Like most of us, before I had kids of my own, I had all the answers. I was blissfully naive, if we’re putting it nicely, or hopelessly clueless, if we’re being real here. I was very confident that I knew everything there was to know about having and raising children. Coming into parenthood from teaching, I had a super-major-gigantic misconception that teaching 20 children who I saw from 8:15-3:30 daily from September-June was exactly as hard, if not harder, than having one or two of my own from birth until, um, forever. Five and a half years into parenting I have this to say:
Also, I am so, so sorry for every parent I judged before I became a parent myself.
Now, I certainly do not mean to imply that teaching is not hard. Of course teaching can be hard. Being a teacher means caring for a whole class of children as if they were all your own children for the school year. You celebrate their victories, and you worry about their struggles, both in and out of the classroom. You feel a great personal responsibility for ensuring their success. You try as hard as you possibly can to “catch up” on their lives and keep the needs of twenty or so children straight. Yet still, you also only see a fraction of the true story of each child in your class.
I cannot tell you how many times my pre-parent teacher-self had thoughts such as “When I have kids, I will not let them turn in wrinkled homework assignments” or “I will NEVER pack my kids junk food in their lunches. I will pack them healthy foods from home every day” or “I can’t stand it when parents pull their kids out of school for family vacations!” Well, now, I get it!
Being a parent is a humbling thing. Perhaps that wrinkled homework assignment was done in haste after a family emergency. Maybe the occasional baggie of cookies isn’t part of a healthy lunch, but maybe it’s a busy dad’s way of brightening his child’s afternoon when he knows he won’t be home until after bedtime that evening. And that inconvenient family vacation happening in March, when there are not one but two school breaks they could have chosen from in February or April? It could very well be to accommodate mom’s college night class schedule or grandma’s surgery or any host of other things.
We are more than the tiny sound bytes of our lives that people see each day. There is so much going on behind the scenes that may not be apparent at first glance, or even second or third glance. This is something important to keep in mind in all our daily interactions that has become so clear now after having children of my own. Of all the lessons parenthood has taught me thus far, this may be the greatest one of all.