This past winter an amazing opportunity practically fell out of the sky with a gilded parachute and landed smack in my arms. Pure kismet. It was an opportunity to teach art full time at a wonderful top ranked private school. A few days before the interview I was having a conversation with my 7 year old son, and I can’t remember the topic or how this came about but he says to me out the blue…
“Mommy. You should be an art teacher.”
Really? You think so?
“Yes. You should. Promise you’ll try to be an art teacher?”
Yes, I promise.
After interviews and an offer and accepting the offer, I was so excited to pick him up from school that day.
Remember when you told me to become an art teacher?
I GOT A NEW JOB AS AN ART TEACHER!
“YIPPPEEEE!!! That was my idea! I knew it was a good idea!”
Many months later I am fulfilling that promise as I have finished up the first month of teaching. And I think of how proud my son is of me. So here’s the thing. For a long time I put aside what I wanted to do. I wanted to teach. I’ve always wanted to teach. But art teaching opportunities were few and far between, schools cut budgets, I DID NOT want to go back to school to get certified to teach in public schools with no real guarantee of a job, and with a child and a divorce I needed to re-plan. I came up with a Plan X. Plan X was good, I loved Plan X. I would have been totally happy with Plan X. Plan X wasn’t necessarily in the arts. Plan X didn’t involve teaching. Plan X had me going back to school anyway. But Plan X was sustainable and fulfilling and opened up a whole new world of ideas and opportunities.
I think my son was calling bullshit on Plan X. When he was telling me to become an art teacher, he was also saying “Hey. Be an art teacher so I know I never have to settle. Even if you are settling for something that’s really good. But l want to see in you that if Plan A is still in your heart then Plan A is what WE are going for.”
I started to think about the subtle messages we send our children, or at least the messages I realize I am sending to my child. I have a terrible fear of failure. I am sometimes full of anxiety about new experiences and venturing into the unknown. I am constantly telling him “NO” or “GET DOWN FROM THERE” or “YOU’RE GONNA CRACK YOUR HEAD OPEN, STOP THAT.” Risk adverse. I found a quote on Pinterest that reads “If you are not willing to look stupid, nothing great is ever going to happen to you.” I am trying to say “YES” more often.
You gonna climb that steep embankment with all the pointy jagged stabby looking rocks… Ok, be careful, yell if you want me to help you. Dinner at Panera instead of me cooking the nice night-before-the-first-day-of-school meal that I had planned… Sure, why not then we can have more time to hang out just you and me. You’re going off to the rope swing out in the woods just behind those trees… Well put on some bug spray first.
I want my son to know that I think he has wonderful ideas, that he is capable of doing so many things, and that CAN’T or CANNOT should not be in his vocabulary. Be practical, sure, but also be dreamy eyed. Be fulfilled. On the first day of teaching I sent my art students outside to draw and as I saw them sitting under sun dappled trees with sketchbooks and pencils, I felt full. And I thought yeah, this was a great idea. Glad we went for it.
Kiddo and I celebrating with smoothies the week before school starts for both of us.