How an Unexpected Class Change Helped This Mom Reconnect With Her Teen

05/13/2015 12:10 pm ET | Updated May 13, 2016
Kathy Radigan

Last August, my son Tom and I walked out of his counselor's office happy that he got every class and teacher he wanted for his sophomore year in high school. He even got into a film class, which he was really excited about.

Our joy was short-lived, though, when school started two weeks later, and it turned out that his second period class was not the right section of Spanish. He already met his foreign language requirement and was only taking the class as an elective, and it seemed the easiest choice was to just find another one. Unfortunately, the only class available at that time slot was Early Childhood Education.

The class was far from Tom's first choice, but he decided that being the only guy in a class of all girls was not going to be too painful. The students worked with young children three days a week, and I thought it might give him a chance to see if a career in teaching was something that might interest him.

What neither one of us expected was that this course would help bridge a gap that had started to develop between us.

Tom and I had always enjoyed a special relationship, but for the last year that was changing. Now that he was in high school, we didn't seem to have much to talk about anymore. He was often busy and stressed out with classes. Every free moment he had he wanted to spend with his friends. My once-welcomed questions about his day were often met with a one word answer of, fine. We were frequently getting into arguments. Even though I knew this was perfectly normal, I missed the son I used to know.

As the year progressed, I noticed that Tom was becoming more eager to tell me about his day with the 3-year-olds. I loved hearing stories about the funny things the kids said and did. I also saw that my son was enjoying the positive feedback he was getting from his teacher and the other students. It turns out that he had a real gift with the kids.

My favorite part of this class was that Tom got a small taste of what it's like to be responsible for small children.This was illustrated when he came into the door one day, looking completely wiped out.

"Oh, mom the kids were crazy today. Just nuts. I'm completely exhausted." This was said as he dramatically dropped onto the sofa.

"Tom, the class is in the morning, You are still feeling the effects? What happened?" I couldn't help but giggle at his tone and expression.

"Well, as soon as I walked into class, the teacher grabbed me and told me that my buddy was crying outside and refusing to come in. So I had to go out and help get him into the classroom."

"He came in for you?"

"Well, yes, but it wasn't easy. He was really sad and it took him about 10 minutes to calm down. Then I finally got him settled and to the table for craft time when one of the little girls just throws up all over the table. No warning or anything. I mean she was just sitting there, looking fine, and then all of sudden she was puking all over the place."

"Oh no." We are now both laughing at his story.

"So, then we had to get all of the kids away from the craft table and to another activity while the teacher cleaned up. Mom, it was just insane. I mean you can't even imagine how crazy it was."

"No. I can't. Imagine a kid getting sick and having to take care of other children at the same time. Wow." This was said in my most sarcastic tone.

"After all Tom, I never had to deal with that."

He looked at me and started to laugh.

"Well maybe you do know something about this."

"Thanks, Tom."

As the year went on, I saw him develop lesson plans and create games for the kids. We would talk about different learning theories he was being taught, what child threw a tantrum or what his teacher told the class they could try next time it happened.

My son was entering a bit of my world. Children and education have always been something that has keenly interested me. I love that I have had the opportunity to be home with my kids, and before the writing bug got me, had seriously considered going back to school to become a teacher. Wouldn't it be great if Tom decided teaching was the career for him?

As it turned out, the film class he took this year was really what sparked his imagination and became his true passion. Next year all of his electives will be centered around this, and he won't have time for any more education classes.

I am thrilled that, just like me, Tom has found something that he really loves. And I am looking forward to hearing all about his film classes and what he is learning and discovering. But I will always be grateful for the class that brought the two of us a little closer together at a time when it was so easy to grow apart.

This piece was originally published on My dishwasher's possessed!