(Just a note, please don't leave any "just wait 'til you have your own" comments. I know, I know.
Let me have my moment.)
I'm speaking as a teacher. One who invests her lives in other people's children for their benefit. One who works, hopes, and most importantly, prays that the children and families she serves will somehow be better because of her influence, her sweat, her tears on their behalf.
As a teacher, I have worked mostly with "less fortunate" children: children born with special needs and/or various family, financial, physical, and circumstantial challenges. I haven't really worked with what most would term "mainstream" children.
Does this make my career more difficult? No. More emotionally draining? Maybe. More rewarding? Yes.
I get to see families and their children conquer challenges that seem impossible - finding help for a physical or genetic challenge that God has given them and being able to both rise above it as well as inspire others. Or it could be a family who really just hit hard times, or came from a rough background, but instead of wallowing in self-pity and depending on the government to carry them from infancy to retirement, they go back to school, back to work, and make life better for themselves and their children.
Wow, do I love my job.
The simple reason for this outpouring of teacherly emotion rests in the following scene from my Friday. A scene which is not unlike many of my days.
It's nap time. The best time of the day. Most of the children are already asleep. My baby girl is softly snoring in her crib. She's had a cold, so listening to her heavy, congested breathing has become a habitual part of my naptime routine - if she gets too raspy, I'll go and turn her a little so she can breathe easier. My new little girl has fallen asleep perfectly. Now it is just me and my buddy. He's my speech-delayed little red-headed fireball. He's my helper - always wanting to take something to the trash can, help someone put on their shoes, or help me clean up. He periodically has to check in with me for a hug or a tickle. He's been having a rough time at home. His parents are splitting up after a long several months of fighting. He's going back and forth between three homes several times a week. He gets dropped off by one person and picked up by another. Both of his parents are trying to go to school, work full-time, save money, pay the bills, and care for him. It's a lot. It really affects him. While by far he doesn't have the toughest story at our school, he has the toughest story in his life, so that makes it important.
He used to sleep on his bed by himself - I barely even needed to pat his tiny 18-month old back and he would be off in dreamworld. But that was before his little world fell apart. A world he found security in, but can't find words to express how he feels about it i him. Lately he's been starting naptime in his bed and while I sit beside him, he gradually works himself into my lap. First it's his little curly red head on my lap, then his upper body, then before I know it, he's sprawled out along the length of my legs - which although not long themselves are still longer than his entire body. Today he gets into "position" and with a long sigh, puts his little hands under his head and falls fast asleep. I put my arms around my little guy and sigh too, and then I feel a lump in my throat and the tears start coming.
Why should this little boy have such a difficult life? Why should he already know more family turmoil than I have in my entire life? Why can't I protect him from hurt? Why can't I just hug it all away?
I've asked myself the same questions in the past: Why can't I "fix" this child so they won't have to live with autism the rest of their lives? Why can't I make this baby with spina bifida walk on his own? Why can't I help this baby eat without a feeding tube? Why can't I stop this little girl from being rejected, abused, and neglected by the very people who brought her into the world?
But here's what I can do right now. I can hug my little red head close and let him sleep in my lap whether or not he's too old for it. I can try to teach him to talk so he can verbalize his feelings and observations. I can love him and all my other kiddos as much as possible, even when it hurts my heart to love them so much.