Monday, April 27, 2015

Parenthood – Week 98: Other People’s Children

Do you know what is the worst? When you go to an indoor play space or playground and other people’s children come up and try to talk to you? Really?!?  Are you kidding me? I get paid to interact with children all week long. I am not talking to other people’s kids on my off time.

I’m joking . . . partially.

I’ve spent my entire professional life with other people’s children and I really enjoy this part of my job. I find kids fascinating, challenging and a lot of fun to work with. Years ago when I started as a teacher, I got my kid fix and when I got home from work, I had time away from kids. This changed when Ollie came into the picture. Now when I come home there’s a kid waiting for me who wants my attention.

I’ve heard some teachers, who don’t have kids, talk about the fact that they can’t imagine teaching kids all day long and coming home to deal with another kid.  I wondered about this too. Would I have the patience and stamina to be around kids and my kid?

When I have a stressful day at work, I do have to dig deeper when I come home and I’m with Ollie but that’s true for any job. It’s true what teachers who are parents say, it’s completely different when it’s your own kid.

Ollie never leaves my mind. His presence in my mind, in my life is more central and never ceasing. Being his father is more central to who I am than being a teacher. The children I work with at school are just my students.

The more time I’m a father, the less I carry the issues and drama of my students’ home with me from work. It’s easier to leave the care I feel for my students at work because I’ve realized from being Ollie’s dad that there’s someone else, my students' parents, who are giving that undivided care and love to that child. I don’t need to do this as a teacher, that’s not my role in my students’ lives.

It’s not that I care about my students any less, but with Ollie, there’s clearly a child in my life that I care about much more than any of the children that I teach. Because at the end of the day, these kids truly are other people’s children. They may be my “kids” but they aren’t my children.

Now for the other people’s children I see out and about. I just want to focus on my son when I’m spending time with him and I’ll be polite to other kids but I’m not going to go into my teacher mode and get to know them. However it’s different if these are kids that are friends with Ollie.

There’s a group of toddlers that Ollie gets together with and it has been really fun getting to know them and their family. As the family friend I get to play with them, be a little silly with a different level of responsibility. I still watch out for them and keep them out of trouble but I can be more relaxed than when I’m at school.

Now my life is full of children, at school, at home, and during most of our social outings. While I still need some quiet time and time with just adults, I really enjoy all the different ways that young people are in my life. It’s exhausting, confusing and kind of crazy, but it’s meaningful.

It's the job I chose, the family I'm proud of and the life I embrace.

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