Meet Melanie Spooner – 3rd grade teacher at Early County Elementary and married mom of two girls. As a part of Early Choices’ continued efforts to support local parents in raising happy, confident kids, we are bringing you profiles of local parents and grandparents as well as inviting guest bloggers from across the country to write about their own experiences. Our goal? To arm parents in our area with tools to become more confident in their parenting skills by addressing common challenges that today’s moms, dads and grandparents face every day.
Being both a teacher (Melanie has also taught at the Pre-K, K, 1st, 2nd, 4th and 5th grade levels!) and busy mom, Melanie has the advantage of a very balanced perspective. With responsibilities to both her own kids as well as the kids she teaches and nurtures in the classroom everyday, Melanie had a lot to share with us on the rewards and challenges that these roles bring.
Melanie and her husband of 16 years, Tim, have two girls – Anna Belle (13) and Mattie Claire (8), and on top of everything else they have going on, they are in the process of making a move from Ashford, Alabama, to Blakeley. For a few years now, the family has been traveling back and forth, so this move brings some added stability for Melanie and her family as well as giving them back some time in their days. They are also excited about having the opportunity to become more active in the Early County community.
Having taught Pre-K, K, and 1st through 5th grades, Melanie is well-versed in the ways of children. Even so, parenting is a whole different world. “I never knew how hard raising kids would be,” says Melanie. “Not just raising kids – but raising God-fearing, loving, kind kids who love others more than themselves. We are so thankful for our girls and what they mean to us, our family and friends.”
Parenting is full of difficult moments as well as those that just warm your heart. The Spooner’s oldest child, Anna Belle, is now a teen and “…with that age, the changes in mood have hit,” says Melanie. “I have to be cautious of that fact and know that she is changing and growing each day just like I did at her age. I have had a few nights this week that I have not been as understanding as I should have been. I’m trying to do better.”
If that sentiment sounds familiar, you’re not alone. There isn’t a parent on the planet that doesn’t feel like they could “do better” sometimes. That is part of the reason that Early Choices Parenting Initiative chooses to bring everyday parents’ stories your way – to show you that you’re not alone. Sometimes just hearing that others struggle, too, can give you peace and the determination to keep going.
There are sweet moments, too. “This past week I was sitting at Dairy Queen with my in-laws and my daughter, Mattie, came over and climbed up in my lap and just hugged me and wouldn’t let go. I’m so thankful for hugs that mean so much – especially as I watch my kids get so grown up so quickly.”
One thing that Melanie and Tim are very open and honest with their children about is that they are their parents – not their best friends. “I was entrusted to lead and guide them, not only to be their friend. About once a week, I ask my oldest daughter for her phone, just to keep a check on her messages and make sure she knows that I’m monitoring who she talks with,” says Melanie. “I think the realization that my daughters have had this past year – through conversations with their daddy and me – is that all people in this world are not nice. This has been a hard lesson for them since they want to think the best about everyone.”
Teaching provides its own challenges. “It’s tough to be a teacher and a parent,” muses Melanie. “At the end of a long day the patience I have has worn thin, but I have to remember that my kids are my first priority and they are tired as well. I know that it is a big responsibility to be a parent and a teacher. There are so many little eyes watching and ears listening all the time. I have to remember that I have been put at ECES for a reason, and I have been given the role of a parent for a reason, too. The best days are the ones that end with all smiles and giggles from my girls and Tim. We have a wonderful support group both at school and among family and friends. We are looking forward to our future – both living and working in this special, small town of Blakely.”
Early Choices: We’re Here to Help!
The struggle of balancing being a self-sufficient single parent and asking for help can be a difficult one to overcome. As parents, many of us want to think we can handle it all – which is, frankly, not reality. One of the myths Early Choices’ Parenting Initiative hopes to shatter is that parents magically know to handle everything, along with dispelling the stigma that can be associated with seeking advice.
“We receive education and training for everything in life except the most important job of all – parenting!” says Gwen Houston, Executive Director, Early County Family Connection. “Our goal is to change that by offering group cafes, events and individual sessions to parents in our area.”
Whether you’re a working parent, like Melanie, a single mom, the parent of a special needs child, a homeschooling mom or dad, parents of multiples or any number of family scenarios – Early Choices hopes to be a place where you can come with your questions, your answers, your needs and your experiences.