I have to tell you something. Given your lack of experience, I think this week without Mom has gone WWAAAYYYYY better than I expected.”
- my son Evan, age 7
For the past five days, my wife has been on a well-deserved and long overdue vacation, renewing and reconnecting with some old college friends.
Me? I am in charge, BABY! Yep, that’s right. Thanks to yours truly, for the better part of 125 hours, the kids have been fed, bathed, supervised and well cared for... Mostly.
Sure, Leah (my wife), did the easy stuff like plan the meals, grocery shop, set up the carpool, fold the laundry, prep the lunches, and write a six day minute by minute itinerary/manifesto, but let’s be clear, when it comes to parenting, I am doing the HEAVY lifting here! And yes BTW, ice cream is TOTALLY a meal. Look at the ingredients: eggs, milk, chicken, spinach, and pepperoni. I didn’t say it was a good meal, but all the fundamentals are there and at least three of the eleven basic food groups.
They say it takes a village to raise a child, and they must be right, because my wife’s village checks on me constantly. They text, call, and swing by at random times asking things like "Do you need any help?" or "Just need a break?", or "Is that really spinach and pepperoni in that ice cream?” Yup, nailed it!
They try and disguise it being supportive, but something tells me the village doesn’t think I am up to the challenge. Please… I GOT THIS! It’s not like it takes a rocket scientist to memorize the Dominoes phone number. They even offer salads now (although we didn’t order them).
Like many of your households, my days and nights are filled with equal parts chaos, cacophony, laughter, and tears (the kids are laughing at me as I cry). Even though we only have two kids, the amount of things we have to do and places we have to be often has me feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. I don’t know how single parents do it. I TRULY don’t. Listen, I don’t care about race, creed, religion, gender, or age, I just think parenting is easier when you’re not alone. Yes, more and more parents are HAVING to do it by themselves, but I doubt they are WANTING to do it by themselves.
I feel the same way about being a music teacher.
Your day is filled with hundreds of children who need your love, guidance, support and attention. You are an educator, counselor, hall monitor, program director, and general sherpa to all things student related. You're tired, frazzled, and frustrated. There aren't enough hours in the day and too much to get done. And yet, because a child depends on you, you find a will and a way to muster through it. On many levels, and to many of your kids… You are the second parent.
It doesn’t go un-noticed or appreciated either. I am lucky enough to have kids reach out to me decades later, just to say, "Mr. Lang, THANK YOU (but your ice cream is terrible)."
You did it yesterday, you did it today, and will do it again tomorrow. You do it because you both WANT and HAVE to. But it wasn’t always that way.
Traditionally speaking, music programs were once populated by teaching TEAMS that divided and conquered in a way that is becoming more and more rare. Budget cuts and increased academic requirements have forced music teachers to take on more with less help. Yes, for the large majority of America, “single teaching” is not something we WANT to do, but is something we HAVE to do. You are doing it now, and you are killing it! You know that band is more than an elective. It is a way of life, and that is why we do it every single day.
But what about our village? If a takes one to raise a child, it certainly takes one to teach them. Where are the colleagues reaching out and checking in? Where are the random texts and phone calls with well wishes? Where is the support? WHERE DID OUR VILLAGE GO? Mine is fixing dinner for my kids, I pray!
Yes, I have a village there for me, because my wife has been a there for them. She is as much a part of their lives as they are a part of ours. Me, not so much… But that needs to change. I need to and should do more... FOR YOU!
I want to be there for your good days and bad: celebrations and frustrations. I want you to text, call, email, or send smoke signals. I want you to email me back after I email you. I want you to let me help you, so when I need help, I won’t feel so shallow. I want more… I want to be a part of your village. Can I? After all, I need it as the last five days have proven that I’m not very good on my own.
Now if you will excuse me. I have to go find the dog who has been missing for four days. Hey, at least it's not one of the kids!
p.s. Leah, if you are reading this, Brayden says if you don’t come home soon he will need expensive therapy.
p.p.s. I also realize that you do this weekly while I am traveling about the country, but let's not make this about you.
p.p.p.s. We are somehow totally out of spinach and pepperoni again.