I am called “Mum” by the children in my class, on average, once a week. I don’t remember ever calling my teachers mum when I was at school. It’s possible that I did, without realising, and my teachers were kind enough to just ignore my mistake. As a teacher, being called mum is either a compliment or a serious insult.
With most children, I take it as a sincere compliment. When I eventually have my own children, one day, if I’m ever half the engaged and most approachable mum on the playground, as their mum always is, I’d consider my own child to be very lucky indeed. I look at their mums (and dads) and salute them for doing a grand job, to raise such polite, adorable children that I am so lucky to be able to teach.
Other children can call me mum and it is the worst thing imaginable to ever happen to me! “Do I look like your Mum?” I’ll ask them, and they’ll nearly always reply with no. Nearly always. Which is why I always ask “who?” when I’m called Mum in the classroom, it doesn’t matter who the lovely child is. I’d hate to think how the parents might feel, knowing that their child is accidentally calling me mum too. On some level, it must hurt, to think of your own child calling someone else mum. Even if it is accidentally.
At parents evening last year, one parent put this situation into a different perspective for me. She thanked me for doing such a great job in helping her to raise her child. I was gobsmacked at first, and flattered of course. She told me that in her eyes, I am her daughter’s “school mum”. I look after her daughter for nearly six and a half hours a day, five days a week. I teach her daughter how to read, write, do maths, understand the past and science, but also firmly, yet fairly, instil morals and values that help her to raise a strong character within her child, that is equipped to make the smartest (right) choices in life. I’d never even considered that parents might think of me in this way. Especially with some of the parents that I have to communicate with.
I thanked her immensely for her kind words and reconsidered my job description for a while. I’d never realised that in becoming a teacher, I was also becoming a third, sometimes forth/fifth/sixth/seventh… parent in a child’s life.
In a way, I’m thankful that I don’t have children yet, I already have 28 of them, and I do so enjoy handing them back to their rightful parents at the end of the day. I massively respect my teacher friends, who are parents and teachers. Some mornings, I’m lucky if I remember to put deodorant on (which is why I have a draw full of toiletries, just in case I do forget.) How I’ll be able to organise my life to keep on top of 28 children for 6.5 hours a day and then my own children for the rest of my waking hours, is beyond me at the moment.
And what if they do in fact turn out to be, just like his lordship? How will I cope then?
For now, I’m content with being a loved teacher, who closely resembles the mums of some of the children that I teach. When I’m not busy teaching, I can be Auntie JoJo to my delightful little nieces, even if they do orm all over me and step in dog poo from time to time. We can enjoy fun days out whilst they are young and I’ll be on standby as the safe haven for those teenage years, when their mum is not in favour.
Before I close, I’d like to give a huge shout out to all the mums (and single dads) in the world, who are trying to make it through each day. Some days are more challenging than others. As a teacher, I know that is true. One day might be quick and easy. You go to bed at night thinking you could do that day all over again. Some days seem to drag and take forever, you don’t know when, or if, it will ever end. You might only have one child who you devote every waking hour to. You might have two children who run you ragged most days, but would never change them for anything else in the world. You might have many children who tear up your house and even though your house doesn’t look perfect, your children are perfect to you. You might have a child with severe needs who requires constant care and attention. You might have misbehaving children who are constantly testing your limits. You might have children who are complete angels – in which case what is your secret?
However your children may be, remember to love them and show them how to be a decent human being. Give them attention and space when they need it. Listen to them, talk to them, sing to them, play games with them, go on adventures with them, be honest with them, read to them, learn with them. We might be their school teachers, but we only teach them for a year, sometimes two years. You are their teacher for life!
And finally, thank you to my own Mum and Dad. I know I wasn’t the perfect child growing up. I drew on the walls and door frames, (I even signed my own name so you knew it was me.) I pulled the leaves off of the plants and mopped the floor with the “wrong liquids”. I turned out okay in the end though. I know it didn’t feel like it at the time, but when you said “No,” and stood your ground, you were teaching me how to accept when things didn’t go my way. You smacked my bottom when I was naughty and grounded me for my disobedience. As a result of that, I now know how to be kind to others, to listen to others, make the right choices and be a decent human being. You took my sister and I on day trips and holidays. You forced me to go on long walks in Troodos and filmed my tantrums when I’d had enough. You even gave us a childhood abroad that not many children experience. You taught us how to care for pets, care for our loved ones, strangers and friends. You taught me how to make a decent cup of tea and a cup of coffee. You showed me how to work hard and save up for what I want. Even after a long, tiring day at work, you came home and ate dinner with us, played games with us, talked to us, read with us, kissed us goodnight and tucked us into bed. You gave me a sense of humour and the humility I need in life to laugh at myself sometimes. You let me follow my dreams and supported me through the struggles along the way. Now it is my turn to teach you patience as you wait for those grandchildren. Right now, I’m not in any hurry though, sorry about that. 😀