It was also kind of an amazing experience to step back into the role that I filled so comfortably before Millie came into our lives. I was stepping back into the same role, but I was no longer the same. I felt it most at the end of the school days. In the past, I was happy to stay at work way past when the kids left. I took solace in the quiet of the hallways and in the emptiness of the room. I did my best work there and I was fully focused on my class and the work I needed to do to prepare for the next day of teaching. But now, things are different. As the day ends, I feel this incredible joy at the thought of finishing up and heading home to my family. To my Millie. Instead of sitting down for a few hours of work at my desk, I pack up my bag and head out the door. The work will get done later at night or early the next morning. Either way, it will get done.
I realize now that being a working mother will make me no less of a teacher. A teacher who gets things done in a different way? Sure. A teacher who has to adjust some priorities? Absolutely. A teacher who will always be worried that I don't have everything done that needs to get done? Well, I was that anyway, so not much has changed in that regard. What this week has taught me is that I need to let go of doing things the way I used to do them and instead hold on to the idea of getting things done in a way that will feel good about my work at school and feel good about my work at home. I imagine that takes time to get a hold of, but I have seen glimpses of the possibility of it all this week and it gives me enough hope to quell my fears for now.
So anyway, the week was good. It was a good week to come back as the craziness of my return to school was wrapped up in the craziness of the week before spring break. It was nice to know that everyone in the entire school was a little off anyway. It was also nice to walk back into a classroom and instantly feel welcomed and loved as if I had never left. I worried that my students would be a bit like our cats and give me a bit of a cold shoulder for having left them. Turns out, children are not cats. There were absolutely no cold shoulders here. There were hugs and posters and so very much love. It was magnificent.
The highlight of the week came on Thursday when Carla and Millie made a visit to my classroom. I told the kids in the morning that they would be coming and they were beyond excited. When they walked in to the room and met Millie, they were almost in awe. They truly just stood and stared at her. Now, if you haven't been around fifth graders in a while, let me remind you that, in general, a group of twenty-one fifth graders is rarely, rarely quiet. But they were silent. They were respectful. They were curious. They were everything that is good.
Here is what struck me most of all. I walked the kids to art after they first saw Millie and Carla. As we walked down the hallway, one of the kids asked me if Carla and Millie would still be there when they got back to the classroom. Another fifth grade student who is not in our class asked one of my students, "Who are Carla and Millie." And one of my boys responded, "That's Mrs. Lifshitz's wife and baby." And that was the conversation. That was it. The boy who wasn't in my class seemed satisfied and my class walked right on to art.
In the moment, it was a small thing. When I thought about it later, it was huge. It wasn't that long ago that I was scared to come out to my coworkers, let alone my students and their parents. And now, here I am, not just talking about my family, but bringing my students right into the very heart of my family. There are conversations in the hallway, between fifth grade boys, about their female teacher's wife and the conversation is accompanied by zero laughter, no awkward looks, nothing. It was so, amazingly, normal. I am just not sure I thought that was possible. I think about these kids going out into the world beyond elementary school already armed with the knowledge that a family with two moms is not that strange. I think about the parents of my students who have been so, so happy for me and for Carla and for our family. They have never once asked me not to talk about my family in class, instead they have asked if it would be possible to have a party and if it would be possible for Carla and Millie to be there.
All of this makes me feel so very lucky. I know that there are many schools around this country where this kind of openness just wouldn't be possible. It breaks my heart to think about having to keep this immense joy a secret from my students. I don't know how I could possibly have gone through all of this and not been honest about it with the kids. But I know that there are many teachers who would have had to do just that.
When I first decided to come out to my students, several people asked me why I felt that I had to come out at all. They asked if I ever really talked about my personal life anyway with my students. And yes, there is a line between what I share with my students and what I don't. But when it comes to sharing who I am, the very person that I am, it stopped feeling okay to hide that from my students. And now. I could not have been happier that I came out a few years ago, so that when Millie entered my life it didn't have to be a secret. Having my students, their parents and my coworkers share in the joy of Millie has magnified and multiplied my joy in so many ways.
|One picture for the road.|