As I send my first child off to kindergarten, I want to apologize to the parents of my all kindergarten students. I taught for five years before I had children. Being a parent is NOT a prerequisite to teaching. Not ever. I was a darn good teacher without children. However, now that I am a kindergarten parent myself, I would like to say I’m sorry. I’m sorry I didn’t truly understand everything. I sympathized, but I didn’t empathize.
I would like to go back and teach my childless teaching self a few things. Here we go.
It really hurts. It hurts because that child has been with me for 24 hours a day for five and half years… and now I have to let him go AWAY FROM ME FOR THE ENTIRE DAY?! My teacher self wasn’t patient enough with the sappy parents and the maudlin first days of school.
I still see that child as a baby. You, the teacher, will see him as an independent person, with habits and a personality and a learning style. To me, he is still the person whom I dress in jammies and snuggle when sick.
It’s really freaking scary. It’s scary for so many reasons. I have been there for every single injury, every single success, every single wrongdoing, and every single snub. Now what? All these things will still happen, but I WILL NEVER KNOW?
It’s really freaking scary because of the way time is bending all wrong since he was born. “The days are long but the years are short.” Becoming a mother five years ago has altered my sense of time. It feels like an eternity ago, and the blink of an eye. It’s confusing and gut-wrenching.
It’s really freaking scary because I don’t know you. No offense, but you.are.a.stranger. I never fully grasped that fact when I was a teacher. My son and I met you for like thirty seconds. He doesn’t trust people easily, and now his every need depends on you. His physical safety. His emotional health. His cognitive gains. His ability to wash his hands of those school germs… (Will you help him keep his hands off his face?)
It’s really freaking scary because you don’t know my child. You don’t know what to do when he has a meltdown, or all the ways he can’t express himself, or all the amazing things he knows and doesn’t know. You don’t know that he can’t open his string cheese at lunch, and you don’t know what scares him.
I completely understand – with my brain anyway – that you will know my child like the back of your hand within a week or two. I did, with all of my students. But, I understand – with my heart – that you will never know him like I do. You will never snuggle him in the black armchair. You will never have to force him to brush his teeth. You will never wash his beautiful skin in the bathtub. You will never watch his face of pure joy when he jumps in the ocean.
If you love him a fraction as much as I do, then I love you, and that is what my mother self wants my old teacher self to know.