I know mornings are hard. Your children don't want to leave you when you bring them to me. It's just as hard back for you, I see it in your eyes when they take my hand and you leave for your day. Please trust me when I tell you, thank you for allowing me to be the one to care for your children.
I leave the house by 7 a.m. every day to be at school on time so I can spend my mornings with your 3- and 4-year-olds. This means I'm in a rush, too. Sure, I set things up the night before, but even with the breakfast bowl I leave out for my oatmeal and the coffee pre-measured into the coffeemaker, I still end up sliding through the house because we all know that time bends on the short side with mornings. I look for my boots. I shout out for my gloves. I call out to my purse. I hunt down my car keys that like to hide on me.
Just before I open the back door and head into the garage, I stop for three seconds to check myself in the mirror. Any yogurt drips on my chin? Any hairs that need to be pressed down? How about that top I'm wearing, does it maybe dip down a little bit too much when I bend over to help them cut their papers?
I don't spend much time looking at my face. I've stared at it for decades and know just what there is to see: circles under my eyes, stubborn grey hairs that won't stay spit-down, and lips begging for some moisturizing care. I give myself a once over, and even though I look like I need two more hours of sleep, I'll just have to do.
I am at work by the time I am supposed to be, and when I walk in, my kids are waiting for me.
I call them my kids, but they're your beautiful 3- and 4-year-olds who rush up to ask me their important questions.
"Teacher, do you drive?"
"Did you go trick or treating?"
"Do you dance in the shower?"
"Have you ever been a mom?"
This is what they want to know, and when they ask me, it's with eyes set to my face, with eyes that don't blink until they hear me answer.
"Yes, I do drive. It's how I got here to take care of you."
"Trick or treating? I do it inside my house, WITH MY SON'S CANDY!"
"I do not dance in the shower. Because I am careful. Like you should be too. So never dance in the shower!"
"I have been a mom. Three times!"
I used to wonder why they asked me the things they did, until a moment of white hot illumination where I could see just what it was that they really wanted to know.
"Are you old or young, teacher, are you old or young? We can't tell."
I laugh, but want to ask my own questions back. "You can't tell?" I can't help but giggle because I think how I certainly can, and I remember my reflection from just this morning as I passed through my back hallway.
But they can't tell because they don't see me with the tired eyes of time, of so many years spent on this earth. Their eyes, barely over a thousand days old.
I look from where I am, standing feet above them. I see eyes as clear as a winter night looking up to me. They shout over each other.
"Teacher, did you have marshmallows in your oatmeal today?"
"Did you remember to wear the same color socks again?"
"I hope your mom packed you a brownie today, like mine."
I tell them that yes and how did they know, that I did have marshmallows in my oatmeal, and my socks are the same color but two different kinds, and that sadly-though it's taken me awhile but on some days I'm almost OK about it-but I don't have a mom to pack me a brownie.
My last answer gets a gasp from them.
They are young, and though you are their first love, they love me in your absence. And I am grateful.
I am the woman who takes care of them, and in our mornings together, I forget about the mirror by the back door at home.
The mirror that forgets to ask if I danced in the shower that morning. The mirror that doesn't see me the way your children do.
Thank you for sharing your children with me.