After I said goodbye, I went from drop-off to meeting to another meeting. It wasn’t until later that I had a chance to look at the photographs I’d snapped at school. There she was, signing in with all the seriousness a starting-kindergartner musters for this most big-kid event. I sent out an email of those initial moments—to all the grandparents and to her birth mama, and a few others. As I hit send, I had a tug I sometimes feel when I share these milestones. I felt guilty that I got to be the one to experience this prideful, somewhat shaky, completely exciting moment firsthand.
This week we marked a big first—the first day of kindergarten for the small gal. She set off ready, with her brand-new lunchbox—just like two of her preschool pals had—and her ladybug backpack and her pigtails. I said no to flip-flops; she insisted upon wearing them. Like the seasoned parent I am, I consented, because I knew the teachers would let her know the rules—no flip-flops—and then we’d return to the sensible summery appropriate-for-school footwear. She wore a headband and her hair was sprayed with the rosemary lice repellent.
I wondered what would click about us for “our” birth mother. The grey hair was a perfect flash point for all my anxieties about the process. So I worried about hints of grey or lots of grey, along with all the other stuff, like what if I were old enough to be my baby’s mother’s mother and what if no one wanted us?
This wasn't the case for the 500 hundred black children attending a school south of Roosevelt in Chicago. They were expected to come to school the next day with their homework done, positive faces, tones, and attitudes. In my first years of teaching, I would sit at my uncle's table and dream of a country that cared for their children the way he cared for my cousin. In my first years of teaching, I didn't get it. I blamed parents for their children's failure. It sickens me to admit this, but it's true. (This is also why we need to stop thinking of "highly qualified teachers" as rich, white,guilt ridden teachers with a hero complex, of which I am part of the patient-zero wave).
Today I would like to tell you why I would like to become a teacher.
I wanted to be like them, to be able to do what they could do, and yet I understood that I would have to forge my own style of teaching that would draw on my strengths, knowledge, skills, values and experiences.
This is really hard for me because I do not want to become a teacher.
Amongst the things I worried about during the process of seeking a “match” with a birth mother was this: if I let my hair turn grey, would I appear too old to a birth mother? Would I be as old or older than a birth mother’s mother? That was absolutely a possibility.
This is why I want to become a teacher.
Together, we seem to discover the story. We note the details. As we bumble through, I see two important components to my narrative: she was the cutest little thing and she’s as loved as she could possibly be loved. Less is more, but more love is more love and there we have it. Will it get more complicated? Sure. But not all at once—by the time she delves into harder questions—if she does—she will feel secure about her own preciousness and about how loved she is, by us all.