Does your heart have feet?

Last year, the headmaster ended our first faculty meeting with this thought:

“Making a decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” — Elizabeth Stone

“When you meet with parents to talk about their children,” he said, “remember that you are talking about their heart.”

We conduct a set of parent-teacher conferences before school begins — a chance for the teacher to simply listen as parents talk about their children. I like these meetings. Future get togethers will likely center on my reflections about a student — homework habits, test score analyses, social interactions. As if the parents haven’t been living and breathing these children for twelve years . . .

Last week in Relief Society someone lamented that today’s parents didn’t put family first. This is my ninth year of teaching — one year inner city public, five years middle/lower-middle class public, three years wealthy independent. With only two exceptions, each parent I have met has truly madly deeply loved his/her child. (And with those two fathers — men I had to report for abuse — well, they had wives whose love was painfully deep even as their selves were painfully weak.) It’s good for me to remember this when my inbox is filled with message after message from anxious parents.

My best to all parents as you send your child off for another year. And thank you for your wild devotion to your children, in all its stripes and ilks.


(And the subject of maternal love, this article appeared just after I posted this week’s Oases — but it is one of the more lovely entries I’ve read in recent weeks. Do yourself a favor . . .)


Deborah is K-12 educator who nurtures a healthy interest in reading, writing, running, ethics, mystics, and interfaith dialogue.

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  1. Ana says:

    Deborah, you sound like a teacher I’d love to have for my children. My boys are the kind of boys that make calls from the school a frequent and unfavorite experience for me. But this year’s teacher is a lot more sensitive than last year’s about discussing the intricate challenges of coping with my “heart.” It makes a huge difference.

  2. Deborah says:

    Ana: I have a empire size soft spot for, um, “needy” boys — those for whom the inherent structure of schools is at times at odds with the needs of their minds and bodies. I hope your boys have a good year (“good” has such a broad range of interpretation — such as the parent who says, “Wow, My child doesn’t *completely* hate school anymore.”)

  3. sarah says:

    Thanks Deb. Parenting is both beautiful and heartbreaking. I indeed feel as if my heart is no longer my own. I’ve never worried so much in my life! And like you said, most parents I know love their children fiercely and would do anything to improve their lives.

    I don’t think parents today are much different from parents in the past — some are bad eggs — very bad eggs! but the majority are trying their best to raise good families. What evidence did your RS teacher give that parents today don’t put families first? My daughter goes to a Title I school, mostly with kids whose parents are immigrants — mostly illegal. Many of these parents work 2-3 jobs, and many of the kids’ homes consist of several families living together in a small apartment. It is a tough group of kids, many with siblings in gangs. Yet, at EVERY school event, there are HUNDREDS of parents/family members in attendence. You can barely walk through the halls, and parking is insane. These parents are there to support EVERY event, even the fundraisers, which require them to spend hard-earned money that they don’t have much of. The same held true at my daughter’s old school in MA, where the majority of parents were upper middle class with stay-at-home moms. I think people too often jump to generalizations about parents — particularly when the mother works outside the home. What I’d like is proof that parents care less nowadays. I have a hard time believing it.

  4. jana says:

    In an Education class that I took recently, the professor worked hard to debunk the myth that parents of children who are ‘minorities’ or who are poor, don’t care about their children’s education. It just isn’t true! There are many barriers to kids from low socioeconomic situations to getting a good education, but rarely is lack of parental support the biggest factor.

  5. Caroline says:

    Deborah, reading about your experiences teaching middle school kids makes me yearn a bit to teach that age group. It sounds like you have so many opportunities to interact meaningfully with both students and parents. I don’t feel like I do so much of that with my high school sophomores.

  6. Deborah says:

    Caroline: Try seventh grade — really! I have yet to find a grade with such an intruiging mix of adult sensibilities, burgeoning intellect, and child-like desire to have adults like them. Yeah, I know everybody hated BEING in seventh grade — but it’s a great grade to TEACH.

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