Having such a blast with other people’s children as a kindergarten tutor helps me come to terms with how little my parents were able to enjoy me as a kid. I can’t imagine how so many people are so willing to sacrifice their time to be silly and play with their kids if they are already making the effort to support their kids otherwise. The playtime I have with them (while the other teachers remain on the sideline at recess) helps them trust me, and makes our time in the classroom so much better. I just cannot imagine how parents in general can take this time for granted, given that they are so silly and honest and weird at this age. We have a great time.
My parents were always so busy using me and my sister to wound each other years and years after they divorced that we didn’t really have an abundance of positive times. When I spend time with these kiddos, I have a lot more grace for my parents. The fact that they couldn’t enjoy these years (despite the fact that I always wanted them to) is a punishment that goes hand in hand with ignorance. The kids I work with are so special, so unique, and so worth my time. I deal with my fair share of tantrums, but the idea of abandoning them in favor of my smart phone or saying no when they ask me to play hide and seek at recess is the reason I keep my phone stashed in my backpack. I have the power, if only for a little while, to set really strong examples of what it means to actively support them, and encourage them to support one another. I just cant imagine why any sane parent would want to miss out on any of what all of this means.
My parents may not have enjoyed me very much, but I think that when the time comes, they’ll channel some of that grief into really having fun with their grandkids. To be honest, I’ve moved on. I’m no longer so young that I’m going to live with a chip on my shoulder forever. I am the caregiver now. I am the one responsible for making sure no one gets left out. That is my job. Doing better than they were able to is the act of doing justice to the ways I felt forgotten. I may not have those times back, but at least I know the value of what I missed out on. I cherish the kids I work with. The cravings for attention that I still remember help me understand what it is they need, and how to be a teacher, a mom-figure, and a friend. There is a time for silliness, and there is a time for getting work done, and I am grateful that I don’t have to be a grinch to have them work with me or a doormat in order for them to not see me as a threat. When you play with children, they trust you in a way that you can’t encounter otherwise. It’s a lot easier to get our work done.
I am learning the balance my parents never perfected. I’m not perfect, but spending time learning what it means to support these kiddos is probably the biggest investment I can make in the emotional health of a family of my own. To me, this is progress. It’s not idyllic fantasies about going back into the past and rewriting it; I’ve already moved on. It’s making an investment in learning to care better so my own kids don’t have to feel forgotten.