To The Child-Free College Student Who Felt The Need To State The Obvious...

Today, my daughter came to class with me.
07/13/2016 11:56 am ET Updated Feb 13, 2017

First, let me start by saying…I loved your hair today. It looked beautiful. Like one of those Pantene commercials you see with the celebrities twirling their heads around. Your head looked…twirly. That must have taken hours this morning, In between deciding on which Victoria’s Secret Pink sweats to match your berry-infused water with, and which of the 50 shades of mint polish you should put on your pretty nails. I don’t envy the multitude of decisions and responsibility you have to your self-care, it has to be draining to have all of that free time for things to “air dry.”

Secondly, to your pointed statement (in front of my daughter) about college “not being a daycare,” You’re right. Because at daycare, people leave their children, and go to work…or college…without them. Thank you also, for taking us back 10 years. It’s called “child-care” now…and as you pointed out, I had none.

Today was a challenge. Today, I chose reality (well, it chose me first). But today, I chose to embrace it the best I could instead of slumping away in shame over being seated in a college lecture with my daughter by my side, or making excuses for her presence to you.

I could tell you the initial reason why she sat next to me in class QUIETLY watching “Gnomeo and Juliet,” and doodling, but having nowhere else for her to go (school closed, two babysitters fell through), is obviously too obvious for you.

Understandably, to your apparent childless life, it won’t make sense anyway. The next few reasons won’t either…but someday, when you’re a mother, or maybe when you’re an actual grown-up, and an imperfect one (like us all), you’ll understand that it really wasn’t my desire to impede on your right to learn with adults only. In fact, this had nothing to do with you.

See, it’s just me and two amazing kiddos kicking butt in life, by the way. After several successful years in retail, I made the choice to continue to pursue my master’s degree. Crazy, right? Single mom, moves to college town with a 10-year-old and 4-year-old to get an education?

I am a full-time student, I work, have a home, and children to care for 24/7. I have no help, am not on any type of financial aid or public assistance, and I work hard for our livelihood, great schools for the kiddos, and my degree.

I don’t expect you to understand the weight or reality of that, except that, life isn’t perfect, and no day has certainty. Priorities and timelines have changed, and it is generally a “go with the flow” environment in our world. It is hard. We struggle.

And every day when I drop them off, or kiss them goodbye, I have to tell myself that the challenges we face are a temporary, but fruitful choice motivated by being better, providing more for our lives, and positively impacting the world.

I also remind myself how fortunate I am to have the opportunity for education, to have employment, and to have a safe place for them to be when I cannot be with them.

But today, I’m the safe place. The go with the flow option, is me. And you know what? That is OK.

Today, my daughter came to class with me.

She was blown away by the size of the school, intimidated by the amount of people pouring into the lecture hall, and stared anxiously at the professor’s booming voice that began our class. I have to say…I know the feeling.

That has been my emotion since I came back to school after years of being away, and especially today with the schedule challenge of priority and responsibility balance.

What she saw next though, seemed to comfort her, and put me right in my place. She saw me sit next to her with pride, including her in this big girl experience of college lecture without hesitation. She saw me asking questions when no one else was, she saw me answering questions, she saw me taking notes, nodding my head in understanding, getting something wrong and figuring out the right way to do things.

She saw my desire to learn, she saw me learning, and simultaneously parenting her through a nosebleed incident, regardless of the looks or whispers. She saw me…trying.

She put down her iPad, and asked for paper to write on, and began to scribble the way I was. She began to draw her versions of the diagrams I had drawn ― she began to mimic everything I was doing.

Suddenly it became obvious that this experience was bigger than just a schedule challenge and flow management tactic. This was an impactful and empowering moment for us both. It didn’t matter that her school was closed today, sitters flaked, or that I initially had some serious anxiety and failure feelings about having to bring her to class.

What mattered was that she GOT to come, and I GOT to have her there and we embraced it. What mattered was that today, she got to see what her mommy is working so hard for. She got to experience where I go when I kiss her goodbye five days a week, until nearly dinner time. She got to see a part of my life that she hadn’t seen before. And today, she was inspired…by ME.

Today, she got to see mommy try. And once I realized that she was seeing that, and following my example, no one else in that room mattered, including you.

See, I’m raising humans, I am a human, and an imperfect, schedule challenged one, at that. I understand that you view her presence as inconvenience, and that is unfortunate. Especially for me as a woman pulling for ALL women in education and life enhancement. I chose to view it differently, and am grateful for the necessary reminder versus your feelings of inconvenience, that I almost chose instead.

For me as a single mother/woman, to understand the example of overcoming adversity and making the absolute best of my opportunities, while keeping priorities and responsibilities in check, is huge. To imprint the importance of doing what it takes to “try” no matter the amount adverse opinion public or private, is huge.

Remembering that little eyes are watching, and that how I approach, process, and conquer adversity, matters on deep life levels to more than just me is HUGE.

For my daughter to see how I am able to not only face challenge, but remain steadfast in my “try” and celebrate the win that being accountable to both parenting my child and valuing my education is, is huge. For her to see that vulnerability is important, and showing up proudly no matter what people say, and trying your best is where character is built and success is found, is huge. To see that I will not minimize her, myself, or my “try” in adverse opinion and that we are all worthy of success, no matter the path we may have to take to achieve it, is HUGE.

Does she have the capacity to understand that? Maybe not fully, but she’s learning through experiences like this, and we’re on the right path.

It is these moments, ear deep in phospholipid bi-layer lecture, when I look over to see her little hands doodling DNA double helix strands, next to hearts with her name that makes this journey amazing. It’s the moments when my reality of responsibility to our life, and priority of raising humans through my best example, takes precedence over what the adverse opinion of my path is. It is these moments that I realize I’m doing my best, in parenting, in example, in education, and in life, and succeeding.

This is the reality. OUR reality. Not yours. It is what it is, and today, it was a huge life moment between a mother who is trying, and a daughter who was empowered as a witness to possibility and perseverance no matter the challenge. That is education. And today, we both got a bigger dose than we expected.

Today my daughter came to class with me. Was it a big deal? Yes, but in ways you don’t understand. The only inconvenience here is your judgement.

I can’t wait to hand her this drawing on her graduation day. I hope that someday, I get to come to her lecture and doodle too.

P.S. I’m sorry I corrected your answer in front of the entire lecture hall. I was up studying today’s lecture notes last night, while my petal pink “My Little Pony” glitter polish was drying. 

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