I guess it is good that I threw Quinn’s party, made a cake, and opened gifts before this morning because when I woke up today, on the actual DAY of this birth, I forgot.
I was up until four this morning and then woke up twenty minutes late and started rushing all over the place when I heard Sean say to Quinn, who had already been awake for a good fifteen minutes, “Happy Birthday.”
Sean! Sean who does not know any of our birthdays, except for Luke’s (because I guess 4/27 is some kind of engine) is the one who remembered. Ah, well. I guess that is why there are two of us.
I also forgot my lunch today and left my first day of classes completely starving because I am about 110% sure that there is nothing in a school cafeteria line that is not filled with sugar and yeast.
It’s always hard, the first day, to get a sense of how the year is going to go. Last year was a really difficult one, so difficult that I seriously debated not returning. The only reason I did, really, was because of Luke. Even though Martina told me (http://martinaschmidt.com) that Luke’s soul would find his own way, I still could not leave him at school without me.
Today reaffirmed that decision for me.
First of all, I like the actual teaching part of school. I am good at it. It’s a job where I know that I am giving back and in that sense it is rewarding. At Noel’s wedding I ran into a student from 1996, who I barely recognized, and he told me that I was the best teacher he ever had and that he still thinks about me and is currently working on his MFA in printmaking. It’s little things like that where I know I have left a trace of a mark on someone’s spirit that makes teaching rewarding. As for the politics of it all? Blah. I would teach in a bubble if I could.
Quinn fell asleep (more like passed out cold) by seven tonight (full of spaghetti and dirt and clad in his new Thomas the Train underpants) and I laid next to him in my bed, and Luke came up to sit with us.
It was a hard day for Luke. Because he is older and because he has friends who know how to read, I guess I need to respect the fact that I cannot blab all about him on the internet (whereas Quinn, well, I can tell you what his poop was like tonight if you are interested). I will say this though:
One of the reasons that I continue to teach is that each day I know there is at least one kid in my class like Luke. One kid who feels lost or stupid or not good enough. One kid who tries really hard and wants it all, but feels invisible. One kid whose talents lie outside of traditional school walls and are currently knotted up in a lump in their stomach. I can make that one kid feel noticed, feel important, feel smart, and then, I guess, the rest of the bullshit is okay. For the teachers who have done that for Luke, for the Mr. Grennier’s of the world, know that our lives are richer and saner because of you.
I know there are parents out there who have never experienced a “Luke.” They just think that school is all about effort and trying hard and applying oneself. If you are a parent like that and school has been easy for your child, than yay you. It is nice. Really. I love that William is next to me and is researching the periodic table all on his own at age twelve, and that Lizzie is documenting abstract photography and reading The Lovely Bones. They work really hard and they are self motivated, but still, school, for them, the game of school, makes sense and is relatively easy.
But I know tonight that there are other parents out there, who like me, have already shed their first school year tear. You are exhausted and it is only September 3rd, and the worry in you, if it were measurable, would fill every cart in the grocery store parking lot. The wants we have for our children are heavy wants.
I know this for sure. You might bang your head against the wall for eight years with flash cards and parent conferences, but in the end, Martina is right. Their souls will take care of themselves. Until their souls kick in, be their advocate, yes, but mostly be their landing place. There are tough nights ahead, but we have the first one down.
When I want to cry about the struggle of school, I listen to Hardly Speaking a Word by Lori McKenna, and then I remember that the momma who wrote this has been there too. There are many of us.