I have three daughters. I have, at times, wondered why I was not blessed with a son. I see the relationship my friends have with their sons and I’m a bit curious and envious. I would have loved to see my husband be a father to a son. I know our family dynamic would be very different if there was another male in our household. The path my adult life took did not allow for a fourth child so we treasure our daughters and understand that our family is complete.
The other day, however, I was at work and one of my students burst into my room, without knocking, sat down heavily in the chair closest to my desk, put his face in his hands, and he started to cry.
It was then that I was hit with the realization that I have been blessed with sons…sort of.
I am a school based speech-language pathologist and I work in a high school. My list of job responsibilities is long but, in a nutshell, I support students with many different types of disabilities and help them navigate and succeed in high school. All of my students have challenges in the area of communication–expressively, receptively, and socially. Most of my students will stay on my caseload throughout high school and I am lucky enough to watch them grow and mature from wide-eyed immature 9th graders to (somewhat) mature adults ready for the next step in their lives. While I have (and have had) some girls on my caseload, I always have many more boys. Throughout my seventeen year career there have been many students with whom I was able to develop and maintain a strong relationship. I worried over them, laid awake at night wondering how else I could help them, celebrated their achievements, shed a tear (or two or three) over their setbacks, and watched them graduate with as much pride as any other mother in the room. Most of these students were boys.
Working with teen aged boys is not easy and I’m sure THAT is why God decided to bless me with only daughters. These boys are amazing, challenging, sweet, infuriating, and tough. They beg for help one minute and ignore me the next, buried in their phones, those maddening earbuds blasting away. They spend an entire week always at my door, two or three times a day needing support, but the next week they are MIA, making me worry. They want to be babied one day, treated like grown men the next. They swear so much it hurts my ears. They are loud and impulsive and so funny. They get excited about the strangest things but refuse to care about some pretty important things…like their History projects… no matter how hard I try to convince them otherwise. It’s exhausting. And I’m so glad I go home to girls.
I have the education and certificate to move into a school administrator role. As every school year draws to an end I am asked by at least one person if I have plans to apply for such a position. Every year I have a list of excuses usually related to my own kids’ busy lives but, in truth, I simply am not ready to give up my students. I’m not ready to leave my “sons” and those few “daughters”. As an administrator I would have far less time with students and any time spent with those students would be because they needed to be disciplined, there was a crisis, or I was in their classes observing their teacher.
I would give up laughing so hard with them that no one in the room could breathe.
I would give up seeing them improve their skills, little by little, and seeing the pride on their faces when they realize how far they’ve come.
I would give up my safe space that is always open for one of them who needs to vent, to cry, or to simply be still and quiet with someone who “gets” them, with someone who is always happy to see them.
I would give up fighting for them, for their educational rights, for the compassion and understanding they deserve and I would give up the incredibly satisfying feeling I get when my student gets what he needs.
I would give up cheering my students on from the wings, giving them advice and strategies and then watching them apply those strategies to solve their problems on their own…and then telling them that I always knew that they could do it (and NOT admit that I had been worried for days).
I would give up the one and only reason I go to work almost every single day: my “kids”.
Since I work with most of my students for all four years they are in high school I’m never ready to leave. I always say “well I can’t leave until ___ graduates” or “I need to stay one more year to see ___ graduate”……on repeat for the last five years. There’s always one more “son” I need to see through. There is always one more beautiful soul I just can’t let down by disappearing.
I know I do not earn as much money as many others. My salary will never allow me to buy a mansion and I can’t take my family on exotic vacations. I’m not the VP of something, or an executive vice something or another. I’m not a director of something or the principal of a school. I have a tiny room adjacent to a bathroom and I don’t even have a window. My career as a school-based SLP in a medium sized high school in a relatively small community in a pretty small state is perhaps insignificant to some.
But to my students….
I am significant.
And to me…
It’s the best job ever.
And after a long day of supporting loud, frustrating, hilarious, exhausting boys…I’m so happy to come home to my girls.