its “virtual academy,” the alternative for students who were unwilling or unable to attend the in-person classroom. We all remember that fall, its fits and starts, its Covid outbreaks. My cohort of sixth, seventh, and eighth grade students dwindled as the year progressed and each new marking period saw students returning to their in-person lives. But my teaching schedule persisted.

When Alex, my daughter-in-law arrived in mid-February, I was wakening at 3:30 a.m. to begin my teaching day at 5 Pacific time/ 8 Eastern. I had been doing this since September, and that was only part of my exhaustion. As much as we did that was good, as we explored different strategies to create meaningful relationships as a learning team, I felt defeated and disconnected as well. This was not the world I had retired from in 2017.

And Alex, her own plate full, listened as I dumped my frustration on her while she prepared for her commute—at 5 a.m., no less. What is worse, she returned to the same litany at the end of a L-O-N-G day at a new job, in a new state, surrounded by loving— but let’s be honest, pretty much strangers—in-laws!

One weekend in late March, she suggested that perhaps I write my principal in New Jersey and explain myself, my feelings, and let her know that I would be more than willing to surrender my role should she wish to put my diminishing number of students into hybrid Language Arts classes, as that had become part of the school’s operation. Alex reasoned that maybe my principal was looking for a way to reintegrate the kids to a more “normal” experience with their peers, and I would be giving her my go-ahead. “At least she’ll know what you’re thinking.”

So I did. I worried and wrote, worried and re-wrote, worried. Finally after three weeks and multiple drafts, unable to sleep, I sent the email. I told Alex that it went out at 3 a.m., and she asked me, “Do you feel better?” And miraculously, I did. I no longer even cared whether I had to actually finish the teaching year (and I did, by the way). It was the act of speaking my piece that freed me, that let me move on, just as Alex in her 29-year-old wisdom knew it would.

Today my wonderful, one-of-a-kind daughter-in-law has an interview for a new job in city government—one that comes with significant additional responsibilities and commitment, one that, as she described, “You don’t apply for a job like this, and then leave after a year.” She wants the position but is philosophical about her chances—yes, no; either way, she moves forward with a smile and calm, balanced.

Good luck, Alex. They are the lucky ones. So am I.

13 thoughts on “Wise Woman”

  1. what a blessing to have a daughter-in-law looking out for you & supporting you. And what a blessing for her to see that she’s part of a family that welcomes & values her input & encouragement & love. Hang in there, and thanks for writing so bravely about what so many teachers are going through!

    1. Thanks for reading, Joel, and your kind words. I am just heading over to your blog now. She is a gem; this is a perk of those babies of yours growing up!

  2. Your daughter in law is indeed a wise woman. You are fortunate to have her as part of your family fold.

  3. Your post clearly shows the power of writing. It is a release for the writer. It can lift a heavy weight from our shoulders. Having someone who will listen and offer sound advice is also a plus. Here’s wishing Ale luck with her interview.

  4. I loved reading about your daughter-in-law — and how precious and special she is — after chatting with you on Sunday. She’s beautiful as well! as sweet!

    I hope she gets the position!

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