Today I have taken a mental health day. A usual weekday morning for me would be consumed by homeschooling but today, as I walked down to our school area, my eyes were bombarded. Socks here. Towels there. Pillows thrown this way and that. Books everywhere, legos strewn about, dress-up spilling out of storage…it was a complete mess. This is a conversation we’ve had 68,246 times (just since September) – mommy cannot function in a pig-stye and if that is the way they want to live, then they’re going to have to learn to get along without me. So we (they) started our (their) day by cleaning up the hole. Once that was done, we attempted to start again. This time, my ears were bombarded. Tattling, bickering, interrupting. Sigh. I just couldn’t do it. I calmly told them that I was taking a mental health day and they were going to be doing school by themselves…they do it that way when I have a session so they can do it that way when I don’t. Peace out, mom’s done.
So of course I’m here in my room clutching the baby monitor that I had to dig out of storage (but thankfully never took down the actual cameras – brillance), spying on my children. I have to tell ya, it’s going surprisingly well. I’ve always wondered how things go when I’m doing a newborn session in my studio and they are left to their own devices. Afternoons after a session are spent checking work so I know it got done but I never had a good picture of how the learning actually went down. Today’s spy session is showing me that taking a mental health day is something I should maybe do more often!
Things started off with Tanner leading Bible. I wasn’t actually sure how that would go…but I’m here to tell you the reality was way better than my imagination. They read the verse, he moderated the discussion afterward and the girls actually participated. Wow. Color me amazed. Next up was History. Tanner patiently talked the girls through their assignment and helped them with any questions they had. I have to say: he really steps up when a leadership role is presented to him. I compare him to a farm dog (if you know me, you know that this is totally appropriate): when he’s bored and not on task, his entire purpose in life is to pester and annoy (he thinks tickling his sisters is fun playtime, they do not agree). BUT if he has a job, he really owns that job and does it well. Just like a farm dog. See how I did that? Truly, he really has stepped up recently in some areas of responsibility and I’m super proud of him. Get this boy a job and he swells right up with the ownership of the task and makes it happen. He’s a good boy.
Then you have the girls working together:
Faith: “Do we know what a Venn diagram is??”
Taryn: patiently explains what a Venn diagram is. So sweet.
I feel this mental health day helping (me) already. But real life? There’s also been a lot of not-so-patient interactions – poor Faith is in second grade compared to their 4th and 6th grades so she hasn’t been exposed to a lot of the stuff they have and she doesn’t understand a lot of what they do. Tanner is a lot more patient, Taryn is a lot more IMpatient but somehow Faith rides through and carries on – bless her. She’s a warrior.
Another of my favorite moments occurred when Faith, in talking through a Science assignment was trying to write something down without documenting her source and Tanner lectured her on how it didn’t count if she didn’t cite her sources. She has utterly no clue what this means but my momma’s heart swelled because he and I just had this same conversation two weeks ago – he DOES hear me!!!! It’s so affirming to know that he – ok, all of them – actually do absorb what I teach. To my face, I get a lot of pushback…that’s what parenting feels like a lot of the time. But when they are not in my presence, they verbalize what they have heard and that is huge.
Trust. There have been multiple occasions where I hear, “I’m telling mom!” then the pitter patter of little feet down to my door. A knock and an informant sharing intel/gripes. Or, in Taryn’s case, the merest scratch at the door, which I pretended not to hear (Mother of the Year vs. mental health day), and then she disappeared off and her voice projected back over the baby monitor moments later. Okay, look. We’re a work in progress. These people are not ready to fly the nest, not even close. But when I hear Tanner reciting to Faith the lessons he learned from me about being a trustworthy writer with well-documented sources, I feel like we’re getting somewhere and that, maybe one day, the voice in their heads will be mine when it really counts.
This mental health day didn’t last very long, which I expected, because I am their teacher and I have no choice but to be involved. But I have to report that it conveniently landed on the day in which Faith’s reading talked about thoughtlessness vs thoughtfulness and part of her assignment asked her to talk to her parents about how she can be thoughtful toward them. I could not have planned this better. Based on the success of today’s mental health day, I project that there will be more – independence is the goal, after all, isn’t it? But they still need me and I’m a better, more patient teacher and mom when things are orderly – not just in our home but also in my brain. So I am declaring today a success. Boom.
And to tie this back to photography, enjoy Mia’s lifestyle newborn session. I have enjoyed working with this family through the years, all the way back to big sister Marley’s newborn session and, as a new mom of two girls, I bet Theresa already understands the value of a mental health day!
Liz Viernes Photography is based near Laurel, Maryland, and specializes in maternity, fresh 48, posed and lifestyle newborns and first year milestone portraits.