The Best Words

Today, one of my kids at work said the best thing to me.

I’m the homework teacher. Which means that on any given day I help 18+ kids with their homework. At the same time. It’s a non-stop barrage of “Miss Laura, I need help”, “Miss Laura, I don’t understand this”, “Miss Laura, I was next” and “Miss Laura, it’s too loud”, naturally all being yelled across the room at the same time.

But I love it. I love watching the kids learn, and helping them see what they are capable of. I love that they know that they can turn to me with their problems, and not just their homework problems. Most days, it just fills my heart.

But some days. Oh, some days.

Some days, the kids who have finished their homework can’t seem to stay quiet so the other kids can keep working, and there are a few kids who are just at each other’s throats, and someone just has to have my attention right now, and BLARG!

And today was a little bit of that. Nothing too bad though, thankfully. But there is this one little girl, M. I love her to pieces. She is in 4th grade and super smart, but also super distractable. She is in advanced placement classes, but she gets lost in her own head (yes, she has ADD) and just can never seem to focus. She has good days and bad days and man, today was a bad day. We would be working on a problem together and she would drift off while we were talking.

And I just felt that I was failing her. I knew she had homework in three subjects, and that she needed to make a significant dent in it if she wanted to avoid getting in trouble at home, but I just couldn’t get her to focus. I was getting frustrated and I wasn’t doing a very good job of hiding it, and it was finally time for me to close my room so she asked to pack her backpack back up. I told her she could, because she wasn’t going to get any more work done and that I had to leave anyway. But after she finished, she came up to me and said, ” Thank you for doing all you could to help me Miss Laura.”

It just kind of made me stop.

I had felt myself starting to go over the my time with her in my head, wondering what I could have done different, what I should have done. What the ‘right thing’ was, because I felt that I had failed. I was starting to beat myself up because I felt that I couldn’t help this wonderful little girl, and yet she still appreciated that I took the time to try.

I went over to her and put my hand on her head and said “Thank you for saying that. That really means a lot. I was just getting frustrated because I felt like I was failing you because I couldn’t get you to focus.”

And she looked at me and nodded. She went over to get something she left at a table and said, very matter-of-factly, as if that’s-just-how-the-world-works “But not focusing is my issue, not yours”

This little girl gave me a life lesson in a 2 minute conversation. Because that is how the world works. I’m not responsible for her actions, only my efforts.

I don’t know if she will ever know how much I will cherish her words.

To Parent or Not To Parent

One thing I’ve found is that so many people have children without even thinking about it. It’s just a given. It’s what you do: You get married, you have kids.

Sometimes not in that order, but I digress.

But the thing is, it shouldn’t be a given. We are sentient beings. We take the time to make decisions about everything in our lives, having children should be no different. We agonize over what college to go to, who to marry, what our careers should be, and yet we give very little thought to the question “Should I be a parent?”.

And it’s not simply a question of whether or not children should be a part of your future.

Should you adopt? Should you have biological children? Should you have children at all? There are so many different options. What should factor into your decision? Only you can answer that, but here are a few thoughts that I have come up with.

I personally believe that one factor should be based purely on you and your partner. It depends on your lifestyle, your hopes, your ambitions, your personalities and innumerable other things. This leads me to my first category.

1. People who should not be parents

This covers a multitude of reasons. Everything from “it’s not what I want to do with my life” to “I am not capable of raising a child”–which, let’s face it, can cover anything from health issues to selfishness to a toxic personality that could actually damage a child.

I think we all know people who fall into this first category, and many of them (sadly) have children, and the children are the ones who suffer the most. Taking the time to truly decide if you are meant to be a parent isn’t just for you, it’s for the potential children too.

And if–for whatever reason–someone decides that a child is not a part of their future, do not try to change their mind. Do not say ‘oh, well some day you will’. Do not judge them. It is their decision, not yours, and you have no idea what went into making it. Respect that.

Of course, there are people who a meant to be parents. I know so many wonderful people who are parents and so many wonderful people who are meant (and want) to be parents, but do not have children yet. This brings me to my next category.

2. People who should be parents and their genes are beneficial to the gene pool.

PLEASE NOTE: I am NOT, by any means, saying there should be rules and regulations for who should be allowed to reproduce based solely on their genes. This is not that kind of thought. In fact, I will use my husband and I as an example, and a true example at that.

My husband has bi-polar disorder, migraines, moderately severe sleep apnoea, and has a family history of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. I have depression, anxiety, migraines, poly-cystic ovary syndrome, extremely poor vision and a family history of heart disease, bi-polar, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and stroke. We didn’t feel right saddling our child with that. Again, it is not about us. It is about the child.

Hundreds of years ago, I wouldn’t have lived into my reproductive years. I would have died from appendicitis at age 9. But instead, modern medicine saved me.I am beyond grateful that I live in a time and place where technology has given me the chance to reproduce (since I can’t on my own). But that same life-saving technology has eliminated natural selection. So we have to make that decision ourselves. It is irresponsible–not just for your child, but for future generations–to reproduce without considering whether or not your genes negatively impact the gene pool, and to what degree.

The next kind is related to the previous two categories and it is this:

3. People who should be parents but shouldn’t allow their genes to continue to affect the gene pool

Maybe there is a couple who should be parents, but they are carries for Huntington’s Disease. They would fall into this category. This is where options such as adoption come into play, although some people in this category do wind up in the first category because they feel it is what is right for them.

On the flip side of that there are also people who should not be parents but their genes would be beneficial to the gene pool. This does not, under any circumstances, mean they should have children just because they have good genes. That is never a good enough reason to bring a child into this world. I’m not including this as ‘main category’ simply because it is not a reason to have or not have children.

Children are a blessing, but not to everyone. And not everyone is a blessing to children. There are so many ways to make a family, and I feel that we have–as a society–been defining it too narrowly. We need to thoughtfully make these decisions for ourselves, not rely on the momentum from the past to make our decisions for us.