I had a widow moment with the kids in my class yesterday. Before I explain, let me give you the (extended) back story. The kids in my class now know I am a widow. They don’t know it in any personal, heart-wrenching way like people close to me do. They just know the bare facts: I was married and he died. I have always kept my personal life out of my teaching and have always chosen to share very little with my students. This intensified after Mike died because I didn’t think I could keep it together emotionally as they asked their million questions, I liked work as my space to focus on something other than grief and I didn’t want any backlash from parents for potentially traumatizing their child.
Regardless, curious 6, 7, and 8 year olds always seem to want to know, “are you married!?” I generally just avoided the question for the first (almost) 2 years but up until this September I was teaching many classes’ physical education and special education so it was easier to avoid. Now I have a group of 21 inquisitive grade one and two students every day who want to know about me. So a while back after being asked (again), “are you married?” I matter of factly stated that I was married but he died. I wasn’t emotional about it and I answered (some) of their follow-up questions and averted when needed. Anyways, the point is they know I’m widowed and they’re mildly concerned for my future (“will you get a boyfriend?” “how will you get a baby?” “why didn’t your husband leave you a baby” “will you marry someone else?” “will you get a baby then?”) in a kid way.
Now jump to yesterday. I am hatching chickens with my class. We have 7 eggs in an incubator in our classroom and are patiently caring and waiting for them to hatch in 21 days. I’m loving it and so are they. They are full of questions and we’re researching and discussing constantly. One of the questions a child had was why do some eggs have chicks growing in them and are not okay for humans to eat and some eggs do not have chicks in them and can be eaten by humans. Why are they different? So we read books, used kid-friendly research sites and found our answer. We’re discussing how a healthy hen will lay an egg every day. If there is no male, the hen still lays an egg but there is nothing in it to hatch. These are the eggs people eat. However, if the female hen mated with a male rooster the egg could contain the start of a growing chick. The kids are fascinated. One kid raises their hand and shares that it is similar to humans because there has to be a male and a female to make a human baby. Other possible viewpoints aside, I agree. Another child eagerly raises her hand. I call on her and she says, “And that’s why YOU don’t have a baby! Male died!”
I’m at a place now that this did not crush me. I just hung my head for a second and laughed. She didn’t mean any harm in it. Truth be told, if Mike was still alive or even alive for a little while longer, we (or I) probably would have a baby by now. We had wanted kids and thought it would be soon. I had pictured myself being a mom with him before 30. Now, before you go thinking, “you’re still young; you can still have one,” please just stop. If that is what you are thinking then you are completely missing the point. The point is it’s not about kids; it’s about Mike. It’s never been that I’ve desperately wanted to be a mom or have kids. What I wanted was a family with Mike. I wanted to have kids with him; to be a family and raise them together. It’s annoying and insensitive that people think that they are offering a solution to a “problem” by suggesting that I can just have kids in the future. As if that fixes anything for me. It does not. It just makes me mad that it’s suggested that way. People are not replaceable. My old life and dreams with Mike are not to just be substituted into a new situation like some kind of messed up fill in the blanks. Like I temporarily got sidetracked and now I just need to get back on the set life path for all to be well. The possibility of having kids with someone else does not change the fact that I can never have kids or the family I thought I would have with Mike.
So yes, that student in my class was technically right about the reason I don’t have a baby right now. This hypothetical baby with Mike disappeared when Mike died. That will never change and will be the life I never got to live with him. I can think of it but I also let it go. That is not my life anymore. I am not looking to recreate that life. I’m looking to live the life I’m in now. I may still be young but I’m not concerned about a series of milestones, motherhood included, that I “should” achieve. That limits me from enjoying where I am now. In the here and now I intend to live this weird, broken but wonderful life…without kids.