John Lennon with Sean

A Dozen of One, a Half Dozen of the Other [On Parenting and Teaching]

Jose 7 Comments

John Lennon with Sean

Before my 25th birthday, I thought to myself how much I’d like to have my own son. The closer I got to finishing my 2nd year of teaching, the more I wanted to have a little nugget to teach the ways of this Vilson. My son started appearing in my dreams in different forms. My nephew Jaiden. My godson Josiah. My boss’ babies. My fiancee’s nephew Brandon. The first baby I ever volunteered for at New York Hospital. The brown boy on the bus who ran out of candy. The two kids I told to stop fighting on the train when no one else would.

The kids I had in my own classroom.

There’s a difference between having 30 children for 50 minutes a period at around 3-5 periods a day for 180 days and having one child to dedicate their entire life to? Now with Alejandro, I see what the sages in my hallway kept telling me about feeling the difference. The profession invites people to make families with the way it’s set up (go unions!), but it also makes all of our biological clocks start ticking.

Rather, knocking.

Hard.

Plus, the kids I’ve treated like my sons and daughters at the school only made me want to be a father that much more. Unlike parenting, whenever I didn’t have a good day with the kid, I can just give them back to their parents or, last resort, pass them along to the dean. I don’t have to worry about where the child’s next meal’s coming from, if they’re getting enough naps during the day, or I’ve swaddled the kid tight enough for them to get to sleep. My schedule with the child has already been pre-determined and all I have to worry is about the 10 – 15 minutes I deliver the lesson with the other time reserved for classwork, reflection, and conclusions. Few teachers ever have to deal with one student at a time; it’s usually one or two students out of 30 that wasn’t as well-behaved as the others. I’ll get mad, annoyed, vexed, sad, then shrug it off for the next task at hand.

Plus, once I’m done with teaching for the day, I’ve learned to not bring whatever I felt in school about them back home.

Now, that’s even more critical because there’s the child I do have to worry about all those things and then some. When I get home, I throw the trash out, get Luz apple juice with ice in her plastic Yankee cup, pause a bit for dinner and Pardon the Interruption, then feed him formula and let him and his mother take an extended nap. He nurses every three hours. He gets his diaper changed about 8 – 12 times a day. He goes through a dozen facial expressions before ripping a new one in his newly placed pamper. He’s got his mom and dad changing the words of our favorite songs to accommodate his need to sleep to them. He’s the sweetest, most adorable little boy I know and I hate looking at pictures of him at work because when I do, it clenches my throat.

Don’t trust my smile, though. We put in lots of work and the rings around our eyes aren’t shiners we got at the bar.

But he has an excuse: he’s a baby. If the kids in my class ever pulled any of this crap on me, they’d get one phone call and a lecture from me about the merits of not playing Call of Duty ’til the wee hours of the morning.

Before my 30th birthday comes on the 24th, I’d like to think my soul was a lot older my birth certificate showed. Teaching pushes the passionate ones to accelerate the aging process. Parenting might put an exponent on the speed of everything. And that’s OK. Nothing matters more than seeing the fruits of my labor take incremental steps towards adulthood, whether they graduate this June or for many Junes to come.

Jose, who watched The Giants with his son all day yesterday, and very quietly screamed when they won …

About Jose Vilson

José Luis Vilson is a math educator, blogger, speaker, and activist. For more of my writing, buy my book This Is Not A Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education, on sale now.

Jose VilsonA Dozen of One, a Half Dozen of the Other [On Parenting and Teaching]

Comments 7

  1. Jen Melrose

    This was very well written and clearly straight from the heart. I’ve been following you since the beginning of the school year and I’m glad to see that fatherhood is treating you well. I teach in Poughkeepsie, NY and I’m extremely interested to see how other schools strive to meet the needs of their students. I also have a daughter and remember her infancy like it was yesterday. Believe me when I say it gets easier. Good luck!

  2. Indira

    Beautifully written. I am so proud of you and very happy to know that you finally have what you’ve been dreaming of (literally). I know you are and will forever be an amazing father, not because you have to be but because it has always been part of who you are. Enjoy every second, even the ones that drive you crazy. Happy birthday again, MUAH!

  3. Carrie Kamm

    Oh Jose, I got a bit teary when I read this because there is nothing like being a parent. Now when I see our smallest students fidgeting in line or crying because someone said something unkind about their drawing, I immediately picture my own children in school. There are not many things that give me anxiety, but the thought of my children in school does. I know I will get over that in time. Parenthood has given me a perspective about my former students that I’m not sure I had before. Although I always knew my students were someone’s children, I know I did not understand or appreciate that in the same way. I am so happy for you and Luz!

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  5. nina

    Congratulations on your little boy. I just found your blog and I just had baby #2 of my own. It’s so important to have a voice like yours in the blogosphere.

    My husband teaches and, since having kids, I think it is becoming more difficult for him to work the long hours of an urban teacher. Good luck to you as you continue your journey of parenthood and teacher-hood. Also, make sure to tell your wife, “Thank you.” :)

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