I realized recently that it’s been awhile since I’ve been “new” at something.
I mean, day-to-day life as a mom is made up of stuff that pretty much remains the same – laundry, making dinner, picking up legos, wiping the backs of toilet seats.
Being “new” at something, particularly in classroom-style learning, with a formal teacher and a room full of peers? It’s been a while for me.
Of course, I have memories of being in school and in a classroom. I think I do okay at sympathizing with my son on the rare occasions that he actually tells me about school. But mostly I find myself brushing off the talk of the day to focus on what’s coming up and what needs to be done.
It wasn’t until I recently found myself in a classroom setting, that I finally started weeding the overgrown part of my brain that could really empathize again with that style of classroom learning.
Why we parents need to keep learning new sh*t
To be clear, when I say it’s been a while since I’ve learned something “new,” I’m not talking about going to a work conference. I’m also not talking about a 2-hour CEU course, youtube video on a DIY project, or reading a parenting book. (Though, of course, these are all helpful things.)
I’m talking about learning something in a class that meets at least weekly, on a subject that’s actually new to me.
I’m talking about sitting shoulder to shoulder with a small room full of people I don’t know. Being taught by a teacher standing at the front of the room.
Thank goodness I had this chance at 30-something-years-old.
Why is this style of learning important as a parent? Because (at least for me) there was a near instant recall that washed over me. All the stress, anxiety, joy, boredom and a million other emotions that I had forgotten about came flooding back just from being in a classroom. As a student.
Emotions, I realize, my son feels daily.
But he doesn’t always have the language to talk about it.
On being a student
It was a semester-long course. I learned a ton.
And I don’t mean from the teacher. I mean from the actual experience of being a classroom student again.
Here’s what it was like for me. For 12 weeks, I got to remember what it was like…
- To feel new, confused, not know where the heck I was going.
- To walk in late and have everyone look at me.
- To feel prepared for class.
- To feel completely unprepared for class.
- To have to take time away from something else to have to work on stuff for class.
- To not know the answer when the teacher asked me a question.
- To know the answer to the question and totally nail it!
- To work hard at something that’s new to me.
- To long for the feeling of connection, to make a friend, or to just have someone to sit with and talk to at the breaks.
- To feel the need for a little need reassurance. Someone to say “you’re doing okay” or “you’re on the right track” or “wow, I can see you’ve been working really hard at this. Good for you!”
That’s nice. So where’s the magic in remembering that?
Those takeaways are all fine and dandy. Good for me for taking a little trip down memory lane, right?
But here’s the real magic.
What if I take that whole list of how “I got to remember” and insert my perspective as a parent instead of as a student.
What if I take a moment and realize that all 10 of these things are how my son is feeling every single day he’s at school today?
The list looks a bit different now, and empathy has suddenly hit a new level. When he comes home and I want hear more about his day, I can open the door to our conversation with less brushing things off and more conversation starters like:
- I know what it’s like to feel new, confused, not know where to go exactly … is that something you felt today?
- It was so embarrassing to walk in late and have everyone look at me… has that ever happened to you?
- How proud you must’ve felt being so prepared for class today… I love that feeling!
- Ugh. Doesn’t it stink to feel unprepared for class… like you just want to crawl in a hole, right?
- I know how it feels to have to take time away from something else to have to work on stuff for class… sure wish I could just do what I want!
- When the teacher asks a question and you don’t know the answer… that’s the worst!
- When you get called on, know the answer and totally nail it!… best feeling, right?
- Feels so great to work hard at something that’s new… it can be tough, but it’s totally worth it.
- I know how important it is to feel connected, make a friend, or just have someone to sit with… because goodness it can feel lonely sometimes. Do you ever feel like that?
- Sometimes I just need reassurance. Someone to say “you’re doing okay” or “you’re on the right track” or “wow, I can see you’ve been working really hard at this. Good for you!” …and these are the things I want to say to you, buddy.
Now, if you’ll excuse me while I skip the laundry tonight, go have a talk with my son, and then get to class! 🙂