Dear Parents of Preschoolers,
It is much easier to be your child’s teacher then to be his parent. That is why I sometimes seem more patient or energetic or understanding than you do. I know for sure because I am a mom, too, and my kids’ teachers have always seemed to me to be more patient and energetic and understanding with them than I am. Here are some of the reasons why.
1) I am only responsible for your children sometimes. Only some hours each day, only some days each week, only for one school year. I take days off to travel or when I feel sick. You don’t get a day off, or even an hour off. Even when your kid is with me, you are still her parent.
2) I am never alone with your child. If I am having trouble or feeling worn out, I can ask one of the three other teachers in the room to help me. If I need more help than that, I could get my director or a teacher from a different class. If there is a particular behavior that I have a hard time dealing with, one of my colleagues is probably better at it. When there is a decision to be made, I get to talk it out with other professionals. You are often one-on-one with your child, needing to make stressful snap decisions.
3) I have professional training and experience which gives me a sense of competence. Nothing made me feel trained or experienced for parenting.
4) There are no family dynamics at school. Nothing your kid does reminds me of something that brings up family issues. I am not watching my students to see if they manifest my flaws or my husband’s, or if they inherited anything from my beloved bubbie. I have no idea who my student should or shouldn’t be. I can just accept him as he is. My own kids, not so much. As a parent, everything, everything is laden with generations of guilt and hurt and love and dreams.
5) When I am with your children, there is nothing else I am supposed to be doing. When I am with my children I am also often driving, doing housework, trying to be a good wife and daughter and daughter-in-law and friend, getting groceries, writing this blog, and on and on….
6) I get to say ‘yes’ to your child almost all the time. I don’t need to get them dressed in the morning or in the bath at night, nor do I have to say no to another cookie or take them for a shot. Either that stuff just doesn’t come up at school, or sometimes I have the luxury of flexibility that a parent just does not.
7) I get to pass the hard stuff on to you. “Is the tooth fairy real?” “Where do babies come from?” I don’t blow them off, but families really do have different answers to the big ones, so I get to suggest to the child that she ask her parents.
8) They save the worst fussing for you. Children who spend five hours and 58 minutes playing happily at school, and two minutes crying over a skinned knee, will inevitably be holding some of those tears for the parent at pick up. All of the day’s hurts and injustices are unloaded on the parent. It is hard work holding it together with peers and teachers all day, and unconditional love given by a parent makes the parent a safe place for a demonic melt down. Lucky you, right?
So please do not compare yourselves to your child’s teacher and worry that you are lacking. I have it a lot easier than you do. Except when I’m with my own kids. Then we all have it the same.