Monday, December 05, 2011

It's Too Bad You Don't Have Children

Dear person who told me "It's really too bad you don't have children; you'd be a good mother:"

You're wrong.

Not that I'd be a good mother - you're right on that.  I'd be a very good mother.  Anyone who has ever seen me with children can agree on that.

No, you're wrong that I don't have children. It's not totally your fault - I wasn't thinking when you asked me.  And in fact, I haven't been thinking clearly any of the times that people have asked me that.  I always answer the way that people expect me to and I think it's time to change that.

I know that when people ask me "Do you have children," (or my least favorite, "Do you have a family?"  "No, I sprang into being all on my own!"), they mean did I birth children who I am now the guardians of.  Maybe if they're more open-minded they just mean, "Are you the guardian of children?"  And the answer is no.  Before you start feeling sorry for me, I am totally good with that.  I really don't want to go through pregnancy or childbirth and I feel no need to create more people in this world of 7 billion.

But here's the thing: I do have children.  No, they don't live at my house and I am not their mother.  But I am their auntie (related by blood and otherwise), their teacher, their tutor, their Big Sister, their former youth group leader, their former teacher, their classroom volunteer, and their friend.  And here's the secret: It's wonderful.

No, it's not the same as being a mother.  You don't have to tell me that, millions of people who are mothers and for some reason want to try to convince me that I'm missing out (why?).  It's very different.  But the amazing thing is that it's not worse.  It's a different relationship and it's very important and incredibly rewarding in a totally different way that doesn't need to be threatening to mothers.

I don't know why so many people feel the need to point out to me that being a teacher (or volunteer, or whatever) just isn't the same as being a mother.  Of course it's not!  And you don't need to tell me that I don't understand because I'm not a mother.  Of course I don't, because I'm not!  But the fact that you never realized how much you could love a child until you birthed them does not reflect on me at all.

In the past year, I have gotten to knit booties for an expectant mother who was a former student and is now married, cried when I saw a former student on a documentary about incarcerated teenagers, talked to a current student who I caught smoking marijuana about how disappointed I was that he had lied to me, talked to a former student - now an adult - about how to file a restraining order against her brother who had put a gun to her head, taken my Little Sister to my parents' house and watched her play for hours in the little wading pool and mini beach set up for my niece, knit my niece and her baby doll matching outfits, been to conferences with teachers, had dinner with a former youth group kid and his wife, helped many many students learn in the various personal ways that they learn, received multiple handmade birthday cards, and gotten a hug from a (popular) 8th grade boy who RAN across the lawn to me with his arms outstretched, smiling and yelling that he was so glad to see me - totally unembarrassed.

I'm not missing out and I'm not wasting me life, so please stop feeling sorry for me.  I have children.  And they are incredible.

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