*Note: All student names have been changed.
I’m not a Mom. I hope to be, someday. But I think I know a little bit—a very little bit—of what that kind of love will be like.
My first year of teaching was easily the hardest experience of my life. I won’t go into all the details, but half-way through the year, I was seriously considering leaving my school and the ACE program. Exhausted, discouraged, and completely in over my head, I sat at my desk as my seniors came in to take their final exam.
And then I began to look at them, one by one. There was Maria, who had intimidated me so much on the first day with her bored eyes and sarcastic remarks… and who, later on, asked me to teach her and her classmates what plagiarism really was so that they could be ready for college. There was Jonny, who had a habit of giving up on everything difficult… and who had formed a new habit of actually finishing his essays. There was Lars—big, obnoxious, flirtatious, inappropriate—who had finally decided that Mr. Wickham in Pride and Prejudice was a jerk, and he didn’t want to be like him after all.
There were also the ones who had been easier to love from the beginning: Gary, with his stubborn agnosticism and insistence upon questioning, Selina, with her gentle attentiveness and surprising perspicacity, Peter, with his hunger for knowledge and something to finally challenge him, and Catherine and Ashley—who came into my classroom one day, arm in arm like Austen’s ladies: “Let’s take a turn about the room! Ah yes, it is so refreshing!”
I looked at them all as I sat at my desk, and I felt astonished. So many of my college friends were finding love, getting engaged, having babies…
… but I had found a different kind of love.
I think I understand The Reverend Mother’s words a lot better now in The Sound of Music when she tells Maria that she needs to “climb every mountain” in order to find
A dream that will need
All the love you can give
Every day of your life
For as long as you live.
I think I get that now.
Nothing else I have done has required more exhaustion and work and anxiety from me—and nothing else has given me so much love in return. Not thankfulness in return, necessarily—I think really good moms know they will and never can be truly thanked for all they do—nor understanding in return, either. I’m sure that a large percentage of my kinds don’t even like me.
(As I mentioned to my pleading junior class a couple of weeks ago – “I’m not here to be liked. I’m here to help you learn.”)
But I can’t help myself, to be honest. I love them—their comments, their nosiness, their complaining, their messiness, their mistakes, and their little triumphs. And I’m so grateful to God that he has given me my kids to love.
Go listen to Reverend Mother here, and don’t settle for anything less.
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