Teaching throws me into this perpetual guilt cycle, but maybe that's just a mark of womanhood. Or a defective personality. Whatever the case may be, I feel that I can never do enough. I do not grade quickly enough. I do not enter those grades quickly enough. My lesson plans are not sparkly enough. I do not use fancy technology enough. But, you know what? My students are learning. When I grade those papers, I know exactly where my students are and need to be. I can see errors in sentence fluency or thesis construction or paragraph structure. I can tell who read the book and who faked it (poorly or well). Most importantly, those teenagers know that I show up for them, not the paycheck (meager as it may be). They know that, even when I look harried and frazzled, I love what I do. To them, that is enough.
It makes me feel connected to all of the moms out there. All of you wonderful mothers out there who feel that you do not do enough, your house is not Pinteresty enough, your meals are not all balanced enough, or that you, simply, are not enough need to consider a few things. Are your kids happy? Are they well-loved? Are they nurtured (not just physically but emotionally)? Are they safe? If your answers are yes, then you are doing just fine. You are doing enough. It doesn't matter how it looks on the outside as long as the insides are brimming with love. So enough mentally terrorizing yourself. Be kind to yourself, and your kids will learn to be kind to themselves. Heck, I'm with your teenagers for 50-90 minutes every day, and the love I exude for my profession in that tiny frame of time impacts those kids in a huge way. The love you pour into those impressionable souls makes more of a difference than you know.
Sure, we have our crappy days, our pity party days, our please-don't-make-me-leave-my-bed days, and that's okay because our sunshiny days, our let's-make-a-fort-in-the-living-room days, and our let's-color-one-more-picture days do a pretty good job of compensating.
So, why did I call this post what I called it?
Two weeks ago, I told my co-teacher, one of my very favorite humans, that I desperately needed a week off to collect myself. I was thinking about quitting. (For the record, anyone who teaches with me would never expect that statement to tumble out of my mouth.) The bureaucracy surrounding teaching at this very moment is staggeringly overwhelming. I thought year 8 would be "easier." Hard work, yes, but not so much housekeeping that I cannot focus on what's really important. Year 8 has brought even more paperwork. I needed a moment of separation in order to come back to center and realize why I'm in this profession. It's not the paperwork, it's not the county mandates, it's not the hours and hours of assessments. It's those kids. Those witty, sometimes obnoxious, often endearing kids. I knew I wouldn't take the break for myself just like you moms out there can't take a break when you want. That job is 24/7. However, this sickness knocked me on my ass. I had no choice. Usually, I force myself to keep pushing because I "have to," but my body broke. That's the unfortunate burden of having an autoimmune disorder. When one part breaks, all of the other parts want to commiserate with it, so everything is just horribly, frustratingly broken.
It's okay though. It gave me some time to think, to return to center, to collect myself. One day, during my medication-induced delirium, this sickness scared the hell out of me. I thought, "how could I do this and be a mom if and when the time comes? HOW?" And then it dawned on me: my husband. My family. My colleagues, my friends. That's how. Jeff cooked dinner every night. He went grocery shopping. He took out the dogs. He blew up the air mattress in the living room so that I could watch TV in between fits of slumber. He typed up a schedule for my medications so that I didn't overdose on Mucinex DM. He coordinated family members to be here and take care of me if he couldn't. Dad drove up to let out the dogs. My colleagues called in a sub for me, or subbed for me. One of them ran my midterm scantrons. My co-teacher graded all of the exams.
I keep thinking that I'd have to go at parenthood alone, which scares me out of wanting kids, but I now know that I wouldn't be alone. Those colleagues are my team, my friends. Those parents (and in-laws) of mine are part of my team. That beautiful man and I are a team. If I needed three days to fully fight off a sickness, these people would take care of me. Because that's what you do when you're not just a team, but a family.
So, thank you, sickness. You reminded me how supportive my loved ones are. You taught me to like beans. (Apparently, there are kinds that don't make you shart noxious fumes into your drawers and kill innocent bystanders.) You allowed me some time to heal, emotionally, of course. (You sort of kicked my ass physically, but that's okay. I even scored two snow days to ensure my full recovery.) Try not to come back so often especially not after the rescheduled root canal on Tuesday of next week. I'm appreciative and all, but I'm not opening the door to you.
Hmm, look at that. I guess this post was sort of an atypical telling of love. I sure am gearing up for Valentine's Day.