Almost eighteen years ago, I taught my first day of second grade. In my new-teacher eagerness, I designed a ridiculously complicated scavenger hunt for my students to do upon arrival. Families came and parents dutifully attempted to guide their children through a dizzying maze of activities, which unfortunately caused much confusion. In my mind's eye, everyone would be engaged in the fun of learning! Parents would be ecstatic about the school year! I clearly had a lot to learn. The parents, more concerned than ecstatic, finally filed out. We were running late and feeling flustered. Thankfully, I can now file that morning under "embarrassing moments to learn by" and laugh at my well-intended but baffling scavenger hunt.
A lot to learn, yes. Part of my own life education included how to communicate with parents of my students. As a teacher, I experienced parents who were relaxed, encouraging, worried, distant, involved, critical, driven, committed, and usually a combination of those...and more. Without children, I could only strive to do my best to understand what parents were going through. I tried to listen carefully to friends who had children. Still, it's not quite the same. Then my turn finally came.
My child is at the start, going to his first year of preschool. I'm already starting to experience feelings I didn't see coming. In the corner of my mind where I hold silent thoughts I'm not brave enough to say aloud, I find myself wondering, Do the teachers think I'm a good parent? Is my child doing okay? Is he making friends? Oh crap, I forgot my assigned ingredient of raisins for the Halloween brew project today! When I heard one teacher use a tone with my son that was not as warm as I would have liked, I bristled. I bristled even though, to be fair, I use an impatient voice sometimes too. Because my heart is tied up in this child as his mother, in a million ways that are different from being the teacher.
The lessons I'm learning as a parent are part of my skin and bones, they are part of me as my son is part of me. They will go with me. I think I've gained fresh compassion. I realize now that when a parent is overly anxious, it might mean, I'm scared for my child. The hidden truth is that I'm hurting and unsure right now. On the other hand, I know it's good for my son to take a few steps without me. He will be exposed to new expectations and strategies. He will receive insight via teachers with different strengths from mine, and he will be stretched and challenged. I'll be there to instruct, guide, support, and cheer as it all unfolds.
I'm untangling my own insecurities, fears, hopes and dreams from his journey so that he is free to grow into the man God created him to be. I'm becoming more confident in myself, first as a woman and also in my role as mom. I'm slowly shedding the need for that "gold star" of approval from others, although this is admittedly hard for a girl who likes her invisible gold stars of approval from people. I can have peace and contentment about the decisions my husband and I make even though not everyone understands or agrees.
Have you ever experienced a role reversal? Did it impact your life for the better?
And...to my friends who are teachers without having your own children, you are incredible. These thoughts are some of the personal reflections I've had lately. I've been inspired by you and I'm glad that you bring so many of your gifts to students. They are blessed by you.