The past several months have been completely and totally life-altering, to say the least. I haven’t written much about the school year starting or my thoughts about not being there anymore, because honestly, it’s a bit too difficult. That area of my heart is still raw and perhaps one day soon I’ll be able to record in writing the sort of roller coaster that my heart has been on.
But for now, I’m focusing on how one calling has laid the foundation for another. There were times during the school year in which I would pause and reflect upon how I was being formed into the mother I was going to be, in both big ways and smaller, less necessary but still important ways. I boiled my lessons down to 7 ways teaching has prepared me for parenthood. Now, many of these lessons I haven’t employed with George yet since he presently remains in our constant good graces because his slobbery smiles and giggles are still cute enough to counteract his not-cute colic and nap protests.
There’s nothing like spending the majority of your days with 12 and 13-year olds to really hone your bull-ish radar. By the end of last year, I could smell it like a bloodhound. I learned how to read their body language, their eyes, their voice inflections. If they were lying, I could tell. The nice thing is that I got so good at seeing through their valiant attempts at duping me that they eventually leaned more toward just telling the truth. They said they knew I would catch them in a lie if they tried it, so they just ‘fessed up most of the time. Winning all around.
Something tells me this skill will come in handy in about 15 years …
2. How to appropriately adjust to various personalities
Every kid is different. Every person is different. We each have our own strengths and weaknesses, our own personalities, our unique temperaments, life lenses, and formative experiences. We don’t all learn the same way. We may hear the same message but it may not be told in a way that we get it, you know? I know mine and Dave’s kids will have various learning styles and modes of communication and some of those may even come in direct conflict with the way I operate.
Since I’m an only child, I often worry that I won’t be sensitive to the differences in others and be able to work efficiently with those differences, especially when I’m in an authoritative role like teaching or parenting. Thankfully, being in a classroom with 120 unique individuals each day both challenged and encouraged me in my efforts to roll with the ebb and flow of personalities and temperaments.
3. How to perfect the Mass snap
You know what I’m talking about. If you grew up Catholic, you were probably on the receiving end of the Mass snap in your younger years. That quick, loud, echoing snap the directs the entire congregation’s attention to you. The snap that makes you freeze in your tracks of misbehavior during Mass. Yeah, I’ve got that down. There was many-a-Mass when my little ones would be chit-chatting away for minutes during the homily or consecration to the point where I resorted to the big guns – the same snap my dad would give me during Mass. And y’all, it still works like a charm. 😉
4. Kids are resilient
Sometimes we tend to think kids are more fragile than they really are. Of course, they are in their most formative and impressionable years, I’m not discounting that. Certainly we need to be mindful that they are being shaped and molded. But when it comes to rolling with the punches, kids are surprisingly able to handle a lot. They adjust very well and can deal with what comes their way. At the end of the day, they’re not big whiners or sissies. They just keep living. I think that’s comforting, don’t you?
5. The home is where everything begins and ends
This is worthy of an entire post on its own, but I’ll keep it brief here: Everything starts and ends with the family. As a teacher, I could only do so much. If what I taught (the Gospel) wasn’t being reinforced at home, most often my words would be nullified in their minds. On the contrary, when what I taught was backed up at home, there was a cycle of truth being spoken and it lit those kids on fire. As a parent, I will forever keep this in my mind. The home is the first school of virtue.
6. How to discern the time for mercy and the time for justice
We all need a lot of mercy. All the time. I find this especially true in children as they come into the age of reason and begin the long journey of self-discovery and self-mastery. This means frequent stumbles, mistakes, major screw ups, and bad decisions. Finding the balance between punishing for wrong behavior in order to correct and teach a lesson, and showing mercy when more appropriate, is a difficult task. I still haven’t grasped this concept in its entirety, but I am certain that being a teacher began my training in this, as I was faced with this challenge every single day. I can only imagine how parents of teens do it. Hats off to you, saintly people.
7. You blink and it’s done; they’re grown; they’re gone. So hold on tight.
Cliche alert: Time really does fly. I need to savor every tiny moment; even the tough ones, because one day I will long for even the toughest of days. Ok, enough of that before the tears wet my keyboard 😉
Do you work, or did you before you had kids? How does your career help you be a better parent? What lessons have you learned?