Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The day that wouldn't end

I hate the night. I absolutely loathe the night, however tonight I sit here thankful that the day is finally over. I look forward to the moment when I can let go of the horrid emotions of the day and collapse into what I pray is an uneventful, peaceful sleep. In fact, in one sense, this day began nearly a week ago, and I am finally stepping across the finish line of a race I didn't even realize I was in.

A few weeks ago, one of the teachers I work with mentioned her frustration with one of the little boys in her classroom. Although he was exceptionally intelligent, he seemed to operate in slow motion many days and it seemed to be getting worse. She had to prod him frequently to move along with his work and he began to stay in during recess several days a week with me so that we could catch him up. It was during these afternoon one on one sessions that I started to notice something wasn't quite right. I couldn't pin point what it was, but I felt ill at ease about it.

Last week I found evidence in his homework that I could not ignore. I took it immediately to his teacher. After I explained to her what I feared she agreed to talk to his dad who took him to the doctor the following day. I came in this morning after a three day weekend to devastaing news. He has an inoperable brain tumor. It has been putting increasing pressure on the motor area of his brain. They are praying for a miracle. So am I.

I've known children at our school to experience horrible things, but I've never experienced anything this devastating with a child that I work with so much. I was a wreck all day. I can't imagine what his dad is dealing with right now, the fear and helplessness he has to feel. I can't bear the thought of anything happening to this little boy.

I called Hubby to pick me up after school this afternoon. I had ridden to work with my little brother this morning and he was going to pick me up, but I needed Hubby. I held it together all day. I couldn't alarm the children, but I needed to fall apart, just for a few minutes. I explained to him what had happened. He looked at me with confused eyes, "Honey, you've had things happen to kids before. I can't believe this has you so upset." I just had to stop and take a long deep breath. I've never experienced anything like this with a child I was so close to, one I worked with daily. Abuse, divorce, a parent's death, but never anything that threatened to take the life of a child like this. I was speechless. All I could say in response to Hubby was, "I love this child. I look forward to his smiles and hugs every day. I can't imagine a world without him."

I talked to my mother later on, she was a teacher for over thirty years. I expressed my hurt and frustration at his response. She gently pointed out to me that most people couldn't understand the love a teacher has for her children. Until you've been in those shoes it's  hard to imagine the fierce almost motherly love that one can have for dozens of children that belong to someone else.

I realized she was right. I also realized that although I fought against this career for so long, I was where I belonged. She reminded me that a true teacher's heart loves all children as their own. I know that these kids have in a small way helped to fill a small part of the emptiness I feel as I long for my own children. I see so many teachers jaded and even resentful of their students and I pity them. They are missing out on such an amazing and fulfilling part of our jobs.

As the sun finally began to sink below the horizon, bringing a close to what most other people would consider to be a gorgeous early spring day, I found peace with a part of my life that is usually so painful I refuse to acknowledge its existence. I have always had a special place for children in my heart, but I have to wonder; if having children had come easily to me, would I cherish each and every child I work with nearly as much? Would I be as observant or sensitive to their lives and behaviors and feelings?

Acceptance has been a long time coming for me concerning my infertility, and while I may not feel thankful or happy about the unrelenting pain and loneliness that comes with the desire to love my own child, I can see how God has used my experience, my journey to make me a better teacher. I hope that while I do not have a child of my own to guide and direct, perhaps I can make a difference in the lives of at least some of the many children I have the extreme honor of loving and directing towards their own paths and futures.

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