Thursday, June 28, 2012

I Guess This Is Growing Up

I think it's his shoulders.

A few nights ago when I was saying goodnight to him, it struck me for about the fiftieth time this week that Griffin is an almost-man. I can't tell you exactly what it is that makes me say that, what makes me think that, but the change in him, the change that's occurred over just a few weeks, possibly less time than that, is astounding. His little boyness (and, no, I do not mean boyishness; that's something else entirely)--little boy look, little boy aura, little boy frame--is gone. In its place is a strange kind of mannishness, a mannishness that's whisked the little boy away.

I don't really have very much to say about this except that I don't understand how people can stand it. I don't understand how parents can stand having a little boy one day, a little boy with little boy bones and little boy limbs and little boy lips and a little boy nose and a voice like a slightly softened scoop of vanilla bean ice cream and an almost-man who resides in his own almost-man world with his broadening shoulders and his darkening lip and his thickening brows and his lengthening legs the next. I don't understand what parents do with themselves when their once-little boys become almost-men who disappear from their living rooms, retreating to an almost-man world with walls of tumblr and facebook and youtube and skype, a world filled with sit ups and push ups, blared music, played bass, a world where almost-men live almost-man lives on their own. I don't understand how this has gone on since the beginning of time and nobody has complained.

I don't understand how these parents' hearts are okay.

I don't think I've ever heard the song the whole way through, but the lyric Mama, don't let your babies grow up to be cowboys has been looping in my head for days. The guys who wrote it, though, they had it all wrong. They should have stopped singing after up.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Roller Coaster

I went to bed last night thinking about my life. For an instant, I wished I could go back in time to when I was 18 and start over again completely. I thought about all of the things I would do differently if I had the opportunity: go away for college after finishing BCC instead of staying here (I wasn't hoping to go all the way back to 16, but if I were to redo life that far back, I'd have not done early admissions so that I'd never have gone to BCC in the first place), move away from Florida before starting a career, have a different career completely. I wondered what my life would be like now if I had done those things, and I wished that there were some way that I could.

And then I panicked.

I panicked because I started thinking about movies. I thought about movies like Peggy Sue Got Married and the one with Nicolas Cage and Tea Leone--I think it's called Family Man. In both cases, the main characters somehow find themselves in alternate realities either reliving their lives or living their current lives in different ways. Besides those two specific movies, I thought of how many other movies have the same type of premise, and then I thought to myself: What if there were really some way that this sort of thing could happen?

And that's when the panic set in.

Of course I knew that it was completely illogical, but it was late at night, and I was lying in the dark alone in bed after having been lying down alone for a couple of hours, and I thought to myself, If all of these movies share a similar premise, they must be based on something, right? And strange, unexplainable things do happen in this world all the time. What if I wake up tomorrow and I really am young?

And panic ensued.

Starting over again is something I've imagined so many times, as I'm sure others have, so you'd think I'd be excited about the prospect--at least I'd think I would--but when, for just a few seconds I thought it could actually happen, excitement was the furthest thing I felt. All I could think of was Griffin and Keifer and how much I love them and how devastated I'd be if they weren't in my life. I tried telling  myself that if I went back to 18 there was a chance that I wouldn't remember any of my future, and in that case, I wouldn't even know that they had ever existed, and, in turn, wouldn't miss them at all, but that logic failed to calm me down. Even with the possibility of ignorance coupled with the possibility of a brand new life lived the way I've often wished I had lived it, I felt panic at the thought of a life without Griffin and Keifer in it.

Even though we don't always get along--or in the case of Keifer and me, almost never get along--I have to say, my love for my kids is incomparable to anything else I've felt in my life, so much so, that for them, I wouldn't change a thing. Until last night, in the skewed reality that darkness brings (okay, with the addition of part of a novella by Stephen King), that's something I didn't really understand.

Today, I do.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

What's My Age Again?

A few months ago, a coworker admonished me for allowing students to follow me on Instagram. Taking me aside, she told me that she honestly didn't know what I was thinking and said something akin to, Kelly, these kids are not your audience, and they are not your friends. She then repeated that she didn't know what I was thinking and acted gravely enough about the "situation" that I panicked, removed any student followers from my Instagram account, and made it private. Then I sat around feeling bad about myself for doing something that my coworker deemed so reprehensible, questioned my judgment, and felt almost dirty. Why did I make such stupid choices and do things that other people thought to be so abhorrent? What was wrong with me?

Well, like I said, that was months ago, and since that conversation, I've had a lot of time to think. The first thing I have to say is that I think my coworker dramatized the situation. I truly don't think I did anything horrible, and I think I had absolutely no reason to feel ashamed. The second thing I have to say is that she was wrong: right or wrong, my students are my friends.

"Friend" is a pretty common word, and we all know what it means. For the very occasion of this blog, though, I looked it up in a few dictionaries, and this is what I found:

From the Free Online Dictionary--

1. A person whom one knows, likes, and trusts.
2. A person whom one knows; an acquaintance.
From Google--
A person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, typically exclusive of sexual or family relations.
1. a person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard.
While I understand that these definitions are denotative and not connotative and one could argue that these definitions don't define the word the way my coworker used it, I have to say that even if I were to apply the connotative definition, my students would still be that. Not all of them, of course, but some of them definitely.
I DO like and trust some of my students;
some of them and I  DO have (at least from my point of view) a bond of platonic mutual affection; and I AM attached to some of them, too.
Why  is that so wrong?
Isn't it natural for me to care about people who I spend almost as much time with as I spend with my family? Isn't caring what I'm supposed to do?
Whether you think I'm supposed to or not, all I have to say is that if I didn't care, I couldn't do my job, at least not well. If I didn't like my kids and have some kind of reciprocal relationship with at least some of them, I would have had to quit teaching years ago because, as bad as this may sound, the fulfillment I get out of my job--and, yes, as brutal and thankless a job as teaching may be, I do get fulfillment out of it--is tied to the relationships I have with my kids. I know I don't reach all of them, but I also know that I do reach some. 

They also reach me.

There are times that I go to work in the worst mood possible, hating the world, and after an hour or two spent with my kids, my bad mood not only dissipates, but I'm actually in a good one. There are also times when I go to work sad and they make me happy. There are times when I'm not at work and I see something that I know one of my students would love or be interested in, and that student instantly comes to my mind and I make a mental note to discuss said thing with that kid. Just like the kids that actually came from me, my student-kids are always on my mind.
No matter how much my coworker looks down on it, some of my students are friends. 
Are they the types of friends I would hang out with and share the things I share with my adult friends? Of course not, but they're friends nevertheless.
And I'm not ashamed to admit it.