When I was pregnant with Andrew, my mom told me that being a mom would make me a better teacher. She said it would help me relate better to the students. What she never mentioned was how it would help me relate to the parents. Maybe that went without saying. I’m not sure.
What I know is that I used to be a pretty harsh critic. I had opinions on everything. Well, in fairness I still do. It’s just that being a mom has also opened up a great big world of other opinions, different opinions, contrasting opinions… you get the idea.
Old me: “My child will NEVER use a pacifier.”
Mom me: “Unless of course it’s the only way they stop screaming.”
Old me: “My child will NEVER use hand-me-downs.”
Mom me: “Holy crap why on earth not? Have you seen some of this stuff? It’s freakin’ awesome. And free!”
The list goes on– no creepy dinosaurs, no cartoons, no french fries, no indoor playgrounds. It all kinda goes out the window. Some of it against my will (indoor playgrounds are just gross, french fries unhealthy) but other things I had to be willing to change my mind about.
And then Andrew started school. And whoa I feel bad for every judgment I ever made against parents as a teacher.
See for the life of me I could never understand how any parent would send their kid to school with food on their face, unbrushed teeth, unbrushed hair, an untucked shirt, a shirt with a stain on it, mismatched socks, no belt, missing homework, missing permission slip, no lunch. I was harsh. I see that now. The sad truth is I’m not the only one like this. I’m willing to bet that if your kid’s teacher is not a parent he or she has also thought some pretty rotten stuff about you too.
I wish I could go back and apologize. Maybe this can be my apology.
Today I sent Andrew to school with his shoes on the wrong feet. His hair wasn’t brushed either but then again it’s hard to tell when his hair is brushed. We had a rough morning. He was distracted by every toy from his bedroom to the bathroom to the kitchen to the car (toys mind you, that I should have put away last night but that’s for another post) and we were running late. It never even occurred to me to check to make sure he’d put his shoes on correctly. My friends were quick to assure me that this was no big deal and that teachers had seen far worse. This, I can’t deny. I sent my kid to school with funky shoes but with a full belly and a kiss on the cheek and an “I Love You” for the road. So life isn’t all that bad. But I’m not just a mom. I’m a teacher mom. I’m supposed to know better, right? The old teacher me would have kindly helped the child fix his shoes and then wondered silently how that kid’s parents let him out of the house that way. It made me realize that the old teacher me needs to stop after the helpful part, nix the judgment part and realize that the parents of my students are parents just like me and we’re all just doing the best we can. Those little things mean the morning was rough or the kid was uncooperative or mom was in a hurry or overslept because she is working 3 jobs but not that the child is unloved or the parent irresponsible.
I’ve come to realize that getting older means accepting when you’re wrong and learning to change your mind. And really, what better lesson is there than that to teach our kids? Mom was wrong. It’s okay. The world didn’t stop spinning on its axis. Life goes on. You grow up, you get smarter, you realize that those little details matter far far less than you thought they did and you live to fight another day…. though hopefully with your shoes on the right feet.