Our Mentor, Teacher, and Friend

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One Tuesday night at 7:10 PM my 5yr old asked, “Mommy, may I call Ms. Suzann?”

Looking at the clock and noting the time, I responded, “Sure. You can try to call her, but she may already be in bed.”

Running to get himself ready for bed, Charlie yelled from his room, “Tell me when you’re ready.” (He needed me to enter Suzann’s phone number.)

I told him I was ready, and he appeared immediately, wearing only his pajama bottoms. Smiling, I dialed the number for him. As I handed him the phone I reminded him, “Please don’t get upset if she doesn’t answer. Just leave her a message. You’ll see her in the morning.” He took the phone, pressing it against his ear, and walked away.

Charlie conversing with Suzann

Several minutes pass, and I did not hear anything. I assumed Suzann had gone to bed, and Charlie had to leave a message. So, I walked back to Charlie’s room to get the phone and make sure he wasn’t sad.

When I got to his room, I found Charlie sitting on the couch and talking on the phone. “She’s there?” I asked quietly. Charlie nodded while simultaneously answering a question asked of him from the other side of the phone.

Charlie remained on the couch, talking with Ms. Suzann for over 8 minutes. Two nights later, again, he was on the phone with her for another 8+ minutes.

Who is Ms. Suzann? Ms. Suzann is a godsend. Really.

Ms. Suzann is our daycare provider. In late 2005/early 2006, right around the time Joe celebrated his first birthday, he began going to Suzann’s house 5 days a week. While Rob and I spent our days at work, Joe spent his time with Suzann and the other kids.

While pregnant with Charlie, I waited as long as possible before asking Suzann if she would let Charlie come to her place, too. Generally speaking, Suzann’s classroom is filled with toddlers and pre-k kids, not infants. When I finally mustered the courage to ask Suzann, her face lit up and she smiled widely. Apparently, she had been waiting for me to ask, and she was beginning to get nervous – fearing I had other plans. So, late in 2006, when Charlie was 3 months old, he began spending his weekdays at Suzann’s house.

Ms. Suzann, her Dad (Grandpa Bob) and the kids. (Joe is in the green shirt, Charlie is the baby in yellow.)

Suzann has been a part of our lives for nearly six years. For nearly six years, Suzann has been a second mother to our boys. For nearly six years, Suzann has been a friend to me. For nearly six years, Suzann has been an inspiration for and a positive force in our family.

She put up with my crazed 1st-time mother moments. Then, we laughed about my 1st-time mother moments, when I graduated to 2nd-time mother. Oh what a difference a second baby makes.

Suzann always encouraged the boys, whose minds were like sieves. Oh, sorry. I mean, she encouraged the boys, whose minds were like steel plates traps. (I’m the one with a steel-plated mind like a sieve.)

I’ve mentioned Suzann in previous posts. “Just another day at daycare” is about an afternoon I spent at the Log Lodge, taking pictures of the kids for a class calendar.ย  Another post was created after I caused a ruckus by mentioning the word scabies and my boys in a Facebook status. “Itching with Inspiration” is based on the response of some of the parents in the classroom. ‘I miss the good ol’ days‘ is another post written in response to a grumbling parent.

Poor Suzann … she’s been so kind to me and my obnoxious ways. Seems I always try to stir up a good laugh trouble.

The type of environment Suzann provides the kids is second to none. She taught my boys compassion and respect for the natural world around them. With several acres of land to explore, the boys’ love for nature started growing while in Suzann’s care. In addition, the grass airstrip next to the Log Lodge provided a source of entertainment as airplanes, biplanes and hot air balloons took off and landed right before their eyes.

When transportation workers were repaving the road in front of the Log Lodge, Suzann and the kids took several glasses of water to share with the work crew. The work crew took the time to talk with the kids about the equipment and machines they were using to repave the road.

I asked Joe to name his two favorite things about going to Ms. Suzann’s house. “I liked how we always did fun stuff, like riding around in the work horse. And, I liked seeing my other friends.”

When I asked Charlie to name his to favorite things about going to Ms. Suzann’s house, he said “Seeing Ms. Suzann and riding in the workhorse.”

Coincidentally, when I asked the boys what they would miss most about going to Ms. Suzann’s house they both said they would miss seeing Ms. Suzann and their friends, as well as riding in the workhorse.

Joe's classroom friends. Picture taken July 2010, Joe's last month with the class.

Charlie's classroom friends, minus Nate and Brooklyn.

As I mentioned earlier, sometimes Charlie will ask if he can call Ms. Suzann before he goes to bed. If he forgets to give her a hug and a kiss when he leaves to go home, he is unable to go to bed without shedding several tears. Though Charlie will tell us most nights that he misses Ms. Suzann, the nights he forgets to hug and kiss her, he is a a mess – one big and adorably sad mess. Only a phone call to his beloved teacher will cure his aching heart.

