I suspect that I am pretty good with kids because I have a wonderful memory for the past. Please don’t ask me why I have just walked into a room, or what story I just told you, but I do remember the past.
Very, very clearly.
I remember being nine years old, in the fourth grade. I was working on a project, as were all of my classmates. My teacher, Miss Carroll, asked me to help a group of boys as they tried to create some kind of poster/diorama/picture/who-knows-what. She said, “I think it needs a woman’s touch.” I remember the shock and thrill of being referred to as a “woman”. I remember having the sudden sweet realization that there was a difference between me and those boys, and that the difference gave me a kind of superior power. I don’t remember the project, or whether I really helped; I do remember the sense of belonging and strength that rushed through me with her words.
I remember being in the sixth grade, learning about math. I remember the feeling of warmth and security that I felt in our classroom, with all of the lights blazing while the Autumn day outside rained down on the cold, dark woods beyond the schoolyard. I remember looking around the classroom at my friends, and feeling the happiness of belonging. I remember my handsome, charming teacher, leaning against the blackboard and twirling a watch on a chain as he waited for us to solve the problem.
I remember clearly what it felt like to be 16 years old, sitting outside, very late on an early summer night. The full moon had risen through the mist, and hung above the trees, heavy and golden and bursting with promise. I felt my heart beat and my blood race as I sat outside on the lawn, alone in the quiet neighborhood, the only one to be breathing in the moonbeams. I remember how deeply I believed that the moon was calling me to my future. I remember the feel of the moonlight on my skin. I do!
I remember what it felt like to be newly in love, to be planning my future, to be picturing my children.
I remember the drama, the struggles, the little victories of childhood. Will she invite me to the party? Does he LIKE me, or only like me? Can I make the team, get the role, get an A? Are these pants too long, too short, too bright, too clean, too dirty, too loose, too tight?
I remember the soaring joy that came with a moment of recognition by the cool kids. I remember the ripping pain of “slam books”.
So when I think of my children, and my students, I can put myself (at least a bit) in their new and unscuffed shoes. When I watch the effortlessly popular kids in my classroom joke and jostle and exchange secret smiles, my heart reaches out to the kids who are not in that circle.