When I was a second-year teacher, many years ago (before kids), I was stunned silent by a parent after a not-so-pleasant meeting about their child’s lack of work completion and general bad attitude.
“Are you a parent?” she asked me after much discussion. And in the uncomfortable silence, I heard myself screaming in my head.
“Huh. She thinks I’m an idiot. Great.”
“Oh, I see. Because you’ve been through school, you’re qualified to do my job, but because I’m not a parent, I can’t possibly understand kids.”
And, “No! But I have a DEGREE. Who gave you a degree in parenting? Huh? Nobody, that’s who.”
Her question stuck with me, and though my years of teaching elementary school I often found myself wondering if the parents secretly lacked trust in my ability to educate their children based on the simple fact that I did not belong in their little club.
And then I had children of my own, and despite my best efforts to keep them little, one of them grew old enough to attend school.
My dad likes to say that nothing is as humbling as being a parent, and I have to agree. Because what I understand now is that Mrs. Jones (or whatever her name was) wasn’t telling me I wasn’t qualified to teach her child. She wasn’t even telling me that I didn’t understand children or that I was wrong in my assessments. If I could step back in time, and translate her question, I’d tell that second-year teacher what the mom was really trying to say:
Look. I know you’re trained for this. And I know my child is having problems, causing problems, and that we are all frustrated. But even though I know you want the best for my child, you can’t possibly understand where I’m coming from.
Because that 9 year old in your class? Is the baby I carried for 9 months. She’s the tiny being I brought into the world. Me. With my body. I look at her and I see sleepless nights and endless nursing sessions, clogged ducts and tearful latches. I recall how her baby smell slowly faded from my grasp and the moment when her first steps left me simultaneously cheering and catching my breath. And just as I breathed life into her, she has breathed life into me.
I can’t possibly be objective. I don’t want to be.
And so, to my daughter’s teachers, on her first day of Kindergarten, I want you to know:
I am trusting you with my baby.
And as exciting as it is – thinking of all she will learn and all the ways she will grow over the next 36 weeks – it is equally as terrifying. E and I? We have been through hell and back together, but if I thought bringing a child into this world was hard, it’s nothing compared to letting them go out in it.
Thank you for loving her and for bringing your light into her life. Thank you for all you will give of yourself and all the ways you will broaden her horizons. I will do my best to gently follow her lead as she grows up and to not get in your way. But when I fail? Please remember it’s because I’m learning, too. And know I wouldn’t have it any other way.