I shot the following video, while picking up Charlie at the end of the day. Initially, I wanted to capture a still shot of Suzann walking down the sidewalk with Charlie. However, realizing this was one of the last times I would pick up my son at our daycare provider’s house, I decided I wanted to capture all of it. Every movement – every single hug and kiss moment.

Thank you for allowing me to share this with you. This is personal, as is most of my blog. I felt I needed to shout out to the world – to God – that I am thankful for what my family had these past 5+ years. I did not take one year, one month, one week or one day with Suzann for granted.

I’ve had my fair share of incredible teachers in my life, and I am confident the same will hold true for Joe and Charlie. Although, after Ms. Suzann, the teaching bar is set high – incredibly high. Good luck future teachers, you have some very large shoes to fill.

Ms. Suzann, words do not express the love and gratitude we have for you. I suspect the sadness I feel now, as our family graduates from the Log Lodge, is second only to the sadness I’ll feel when the boys go off to college. I’ll let you know when that happens, because this is not good-bye. We’ll return for visits, over and over again. (And, we won’t ask for permission. *wink* *wink*)

Me and my friend, my mentor, my childcare provider.

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30 thoughts on “Our Mentor, Teacher, and Friend

  1. What a wonderful tribute to a person who obviously connected with your children. I love that Ms. Suzann takes calls from her protegรฉs. How cool that must make a young one feel? She obviously took each child under her wing, met each day with joy and trained them along the way. Trained them to respect hard work and hard workers and be curious about it, i.e. the mini-field trip to meet the workmen. The experiences she provided, the hugs and kisses and acceptance, will have lasting influence. I’m impressed that when my seniors were asked to name their most influential teacher, several times it was their pre-k or kindergarten teacher!

    • I am glad you liked this post, Georgette. We decided to skip pre-k for our boys, because Suzann’s environment was incredibly educational. We didn’t want to pull them from the wonderful environment. The sense of calmness and peace at Suzann’s house is amazing, too. A stressed parent can walk into her place, and I swear – the stress will melt away instantly. I will be forever grateful for the influence Suzann had on my boys (and me).

  2. Lenore, I’m getting all teary-eyed. I agree with Georgette, I feel that the preK teacher can be such a huge influence for a child, straight through the rest of their school years. They help to build a long-lasting foundation of learning, trust and support. My son still talks about his preK teacher and he’s going into third grade. How blessed your boys have been to have Ms. Suzann.

    • As I told Georgette, I did not pull the boys out of Suzann’s house for pre-k. The boys have gone straight from her house to Kindergarten. Neither Rob nor I could foresee them finding a better environment than where they were already. So thankful. So very thankful. (Sorry you got teary-eyed!)

  3. Your comment about “1st-time mother moments” made me laugh. Sometimes I’ll talk with Li’l D’s “nana” and have flashbacks to those first weeks, when I was absolutely convinced a single misstep would be the end of my son’s existence. She was so sweet and so patient, she hasn’t once brought up any of those moments since. I’m grateful for that, but, like you, grateful for so much more!

    I love that you got that on video. So sweet to see you with one of your kiddos! And, speaking of sweet? How sweet are those phone calls?

    I’d venture a guess she’s blessed to have you in her life, too. The people who tell people they’re doing it right are a blessing, too. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Deb, thank you for that – while Suzann’s footprint of blessing in our life is immeasurable, I do hope she feels blessed to have had us in her life. She helped us in many ways – inside and outside of the classroom. A true friend.

      I’m glad I shot the video, too. Charlie’s already watched it countless times. I’m sure he’ll continue to enjoy watching it, too. Charlie called Suzann last night. He sat in his room, while Rob and I were in the kitchen. (We have a small house, so we could hear Charlie easily.) Rob and I had some good smiles back and forth, as we heard Charlie talk. Man, these boys have had it good. So good.

      And, here’s to you making it through the crazed 1st time Mommy spurts. (smile) Wait until you have another (if you do). You’ll laugh at what you freaked over with Lil ‘D. Good times!

  4. So sweet, so tender. How blessed you were to have loving, character-building care for your boys while you worked. And she so blessed to have appreciative parents.

    • Thank you, K8. I have absolutely no problem with saying my boys would not have fared as well had I raised them by myself (with my husband). Suzann’s peaceful and calming spirit is simply amazing. She seemed to effortlessly built their character without harming an ounce of their spirit. (Me? Yeah, I would have yelled more.)

  5. Chills!! The transition from preschool, where Noah’s cousin remained, to kindergarten was very emotional for me. What was thrilling, however, was that first day of elementary school and seeing SIX of his fellow preschoolers in his class. Awesome.

    And now he’s one week and one day away from middle school. Oh gosh.

    • Time flies!! These 5+ years have flown. Now that they are moving to the stage of changing grades every year – I know time will fly by even faster! ACK!

