During a routine 4-month-old well child exam, I placed the baby on his stomach and he quickly rolled himself to his back. “Oh, I didn’t know he could do that,” his mom said with embarrassment. Moments earlier I had asked about his developmental milestones and she had denied that he could roll over. “The nanny mentioned that he could roll, but I didn’t believe her because I hadn’t seen it myself,” she admitted, realizing how silly it sounded out loud. She continued to explain: “By the time I get home from work, there aren’t many waking hours to spend with him, so sometimes I feel out of touch.” This last comment hit close to home. When I went back to work, my husband was home with my son and for months whenever we went to the pediatrician, I had him give the history about what our son ate, how much he slept, and what skills he had mastered. My time with him usually entailed breastfeeding and sleeping. Those first few months of infancy felt like bonding time was rare and I was simply a milk station, while my husband got to experience it all.
Once my son was older and awake for longer after I got home from work, we had more time to play, however it was still only about two hours a day during the week. This was nothing in comparison to the amount of time he spent with his teachers—approximately thirty-two hours a week. There were many words, skills, and songs that surprised me coming from him and I knew he must have learned them at school. While I do wish we had more time together, I am grateful that he has had such great teachers from whom to learn.
I recently ran into one of my great teachers. I first met Ms. S in middle school, when like most thirteen-year-old girls I was dealing with a lot of emotions. She taught me things about myself that my parents probably never could have simply because they were my parents and I was a teenager. While many of my classmates likely remember her only as our English teacher, she helped shape the person I am today. It is remarkable that you never know what impact a particular person will have on your life. When I saw her after all these years I was so overcome with emotions that I was crying and thanked her for teaching me to be…. I couldn’t think of the word and she finished my sentence with “…an empowered woman.” It takes one to know one, I thought.
So as I saw this mom with the rolling 4-month-old son, I gave her a sympathetic nod. Her son may not always be under her nose and she may not always know all of his accomplishments the moment that they happen. He will grow and thrive without her. This hurts our mommy core. Her son is learning and developing in the care of his nanny, the first of many teachers in his life. She is helping him grow into the boy he will become. These teachers do not replace, but rather supplement, the things your parents teach you and provide a valuable, new perspective. My reunion with Ms. S reminded me that a great teacher can make a substantial impact and can continue to inspire you decades after you leave the classroom.
**Details about this patient and family have been changed in order to protect their identity. A version of this piece was published earlier at Mommy Call.