There are few times more embarrassing in the life of a student then the moment when they call their teacher Mom. As a teacher, it's happened a handful of times in my seven years. The kid almost immediately recognizes their mistake, stutters some quiet apology, turns as red as my Expo marker, and prays that none of their friends heard them say it. I usually chuckle, say something along the lines of it's alright, or wow, we look nothing alike, just to help the poor kid feel less embarrassed. I mean, after all, we do spend all day together 5 days a week. It's not like we're strangers or anything, but Mom is one of those sacred terms that shouldn't be thrown around lightly.
I get that, now. I am a mom. I know that being mom is the absolute hardest job ever. It's thankless, tiresome, emotionally and physically draining, and the pay is crap. You work for tiny people who change their mind constantly with unreachably high expectations and minute attention spans. They're messy, they break things and expect you to fix them, have no regard for their own physical safety, and usually get bent out of shape when you try to keep them from hurting themselves. Mom is not a job for the faint of heart. But, despite all of that, most people who are one would probably say that is one of their crowning jewels to be called Mom.
I was recently catching up with a friend I used to work with. We were chatting about our seriously late conference proposal and stumbled upon school and our kids, as well call them. Anyone who has taught has referred to their students as 'their kids'. It doesn't matter how long ago you taught them, or even what your relationship was like with them, they will always be one of your 'kids'. I asked about the kids, and these particular kids were freshman when I taught them last. They were also the first group of students that I taught, and had the privilege to teach some of them in sixth grade, again in seventh, and again in ninth grade. I've never felt so close to a group of students as I did with these students in particular.
My friend told me that she was in her office working when one student came by, now a senior, leading a freshman around on a tour. He stopped by her office and told the student that he had four moms: his mom, my friend, another teacher, and me. She didn't give much detail about the rest of their conversation, but it probably went something 'Enjoy the rest of your summer' and 'Stay out of trouble'. I'm sure he didn't give much thought about what he said, but I have.
Teacher friends, we are in the fortunate position to have a positive impact on students' lives. Our interactions can shape who they become, in small ways and in large ones, too. I've spoken of this student before, and how he has had such an impact on me and my career. But, it's been three years since I've seen or spoken to him. High school feels like an eternity when you're in the thick of it, I think I remember that much. For him to say this to another student, who will never know me, and he himself hasn't seen me in three years, there's an impact there. And on another level, for him to call me Mom? I hope his mother wouldn't be offended because I know firsthand, even if only for a small while, how hard it is to be someone's mom. How much love and stress and worry and heartache it is to be called Mom. I would want her to know I don't take that title for granted, and that I am honored and humbled that her son would call me Mom.
Be encouraged, friends. Be encouraged and go out there and be Moms and Dads to your 'kids'. Just like with your children at home, you may never get a thank you, or a act of gratitude, but know that so much is understood in the title of Mom: love, trust, appreciation, strength. Here's to hoping for that proverbial slip of the tongue, and have a great last few weeks of summer.