It’s Kind of A Big Deal.

My last post was a year ago.  It was an update on how my kids were doing one year after leaving The Morris Center.  And here we are, two years since.  Is that really possible? Our time in Ocala feels like yesterday and a lifetime ago.  Time really is a thief!  This post will read more like a story than an update, but I think you’ll get the picture.  

Avery, 2 years after TMC

To most of the people sitting in that auditorium, she probably looked like every other kid walking across the stage to accept an award.  But for me and others who know her, and know her story, it was so much more!

We received a letter in the mail from our school, informing us that Avery would be receiving an award at the end-of-year ceremony.  My initial reaction was pride.  That girl!  She is special.  She is thoughtful, empathetic and generous.  She is inclusive to others yet still loyal to her friends.  I love her heart for others.

Side note: I love when she tells me “drama stories” involving her friends.  You know the ones. A friend is mad at another friend for some silly reason.  When she recaps the “dramatic” events, I can identify her as the mediator in the group.  One example (names changed to protect their privacy):  “At recess today, Lucy and Sara were mad at each other.  I pulled Lucy aside and asked her what happened.  Then I went over to Sara and did the same thing.  Turns out it was just a big misunderstanding and miscommunication between them.  I got them together and we talked it out.  They are good now.”  She has legitimately earned the nickname “therapist” by some of her friends. 

Back to my point…..

When we got the letter, I had a feeling I knew what her award would be.  A citizenship award of some kind, recognizing her kindness and compassion.  I’ll admit, I was feeling a bit smug and knew I would probably be posting a shameless mom brag moment on my social media (which has now become my scrapbook….thank you TimeHop for all the memories).  

She took extra time getting ready that night, wearing a new outfit and mascara.  In the car on the way, she was guessing what award she would get.  Her assumption was the same as mine, a kindness award.  Once inside, I held her hand, and glanced at the program.  I did a double-take when I read the title: Academic Awards Ceremony.  Huh?  (Another side note:  Had I read that letter I got in the mail more closely, I would have known what exactly this ceremony was.  But, come on… It’s May madness with 700 places to be crammed into 27 days.  I have 3 kids and she is the youngest.  Her brothers are teenagers.  I am tired just looking at them.  Don’t judge.)  

Anyways, when I read the program, I did see that citizenship awards were going to be announced.  I was still excited for her, but felt a little tug on my heart.  You see, when my boys were in primary school, the academic awards were given out in front of the whole school.  My oldest excelled, got his certificates, and I thought nothing of it.  However, when it was Cannon’s turn, he watched his classmates get the awards and left empty-handed, except for his “hard worker” certificate. That stung a little.  Not just for him, but his classmates too.  I’m grateful to say that the school has since changed things.  The academic awards are handed out discreetly in folders at the same time that the fun “classroom awards” are handed out.  (Yep!  Everyone gets one of those!).  Avery never had to feel that sting.  In Middle School, they send letters only to those receiving awards.  So there we were.  As the ceremony began, I saw a lot of her friends proudly going on stage for being the top students in specific subjects.  Yikes.  With each new name, I watched her face for signs that she might be feeling embarrassed.  But she wasn’t. She was excited about being the kind one.  Finally, it was her teacher’s turn.  Her words: “Hi.  I’m Mrs. Dickerson and I teach 5th grade literacy.  My top literacy students are (student 1), (student 2), (student 3), Avery Martin, and (student 5).  AVERY MARTIN??? Is this really happening?  Both of our mouths dropped open a little.  As she walked towards the stage, I sat in silence, taking in every second.  When her teacher hugged her, I saw her face brek out in a smile and my eyes filled up with tears.  I watched in awe as she made her way back to me. I heard the giggle she makes and I saw the blush on her cheeks, both tell-tell signs when she’s flattered.  Her words when she sat down? “The literacy award??  I was NOT expecting that!” Me neither, sister.  We both couldn’t stop smiling for the rest of the ceremony.  

I know, my reaction was stronger and my feelings seemed bigger than most of the other parents. But you know what?  They should be!  This is kinda a big deal for us!  A milestone moment.  A moment that wasn’t on our radar as even a possibility 2 years ago.  As we filed out of the auditorium, I played it cool, staying casual about it all.  However, on our way to the car, I heard someone shout her name.  It was Mrs. Hemleben, her Kindergarten teacher, and probably one of the best teachers in the history of teachers (that’s my opinion, and I value my opinion). She wrapped her arms around Avery and said,  “Avery, I am so so so incredibly proud of you.  It makes me so so so happy for you.” Then she paused, getting choked up, tears in her eyes.  With her arms still squeezing tightly around Avery she said, “I’m sorry I’m crying.  It’s just that I know how HARD you worked to get here and to see you up on that stage just made me so proud.  You did it.”  And now…. I’m crying.  At that point, no more words needed to be said.  Avery and I both knew.  Mrs. Hemleben gets it.  She understands why this feels like a bigger deal to us than everyone else.  It was a moment I won’t ever forget.  The struggle, the effort, the perseverance, the strength of this little girl has all led to where she is today.  The Morris Center was a launching pad into her new reality.  One filled with optimism and excitement about the journey ahead.  


A few days later, we received another letter.  Our school offers regular math, honors math and accelerated math.  Based on your performance, you are recommended for one of the three.  The recommendation for Avery: Accelerated Math (Mic drop)