Alejandro is six years old today.
Teaching up to that point felt like an exercise in organizing students who were mine, but not mine. I had each of them in 90-minute segments with 29 other kids to keep an eye on. Though I cared for them, I used words like “daughters” and “sons” too loosely. Part of it came from the way I felt so invested in them. Another part of it was my students’ insistence on treating me like a surrogate father. At that point, I had taught hundreds of students over the course of my career and thought to myself, “If I ever have my own child, I’m gonna slide right into fatherhood.”
W-w-well, yes and no. On the one hand, I wasn’t ready for the long nights without sleep, the constant cries as alarms, the automatic measurement of ounces and cups, the best techniques for swaddling and his creative unraveling of the wrap, the rocking back and forth until it shut both of our eyes, and the balancing act between this new element and all the other elements already in my life. On the other hand, I remember being in the gynecologist office with Luz, who, upon arrival, handed me a set of magazines and said, “Get to reading!” with a mischievous grin.
Teaching taught me how to parent in the way my father and stepfather could never get themselves to do.
In the Latinx culture, we “celebrate” all 12 days of Christmas. Three Kings Day gets a passing acknowledgment by Catholics, but when I visited Santo Domingo during Christmas as I was wont to do. In America, my family and I didn’t have the means to celebrate the last day of Christmas with any consistency. Alejandro’s birth brought that back for me. He sparked a warmth in me that I must have lost somewhere, eroded by the environments and interactions around me. He forced me to rethink my principles and plant both feet firmly in them. While I get my students for 45 minutes at a time these days, I have Alejandro on my mind 24/7.
Oh, and he’s way above grade level in school. They say he’s gifted, but he keeps gifting me with revelations and affection.
I can’t pretend we haven’t had rough patches either. Tantrums haven’t been specific to truisms about terrible twos and threes. He’s had a couple of weeks where I wondered if he’d ever wake up from his flu-induced slumber. He has parents with new visions for parenting, so everyone has had to adjust to how he chooses to greet them. Or not. He has routines he prefers not to break, and obsession around Cars, Thomas the Tank Engine, and Sesame Street that the socialist in me winces about from time to time.
Luz and I love telling Alejandro how much we love him. We get nervous at the prospect of him ingesting negative influences at school, but, as educators, we’ve learned not to micromanage his every move, but to give him approaches and hope he learns from that point forward.
I already love him more than I thought I ever could. Maybe he’ll teach me how much more love I have in me. There’s one love, one life, and he’s my only king.