birthday Archives - The Jose Vilson


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.


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 …


Pardon The Swag

by Jose Vilson on January 23, 2011

in Jose

Pre-Birthday Celebration at Mom's House

In celebration of my forthcoming birthday tomorrow (Monday, the 24th), I started sharing secrets to (my) life in my Facebook statuses. Here they were:

  1. Secret #1: I’m always thinking about the footprint I’d like to leave in the world, a natural part of working with kids.
  2. Secret #2: Once I became a teacher, I became more confident externally because I had to be humble internally. Thus, pardon the swag.
  3. Secret #3: I don’t like being trendy. If I’m not early on something, I wait until it’s everyone’s done “discovering” it or doing it.
  4. Secret #4: My pet peeve: People correcting other people’s grammar when they have a grammar error within 5 paragraphs of their corrections. People crack me up.
  5. For those in the know, yes, I cut the beard off. Fresh.

The responses ranged from the commonplace (“Dude stop lying to yourself. It’s in the genes.” – my brother James, re: #2) to cunning (“I believe you mean, “grammaa”, psh… jeanious.” – Noemi, re: #4) to absolutely hilarious (“Traitor! We will come to your home at night and destroy all your razors until you rejoin us!” – Sherman, re: #5).

I’d like to focus on #2 because it’s been such a transformation for me and for others who I’ve shared this with. In the few decades I’ve spent on this Earth, one thing I’m learning more than anything else is that people thrive off an outward confidence, even when they want them inwardly humble. Once we think of ourselves as winners and people who deserve the best, we can’t lose. Whether we’re in the classroom or through our lives, exuding confidence gets us through the toughest times. That sort of energy carries me through the most difficult situations.

Much of it is built upon the backs of my family and friends, even the ones who don’t think they matter, and I thank you for that. (Yes, you.) Yet, even in the midst of the dreariest silence, when I felt no one was around, I kept trudging through the murk and the foot-deep snow, it was the confidence that gave me that extra tonic in my flask. It kept me pushing along.

Thus, pardon the swag.

Jose, who is taking inquiries for guest posting …