I have a digital frame in my classroom. I got it after our second daughter was born because I wanted to have lots of pictures of my girls and it would take up too much space to do so. A digital frame gave me lots of pictures in a small amount of space. My plan is always to update the pictures on the frame and add some recent ones to what is already there, but that doesn’t happen too often. As a result, there are lots of pictures of my girls, now 14 and 11, at young ages. I catch sight of those pictures throughout my day and I’m struck by an overwhelming sense of love for those kids. Not for the people my girls are now, although I feel that plenty often too, but for the kids they were at 2 or 6 or as infants. I don’t want another infant or 2 year old or 6 year old, but it hits me how much I loved the person they were then. How much I adored that kid.
I feel some of the same emotions as a teacher. Seeing former students brings up some of those same feelings, that sense of love for a person who no longer exists. It isn’t that I don’t love the person they are now, just that the person they were at 6 can be very different from the person they are at 9. I can love both of those people. This year is unique in this for me as I am teaching students I had before. Years ago I looped with my classes but the summer break wasn’t long enough for them to change significantly. This year I’m teaching third graders that I taught as kindergartners. I look back at the pictures of them three years ago and am reminded of who they were. They’re the same person and yet not the same at all.
Even as I love and adore the person they are now, whether it is my daughters or my students, there is a sense of loss of the person they were. They’ll never be that two year old or six year old again. In fact, before too long they won’t be who they are right now. While this sounds a bit tragic or sad, it actually feels like a blessing to me. How lucky I am to have the opportunity, as a parent and a teacher, to love so many for so long.