Thursday, September 8, 2011

Because she's mine

My last three years teaching full time were spent in a small private school where I taught 9th and 10th graders. As in, all the 9th and 10th graders. Because it was such a small school, we didn't track.

Except we so did.

My second year, one of my co-workers (yes, that means she was a teacher too) had a son in the 9th grade. During our inservice, she came into my room and asked to see my class lists. I innocently (naively) said yes.

"Wait, why is he in this class? This looks like the bad class."

I didn't know what to say. "Oh, you know it's not like that." Except we both knew it was.

Now, I love her kid (and not just in that "Oh, Mrs. Story, you love everyone" kind of way. okay, not entirely). He's funny, sweet, and a great skateboarder. But if there was going to be a slower English class? He probably needed to be in it.

She pouted. Stormed down to the office. Pitched a fit to get him switched.

Then for the next two years I had to hear all about how he was misunderstood, how he was lazy. He wasn't and he wasn't. He was struggling.

I have an SAT student now who is struggling. He probably shouldn't go to a four year college, at least not right away, but I can't say that. When his parents tell me what their goals are, I have to do a double-take. Are they talking about their child? He fights to bring his scores up, but he just doesn't understand. It breaks me heart. He isn't the first.

I come home and look at my baby girl, my little love. She was a late crawler, a late sitter. She doesn't say "mama" yet, not even when she's babbling. I'm not really sure she's signing.

And I worry. My husband and I are smart people. Academically smart. And everyone tells us how smart Baby Girl is sure to be.

And I hate it. Because what if she's not?

I want to help her. I want her to have every opportunity in the world. But if she isn't gifted, if she isn't college bound, if she struggles, I want her to know that's okay.

I want her to know that I see her, and that I love the child I have, not the child I wish she was. Because she's my baby. And she always will be.


  1. You should write her a letter, and tell her that. Tell her your feelings, wishes, and hopes for her.

    I started a book when Nathan turned 1 with hand written letters that I hope to give him one day when he goes to college/gets married/other-important-thing. I don't know why I did it exactly. Maybe because I wish I had something like that from my mom. I just hope it gives him insight into where my head was, and what my feelings are for him. It's for me too, to look back on when things are difficult.

    I've got similar feelings as you do for Nathan, but I know that because I have those feelings I already am supporting him in becoming a smart, well rounded individual.

  2. I just had this discussion over the weekend. Or a similar one. What if Donut doesn't want a "practical" career? What if she wants to be involved in other things, not just academics? I know I'll love her regardless of those choices. The thing I worry about? The guilt. Like, if she's not a good student or smart, is that my fault?

  3. I struggle with this a lot with my kids (not my baby yet, but my big girls). My husband and I both did very well academically. I want my girls to do well, but I don't want to pressure them so much that they think we'll feel differently about them if they're not "smart enough." My daughters are 10 and 7, and my oldest just isn't as motivated academically as my younger one is so far. It's so hard to deal with the differences and find the right balance as far as how much to push to motivate, but not make them feel like it's the most important thing to us.

  4. My parents like to tell me that when I was a baby, I was "slow" to talk and walk. But when I finally decided to talk, I spoke in sentences. They would also catch me standing alone when I thought nobody was looking, until I was ready to show them I could walk. All my life, I've been an observer, being careful to learn everything I can before jumping in and embarrassing myself (athough I still embarrass myself plenty).

    I'm not saying your Baby Girl will be like that, because she is her own person and will do her own thing. But as long as she is given the opportunity to do all she needs to do in her own time, and you are right there to help and encourage her along the way, she will know she can count on you to love her for whoever she is, and will be.

    But it sounds to me like you already know all that!

  5. you are a great mama to be thinking about these things in this way. wishing for her emotional security as she grows in both big and small ways. Loved this insight into your life :)

  6. You're a wonderful mom. I think these worries are natural as a parent. Maybe you should write her a letter and tell her that?

  7. My thought on this subject is this. My job as a mother is to help nurture the person they are suppose to be in this world, NOT the person anyone else THINKS they should be.

    You will tell your daughter that you love her no matter what just by being supportive of her. You are a wonderful mother, I have no doubt she will know all that you have written here today, and then some.

  8. Oh, heartbreak. I struggle with this too. He might totally choose something that wouldn't be top of my list for him, but I'm starting now with trying to be okay with that. ;) What I want most is for him to be happy, but I do want him to do *something.* If he turns out to be a drifter, his mama will be a little cranky. Hmm, clearly I have work to do...