Renee Stearns and I met each other through the high school here in town, where she has been teaching ceramics for the last 14 years. Mary, my oldest, and Renee’s daughter Miranda were friends in high school. Anna, my #3, and her son Max were in the same class together. I have always admired Mrs. Stearns, it’s weird to me to call her Renee! She is always smiling and has kind words ready to go. Her energy is so wonderful to be around. When my son started high school last year I reached out to her to ask about how she navigated high school with a boy.
Please enjoy her wonderful words of wisdom.
Can you give us the cliff notes of your children’s births.
Fast! I could carry and birth babies for a living. With Miranda, labor lasted about 4 hours, natural childbirth. She was 7lbs 3 oz. It snowed at sea level on the day she was born. So I was sitting in the hospital in Eureka watching it snow.
With Max I was walking around 8cm dilated & my Dr. didn’t want me to go back home for fear that I wouldn’t make it back in time if I went into labor. I checked into Doctors with Miranda in tow and had to call my mother in law to come get her. They gave me a drop of Pitocin and rapidly went into transition labor. Max was born about 2 hours after I went into labor, natural childbirth. 8lbs 6ozs. Got my tubes tied right after her was born. I knew I was done ☺
Best part about being a mom?
I am totally addicted to watching them grow into individuals and fostering their interests. I loved the excuse to “play” again as they were growing up. SANTA!!!!! Loved making those magic moments for them. Laughter… I doubt I would of laughed even ½ as much had I not had them. “Adventures”, see below.
Most challenging part of motherhood?
The teenage years, watching your kids struggle with their own self-worth and not being able to prove to them how valuable they are. Their conflict which each other is taxing, I was an only child, so I was totally unprepared by how much they fought. I always thought that we were having more than one so that they would have each other to play with & to be best friends. Paul (1 of 3 boys) told me much later that they only become good friends once they’re grown. So it seems we get the worst of it and the benefits of siblings happen after they’re gone. I felt cheated and let down by this information. The young adult years are tough too because you’re more of an observer of their struggles, you can guide and suggest but it’s truly out of your hands.
Did motherhood change you?
I was just reflecting on the idea that once you are a “mom” that it’s really hard to pull off ever being “cool” again. And I guess what I mean by that is that I was “Renee” before I was “mom” but it’s hard to maintain “Renee” as a growing, evolving individual when the “mom” & “teacher” persona is so front and center. I also think that my parents expectations “kept me in line” when I was younger, then my husband’s expectations & now my grown children’s expectations. They are crazy supportive of me but they have me on such a pedestal that they call me out if I step off the path of their expectations. I also had no idea how vulnerable being a mother made me. I’ve always prided myself on my strength but these little beings are my kryptonite… they opened me up to such fear and anxiety for every aspect of their life and I’m realizing that I’ll always have this soft under belly because of them.
What are some of your favorite memories of them when they were little?
Walks to the library for story time for sure, I still look wistfully at the building as the cars are gathered on Wednesdays mornings. I took my kiddos on LOTS of “adventures” from making forts in the living room, picnics in the parks, day trips to everywhere and long road trips. The “adventures” were my favorite times. I really enjoyed the ages that the kids were when they were that age, I was always telling Paul that “this is my favorite age with them so far.. “ But looking back I’d have to say the 3-5 years were my favorite. Long days, but the growth for what they could learn and absorb was amazing.
How do you do me time?
I was a full time mom when the kids were little, I didn’t go to work regularly until Max was about 4. In those years, I would leave the kids with Paul and go shopping or to a movie with my mom or go to Berkley to stay with a girlfriend that didn’t have children. I’d get pedi’s and massages occasionally. I’d talk to a girlfriend, who was also at home with her kids and that was a mode of self-care. Paul and I have taken weekends away together throughout the time that we’ve raised the kids. I was very lucky to have a good family support system to watch the kids when I wanted to get away. I had NO mom guilt about taking time away from the kiddos. I knew it made me a better mom and wife to have the breaks and to get an opportunity to “miss” my kids. Side note: when Max was very little he asked me why Daddy and I were going away again and why they couldn’t come. He was very into tractors so I told him that marriage was like a tractor and if you didn’t take the time to put gas in it and make sure that it’s maintained then the tractor will break down. And that when Daddy and I went away together that we were putting gas into our tractor. He got it. lol.
How has empty nesting been?:
It’s been great so far. I really think that the time away that Paul and I have maintained is key. When we take a weekend away I always joke that we’re practicing to be empty nesters. But really, it’s the truth. I’ve always been very pragmatic about the fact that the kids are a limited time offer and that Paul is my life-time partner. I’ve always been clear with the kids that Dad is #1 and they are a close second. I know that’s a shocking stance for some moms but I always felt that the best gift I could give the kids is a mom and dad who love one another and support each other. They have benefited from that stability. That being said, we’ve seen them quite often since Max left in August so I really haven’t had the opportunity to experience any of the sadness or drawbacks of an empty nest yet.
So how did teaching come about? And ceramics?
Funny story.. I went to school to be an industrial designer (I wanted to design toys) then became disenchanted with the field so I transferred to a state school (Humboldt) from a private art school and switched to an Art (teacher-prep) degree. Always been more of a 3D artists. Ceramics was my favorite medium because I could work with it like plank material and work with it soft, it was cheaper than jewelry making and there was an element of playing with fire (I’m drawn to fire, big time). When I graduated at 24 at went to observe the high school students I lasted two hours came home and told Paul “I don’t want to teach those punks!” So I didn’t pursue my credential at that time. Flash forward ten years later after getting married and raising babies we needed some extra income so I started substitute teaching in Newman. I quickly found out the little ones weren’t for me (they don’t get sarcasm and they touch you all the time). But I loved the high school. I found I could win them over pretty easily and they got sarcasm (most of them). So I subbed ONLY at Orestimba in my last year of subbing. Orestimba advertised for a part time Ceramics teacher and it seemed like fate and the planets aligning to tell be that this is where I’m supposed to be. I was hired as an intern and pursued my credential while teaching my first year (& having both Miranda and Max in dance classes & being the PTO president for Von Renner, & the treasurer for the Preschool… it was a crazy year).. I’m 14 years in and I still feel like this is exactly where I’m supposed to be.
How have the students changed in the last 15 years?
I have always hated the “kids these days” mentality. My mom was dress coded in 1968 for a mini skirt so I think teenagers are always going to push boundaries. With that being said I think kids are MOSTLY the same as they’ve ever been but I have to say their mental health has noticeably deteriorated. They lack resilience, they have a skewed negative vision of themselves and their place in the world. I feel that the umbilical cord to their technology is a good part of it. It’s hurt them socially and mentally.. they are more connected but more alone. I think that it’s also provided a dangerous opportunity to find like-minded teen angst, anxiety and depression and instead of pushing each other up they seem to drag each other down. Kind of a misery loves company scenario. But I think overall they still just want to be seen and loved and safe.
Advice to my 14 year old self:
You can’t be truly loved by someone else until you love yourself. Don’t look for a boy to complete you. There’s a lid for every pot. It gets better. Popularity only counts in high school. Be a life-long learner. Be kind. If you don’t like something, get involved, change it!
Three words to describe yourself as a teen.
Confident, self-righteous & friendly
Talking or texting?
Talking although texting has grown on me.
How long does it take you to get ready?
First celebrity crush.
Andy Gibb (Shadow Dancing!!!)
Cake or pie?
Depends on the cake and the pie.. I may lean towards cake a little.
Whats for dinner tonight?
Blue Apron Prosciutto Quesadillas
Thank you so much for doing this Renee. You can follow Renee on IG here.