I've written about Open House before, and how torturous it was when going through infertility treatments and then adoption. I've had full on anxiety attacks while making it through this night in the midst of my own personal tragedies.
But, I didn't expect to end my night last night in tears on my couch. I thought I was "past that." Hmmph.
Here's what happened.
Everyone loves to include their children and grandchildren on their slides for Open House. Let the parents know who we are! Who are we as PEOPLE, not just teachers! It quickly becomes a litany of baby pictures, adorable children pictures, and presenting new grandchildren. Which is great, for those who have those sorts of things. To be the coteacher who has to follow slides full of extensive family trees with pictures completely devoid of children (look at my husband! my cat! my books! my garden! a trail near my house!) is a little...painful. It feels like an amplified contrast.
This is my first year coteaching 8th grade Science, which is an exciting new adventure. I decided for that class, the last of the night (I cheated and talked about my 9th period Study Skills class during lunch so we could all leave ahead of the traffic crush), my slide would be nothing but a picture of ME. As a 7-8 year old. With my chemistry set.
|Me, circa about 1984|
It sucks to feel so Other. I may have mentioned my National Board Certification more times than was truly necessary because I didn't get to say I had kids in the district or who went through the schools or that I could also say "As A Parent."
So when this picture came up, I said, "This is not my child, this is ME." And then went ahead and made all my corny jokes.
It didn't catch up with me until I got home, and the thing that I felt was so empowering just moments ago felt instead a little hollow, and sad. Like I am my own small child to share to feel like I'm like everyone else. I also felt a pang of empathy for those who also don't have kids, or who aren't married or coupled, and may or may not feel even more Other on such nights.
I cried when I got home, for that little girl who once wanted to be a scientist and was slowly discouraged at school from pursuing math and science. For the woman who wanted a small child to encourage and raise into a good human at home. For the couple who wanted to share their passions and help a small human discover theirs, but it just wasn't to be. For feeling apart on a night meant to be unifying. I felt that loss acutely last night.
I feel lucky that I can love on my students and devote all my "mom-ing" energy to them. I loved that I inserted my own childhood photo as a sort of seditious act, a sort of "I don't have my own kids but look at me as a child, just as relevant even if it's a little weird."
I was just caught off guard that that picture ended up sparking such a wave of sadness afterwards. Maybe it was fueled in part by exhaustion. Maybe it was fueled in part by the onslaught of "my kids my kids my kids" from other teachers, the slideshow at the beginning of the year, and Facebook Back to School posts that are STILL COMING thanks to Preschool.
Honestly, it's probably both.