I have been a teacher for 14 years.
I have been a mother for 5.
This week, my 2 selves collided in a way I couldn't possibly understand until now.
I think I'm a good teacher. For the most part, my students have always liked being in my class. I've always tried to be kind. I've always struggled to teach my students to the best of my ability. I have always been in it "for the right reasons."
I thought I really "got it"...the power of a teacher.
14 years, 4 different grade levels, 2 schools, and probably 400+ students later, I really "got it."
But my professional epiphany had nothing to do with my job.
On Sunday night, I lay in bed, trying to sleep, looking forward to the school year ahead, and thinking about my boys. Ben would start his first day of VPK with 2 certified real-deal degreed teachers and weekly homework (!) that Monday morning. Aidan Kai (my little rambunctious just-turned-two baby!) would be starting his first day of "school" in the "baby class" at his big brother's school that Tuesday. And as I lay there, I realized the amount of hope and trust I was placing in these teachers, these women who would be helping to mold my little boys over the next year. I was excited for my boys. They would learn and play and jump and laugh and cry and push the limits with these teachers. And in that moment, in the darkness of my room, I realized that, most likely, in many homes a few miles away, there were other moms (and probably dads) thinking the same thoughts and having the same feelings...about Me. Those parents were probably also laying in their beds, wondering what would be in store for their children when they entered my classroom the next day, hoping and trusting, too.
That was the moment when I truly realized the importance of my job.
And the incredible amount of gratitude I feel towards these teachers when they show an extra moment of patience or tenderness or understanding with my boys.
* * *
Ben's been attending his school for 2 years. He started 2 days a week when he was three. Last year he increased to 3 days a week. Monday he started "official pre-k"...5 days a week, full time. He was excited and happy.
Each afternoon, he's worked on his homework for this week.
Sometimes, it's like pulling teeth:
"C'mon, Ben, focus." "No, Ben you have to do some of the writing yourself." "Ben! You know what a letter M looks like!"
.Other times, it's mommy ecstasy:
"No, Mama, I want to write that part myself." "Let me show Daddy." "I know that Aidan's name starts with a letter A."
I can't quite believe I've arrived (so soon!) at the point in my parenting career where I have to come home (after an entire day of working with 52 kids) to patiently and lovingly teach one more kid.
* * *
Last school year, whenever we went to pick Ben up from school, Aidan Kai was the one who'd pick up his brother's lunchbox from the cubby and carry it to the car. He sometimes even asked to stay. So we decided this year, a full year sooner than Ben, we'd start him out at the same school 2 days a week for half days. Although I knew it was the right thing for him at this point, I was a wreck.
The morning went so smoothly that I was sure all hell would break loose at any moment. He ate his breakfast, he helped pick out his clothing, he picked up his lunchbox, and was ready to go. When we arrived, cringing that surely at any minute he'd start his usual schtick of "Up! Up!" and cling to us, he instead insisted on walking himself down the hall to the front door.
It's the one that made me cry when I looked at it later as I pulled into the parking lot at work.
* * *
I feel like we've started a whole new chapter in our parenting lives. I'm excited and proud of our boys, but I'm a bit melancholy and emotional about the days we're leaving behind. The feeling I've been walking around with today is one I can't even put into words, which is probably why this post has turned into more of an account of the facts than one with a point. I just feel emotionally full and emotionally spent at the same time, and I knew I had to chronicle this event, because it's yet another in which I realize there are some things you can't understand until you're a mom.