“I am taking your place and that responsibility is very great” I said every year, for 10 years at back to school night while teaching kindergarten. Some parents didn’t like the way that sounded. “I wouldn’t say you are taking my place” one woman shot back, “it’s more like helping me when I’m not here…” And she was right. I never meant I was actually taking the place of any parent with their child, I just really wanted parents to know that I wholly understood the responsibility and trust they placed in me when they dropped their child off to me each day.
Once I had my own child, I learned how truly difficult it was to hand out that trust. Yes, I’m that nutty parent who will drop my kid off at a parents night out and call an hour later to “check in”. I’m also the parent who takes off work to go on every class field trip, and not just because I want to have a day of fun, there’s the matter of trust in there too.
I also really found the more responsible I felt for the children in my class, the more I loved them, nurture them and treated them like my own. I remember one day when my daughter was little and I was still nursing her throughout the night. I also was taking a brush up course in one of my child development classes. Needless to say I wasn’t getting a lot of sleep and feeling less patient than usual. My kids seem to pick up on this and were driving the limits of the number of times I could politely ask them to stay in their seats and find a way to keep their pencils from rolling off the table while we worked on tracing and writing exercises. When the next pencil fell and I heard a tiny voice call out, “cool!” I was ready to put on my most stern voice, the one I used for serious offenses, like playground fights. I paused a moment. This is my child I thought to myself. My child is naturally curious about the rolling and spinning of pencils. I’m tired. Would I want my child yelled at for curiosity at what’s considered an inconvenient time? Nah. “Okay guys, if we can finish our worksheets before recess without any more playing around we can then build things to roll our pencils off! We can test out rolling our pencils from different things, even my desk!” Cheers filled the room.
Okay, I’m not taking the place of a parent but I’m going to be the most responsible substitute I can be. I am going to remind myself constantly that I am helping someone else raise their child and the responsibility is very great, and like all great things, brings years of joy, tears, frustration and memories.