      We opted to skip pre-k for our kids, because we did not want them to miss a day at Suzann’s place. True story – I tried to convince Suzann to home school the kids. I seriously have been dreading this – their last day. They are losing such an asset … I am losing an asset. Though, we can visit whenever we want. I realize I sound dramatic… transitions are hard. Especially when you are transitioning from something so awesome.

  6. Val

    Very sweet post, Lenore. I don’t have any children, but it reminds me of when I was small child myself and was absolutely addicted to/in love with an au pair we had – she was wonderful and I was heartbroken when she left. My sister and I kept in touch with her for a few years but then she got married. I’ve a couple of photos of her and a couple of things of hers and I still remember her very fondly. I hope Suzann stays in your life for a very very long time.

    • How nice that after all these years, the memories of your au pair still exist in your mind. I am certain Suzann will remain in our life for a very, very long time. I truly cannot fathom not staying in touch with her. She is a family friend, for certain. I am glad you liked the post, Val. Thank you.

  7. May Joe and Charlie meet more “suzanns” throughout their school experiences. No wonder you feel such gratitude for her…putting your children in the hands of another has to be one of the biggest challenges.

    • Soul Dipper, quiet honestly – the challenge has come with leaving Suzann. Putting the boys in her care was the easiest thing I have done in my life. The positive energy that exists within the walls of the Log Lodge is so intense, you feel at ease instantly. Is it possible to feel intensely at ease? Seems like an oxymoron. And yes – here’s to many more ‘suzanns’ in their life. How wonderful that would be. (The world would benefit from it, too.)

  8. With tears clouding my eyes all I can write is this, “Oh that all children were so loved.” Your boys are so fortunate .. and you’re so smart to trust your instincts and keep them as long as you could where they clearly thrived. The child who is loved has all the confidence in the world.

    Can we clone her?

    Wonderful … one of my all time favorites,
    Cheers! MJ

    • Thank you so much, MJ. Today was the first full day without Suzann. All of us – my entire household – felt out of place. Joe and Charlie noticed, and Rob came up to me and said, “It’s weird not going to Suzann’s today.” Amazing. I would have kept the kids there longer, MJ – had she followed my request (demand) to begin homeschooling. (smile)

      If there is anyone in this world worth cloning – it would certainly be Suzann.

      Thanks again, MJ. So glad you enjoyed it, and I am glad it touched you.
      Cheers to you! Lenore

      • I thought of your wee boys today and wondered how it was for them. And you’ve probably already done this but please print off a copy for her. Who wouldn’t love to know exactly how someone (loved/admired) them? Even if she has your “link” – to have it on paper and preserved .. talk about validation.

        Cheers! MJ

        • MJ, I had not printed out a copy for Suzann – but I will. We are going to visit her on Friday, so Charlie can tell her about school. I’ll have a copy of the ‘post’ with me to pass to her.

  9. jacquelincangro

    I love what you said in your comment about Ms. Suzann having such a calm, positive energy. It certainly sounds like Ms. Suzann has found her calling. A lovely tribute! Maybe she would like to write a post for Shine someday? ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Thank you, Jacquelin. I wish we all had a place like Suzann’s where we could start our day walking through – to immerse ourselves in the quiet and the peace. Seriously – to have a place feel so peaceful, while 6 to 8 kids run around?! Inconceivable. And yet – that is the way it is at her place. Amazing.
      I wish she would write – she won’t though. She is definitely deserving of Shine. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Thank you, Nancy. She was a blessing – for certain. Thank you for telling me this touched your heart. It tells me I did well conveying how wonderful Suzann is as a mentor, teacher and friend.

  10. Lenore, it’s time we all started paying less attention to overpaid athletes and Hollywood celebrities and more attention to people like Suzann, who actually improve the lives of others. Great post, and very encouraging.

    • Thanks, Charles. I am so happy this particular post has received so many hits and so many wonderful comments. I believe every time this post is read and someone shares a kind word, Suzann’s tribute continues. Charlie has been in school for two weeks, but he still calls Suzann at night. Not every night – but he calls. He wants to see and hear how she is doing.
      Thank you for taking a moment and reading my tribute to Suzann. Tell your friends. She’s worth it.

  11. At a time when parents are trapped in the catch 22 of having to work to provide for their kids but having to leave their kids to the whims of strangers in order to work…it is heartening to know that there are angels out there like Suzanne. You and your family were blessed to find her. This is a lovely tribute to her.

    • Thank you, Linda. Yes, it is a catch 22. Finding Suzann provided us with a wonderful answer to our own person juggle of work and child-care. Just today, I was out and about with the kids. We honked as we passed Suzann’s house. She is still very much a part of our lives. I am happy to read you found this to be a lovely tribute. That was certainly my goal. Thanks again.

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