The other night I did something I haven’t done since last August. Mike folded the laundry, put away his and Luke’s clothes and left mine on the dresser, as is the system around here*. Then, I put my clothes away in my drawers. You guys! I put my clothes away! Right away! Immediately!
I understand that after someone folds your laundry for you, not taking the step to actually get them into your own drawers is pretty lame. Who does that? Me. I did. For many, many months. Because throughout the school year, by the time I’d put Luke to bed, I was physically and mentally incapable of that last piece of household work. Mike quickly learned that the slightest inquiry into this habit was enough to send me into bed sobbing. And, shocker, it only got worse when I became pregnant in January.
I think this is the metaphor for how this year went. Between the hours of 6:00 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. I used every single ounce of myself. I’m not a stranger to this feeling. I think it’s what draws me to this work. Teaching (and especially teaching young children) is one of the most physically and emotionally intense things I’ve ever done. And I enthusiastically sign up for it over and over again. But teaching and coming home to a toddler forced me to find corners of stamina I had no idea existed within me.
It also forced me to let a whole lot go. Like laundry. And blog posts. And sleep. And exercise.
Here’s another good example of how this year went: The other day I was cleaning out a cute leather work bag that I used for the first part of the year until I stopped kidding myself and went back to my trusty ol’ backpack. In it I found two envelopes- each one addressed to a different best friend. You see, last summer two of the people I love most got married. One in June and one in July. And I was so moved by their weddings I wrote them notes to tell them (because I don’t miss an opportunity to gush all of my sappy thoughts through the art of the written word). And then, I started my job. I walked around all year long carrying those notes. I remember seeing them from time to time as I was reaching into my bag to grab tissues for a child (maybe my own, maybe someone else’s) and thinking, I’ve really got to send those. But I didn’t. Because of time and mental space and energy, and the unrelenting chaos and joy of spending all of my waking hours with children.
And I am so deeply grateful that I’ve chosen this exhaustion. I’m thankful for the opportunity, of course, to know another group of five year-olds so deeply, but moreover, to continue to know myself in this way. To reconnect with the self that came to education because it was my answer to so many of life’s questions. To have had the opportunity to work at something so personally meaningful and important while also raising my own child is a gift. It is a gift that requires putting many things on hold, but a gift nonetheless.
To my teacher friends who are also parents: I bow down. As Luke has recently taken to saying, “You’re my hero.”
(Yes, yes, that’s right, we’ve trained our child to tell us we are his heroes. Is that wrong?)
*There could be a whole separate post where I write Mike’s mom a letter thanking her for teaching him to fold laundry so well. But then I have that problem with sending letters, so…