Imagine if you could, just for a moment, the kind of parent you imagined you’d be, merging perfectly with the parent you’ve become. Do I hear guffaws of laughter from those of you who think that’s hilarious?
Through my 20’s, which was also the beginning of my teaching career, I thought I had a good handle on the concept of parenting.
On my very first day, I had a class of 5 year olds who came in with saucer-like eyes. They stole glances at me; this newbie who hadn’t a clue what was about to occur. Just as a predator can smell fear, I am certain that they could sense mine.
As the bell rang, most of the children made their way to the floor as a mother entered with her son. She seemed flustered as the boy eyed me from his latched position on her leg. She said she was going to be late for an appointment and needed to leave. Being fresh as a spring daisy, I tried to utilise my limited arsenal to encourage him to join his classmates on the mat.
Holding out my hand, he clung even tighter while his mum detached him and thrust his arm out to me. With his tiny wrist surrounded by my hand, he kicked at my shins and screamed blasphemous words that would put a drunken sailor to shame. The mum had turned on her heel already and I wasn’t far behind. I closed that door behind me with trembling hands and tears of failure streamed down my face as I made my way down the corridor to the principal’s office.
Thousands of children, all with different personalities, quirks and backgrounds have since crossed the threshold into the classrooms in various schools where I have practised my craft. Now, I also have children of my own.
All of these children came through doorways paid for by the government. Some of these entrances were in need of a new coat of paint, some doors were bearers of scars from fists, chair legs and other implements randomly thrown. Others displayed pride, colourfully decorated with art work, welcoming anyone who would step through. Perhaps the posters and drawings just covered up any harm that had been done to the surface.
I, too, bear the scars. There are physical ones you can see. Scratches on my hands, my skin dug at so deeply that as I age they become whiter; a constant reminder of my journey. There are emotional ones etched on my heart that only I can feel. True stories of children who awoke each school morning top-to-toe with their brother in the back seat of the family car. Tummies rumbling at a quarter to nine was as common as the unwashed uniforms and tousled hair. Children who had lost a parent through accident, illness or an horrendous tragedy. The communities that grieved for a student lost, much too young to be with us no more.
Ten years of teaching, before my first son was conceived, and these children helped me to learn more than I probably taught them.
To be continued.
Image from: here.