Every November, a group of alumni parents (and some older adult students who graduated years ago) come together for an “Alumni Night” with the current student families and staff. Alumni families have an opportunity to speak about their experiences at Cheerful Helpers and beyond; giving insight to current families about the good, bad and the hugely inspirational milestones ahead. This year, I talked about 12 year old Arizona, an anime loving girl who taught herself how to speak Japanese from watching YouTube videos. I described my daughter as a sweet and creative girl with lots of friends and even though she has very big and sensitive feelings sometimes, she truly does wake up every morning in the happiest of moods.
Our years at Cheerful Helpers Child & Study Center were life-changing, not just for Arizona but for our entire family as a whole. I remember that first day of school, vividly. We had left a coveted west side private school right before Spring Break, after months of going back and forth about it being the right fit for our child. Turns out it wasn’t, and my quest for a new environment began. I am so grateful that we were able to find Cheerful Helpers and spend 2.5 amazing years there.
Here’s a little snapshot from our first day of school…. enjoy!
“Mommy, I want to dress fancy for my new school,” Arizona said, the morning of that first day. Our journey at Cheerful Helpers was starting, together. She pointed to a bright turquoise dress in her closet with frilly edges. “Can I wear that with tights, mama? Don’t you think that would be beautiful?” “Sure, Peanut,” I said, “You might be warm, though?” “No, it’s perfect.” She said. And it was. I could tell she was excited about the day, even though she would never admit to feeling that strong of an emotion about anything.
I brushed her hair, slowly, intentionally. I styled it a little extra special that day, topped it with a matching bow and looked at myself in the mirror. “Who are you, Susanna Peace Lovell?” I asked myself. “What are you on this earth for? To just be an advocate for Arizona? To figure out the best way for her to thrive in this world?” I wondered if that would ever be enough for me, this calling.
Walking into the classroom that first day, I was nervous with excitement. For the first week of school, Arizona and I were only in the classroom for an hour and a half each day. I remember peeking through the window before we quietly knocked, that first day, 9:15am on the dot. What could possibly be waiting for us? How would my daughter acclimate to a new environment? Would she make new friends?
Those first few weeks were tough. Arizona and I were broken and challenged, but held so sweetly in those moments of unraveling. I had the distinct realization that I was coming out of a fog. The past few years were a blur; moving from task to task, not being connected to any particular moment. To be honest, I was barely getting from one day to the next. I was completely disconnected from any purpose I had in life other than being a caretaker to my child and wife to my husband. And so, as these layers began to peel back for me during these minutes and hours at Cheerful Helpers, I felt the light starting to shine in me again. I felt released from having to hold everything together to a place of surrender and tapping deeper within to discover my own needs and desires. It certainly wasn’t a comfortable process, but the liberation of starting to understand who I really was at my very core, was a thrilling discovery. I was tingling from head to toe at the prospect of the possibilities Cheerful Helpers brought to the table, not just for Arizona but for me as well.
-Susanna Peace Lovell, Alumni Parent