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“I don’t want you to be a real teacher”

December 2, 2010

On Tuesday night, after a day in the office and a night in classrooms, I headed home a little before nine. I called to announce it, and Jack answered for the first time ever, in his high, bright and tiny voice: “Hi, Mom.”

(What is it about the phone that brings out the baby in their little voices? I still remember the way they tugged at my ear when I was away in high school and college and it was my little sisters on the other end of the line.)

“I don’t want you to be a real teacher,” he said. “I want you to come home now.”

When we’re home together, he loves to play school. “You be the teacher,” he says to me, “and I’ll be the boy.” In our two-person classroom, we talk colors first, then numbers, then animals, then songs. He likes this version of me as the teacher, where class meets on the couch and he is my only student, better than the “real” one – where I’m somewhere else, sometimes until late at night, and he’s not.

I have a hard time with the real version, too. Lately, my weeks start long – I spend Monday and Tuesday in my office before teaching night classes. Those two 14-hour days aren’t long like an RN’s regular 12-hour shift, or 10 hours on the production line, or 12 hours alone with your children, or even two early-morning hours spent waiting for an infant to go back to sleep. But they’re long enough that twice a week, I see Jack only as long as it takes me to wake him in the morning and, if I’m lucky, to put him to bed. I hurried home on Tuesday, but sleep reached him first.

Sometimes in the morning he says, “Stay with me.” Or “Oh. Can I come with you?” But I can’t, and he can’t, either.

Of course it’s me, not Jack, who’s the most bothered by it. I think he misses his dad and me when we’re at work all day, but more than that I think he’s learned that saying so means something to us. That after hearing so much of “I missed you today!” and “I’m so happy to see you!” he’s started to say it back. (One day last week he was “SO proud” of me. See?)

Right now, his weekdays are full of one-on-one fun with my mother; next year he’ll be in a class of a dozen three-year-olds, where he’ll likely love his real teacher. I bit off a little more than I like to chew this fall, but my job is satisfying and helpful in more ways than one, whether I’m working in my office, writing with college students or reading with high schoolers. And when I need to make up for late nights, I can always take a day off. I am still a real mom, after all.

What do you say to yourself or your kids when you have to leave, whether it’s for work or a much-needed break?

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. December 3, 2010 2:08 pm

    When I pick Miss M. up from school, she always says, “Oh, I missed you so much, Mommy!” And she’s only been at school for a little over 2 hours! Still, it tugs at my heart every time. Jack has the sweetest little face.

  2. December 3, 2010 7:39 pm

    I work from home, mostly, so I’m always saying, “Mommy’s doing her work right now. Be patient. Go play. Work it out” (etc., etc., etc.). So, now, when my kids want to use the computer to play their ABC games or (funnest of funs!) type letters and numbers into a blank Word document, they ask, “Mommy, can we do some work?” Perhaps I haven’t set the best example there …

    PS: I completely understand about a job being rewarding in ways that motherhood isn’t, and the painful tug of spending more time on one than the other … but I still don’t know how you do it. Wow!

  3. Janell permalink
    December 3, 2010 8:44 pm

    You broke my heart with the “Stay with me” comment.

  4. December 4, 2010 1:06 am

    Teaching is so strenuous. The end of the semester is near! You’ll get to bake cookies (maybe even pie crusts!) and relax, I hope. I can’t wait until my classes are over. It’s not full time, but it still weighs on my mind, you know?

  5. December 4, 2010 9:43 pm

    That’s so hard isn’t it? I make sure to always tell my son that I love him, give him a big huge and tell him that I’ll always come back to him. It still breaks my heart when he begs me to stay though.

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