At the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year, our family was a bit of a mess. Toby and I were separated and our kids’ world was crumbling. And in the midst of switching the kids, working like crazy people, me going to school, and dealing with a hurricane of emotions, we were facing yet another major change.
The fall of 2017 was the year that Emma and Noah started their journey in Fort Thomas Independent Schools.
That statement in and of itself is pretty exciting. The Fort Thomas school system is absolutely outstanding. Truly. We knew in our heads that this was a super big blessing, but let’s go back a bit…
I remember the kids and I hugging each other in the parking lot of their old school on the last day of the 2016-2017 school year and literally crying because the kids were so sad to leave. It was like dominos… Noah started sobbing, Emma followed suit, and I just couldn’t handle watching them break down like that. We were sad to say the least about the changes that were happening in our lives and although none of us ever articulated it out loud, I think both kids were scared to death that they would never find another second home like their first grade school. I was right there with them. Sure, I said all the right things to them about finding adventure in change and trusting in God’s plan for our lives. We talked about the opportunities there and the friends they would make. Outside I was nothing but optimistic, but inside I was panicking. They were both leaving good friends. They had literally grown up in those walls from 3 years old on… And the biggest thing of all – neither of them wanted to leave. This was just one more thing that was beyond their control. It was excruciating to watch. I just had to believe that there was something good for us on the other side of this huge leap.
Then we visited Johnson. There was an almost immediate shift in the three of us as we walked into the door and were given a tour by Ms. Andi. Talk about a warm welcome… we walked in with hesitation and walked out actually excited. That wasn’t just the uniqueness of the school or the things we saw as we took the tour. That was Ms. Andi. She was like a warm hug and frankly, we all needed it.
The tone with which school was discussed became gradually more excited. The kids finally started there in August of 2017 and switching schools has turned into a lesson in why change is ok. I think I shed actual tears of joy and relief the day that the kids climbed into the backseat after school and said that they are happier here than they were at their old school. They were quick to tag on that they loved the old school, but they just like it here better.
As a mother, you pray that your kids will be happy. You pray that they will find good friends and be surrounded by good people. You pray that their teachers will challenge them and lift them up. You pray that they are met with compassion even in the moments that they struggle. My prayer now is simply that those things continue for them. I have no doubt that they will. In fact, I was at a parent night at Highlands Middle School a couple of weeks ago and I cannot say enough about how happy I am about the trajectory of our kids’ education. They’re going to have the opportunity to become independent thinkers who value innovation, asking questions, and making their own decisions. They’ll be held to standards of excellence not only in terms of their academics, but also in terms of simply being good humans. I’m not sure that it gets better than that.
Today was the last day that I picked up Noah from Johnson Elementary. There are tears in my eyes as I write that. I know we’re a transplant family. We haven’t been in Fort Thomas for years and years like so many families. I may not have been familiar with Johnson or Highlands until 2-3 years ago, but the amount of gratitude that I have for the faculty, staff, and yes – even the physical building… it’s overwhelming.
Deep down I know that the heart of Johnson will stay beating while the building is redone. The true heart of Johnson lives in the wonderful individuals who have cared for our children at a time when they need it most. As much as I know that, I still feel a little bit like Carl Fredricksen watching his beloved house disappear into the clouds. I know it’s a building, but it’s so much more than that. Never again will I pick the kids up by the big tree. Never again will I see them run down that sidewalk to my car. Never again will there be a STEAM night walking from building to building to see all the things they’ve learned come to life. Never again will I watch their eyes light up as they walk through the space where they fell in love with our town.
And yet, even though the space will be different, I’m sure the first time I walk into the new Johnson space, I’ll see Ms. Andi’s smile and remember that the old building isn’t what made it my kids’ second home in the first place. It was the people. It was this community. And that’s not going anywhere.
Thank goodness for that.