Take a good look at this picture:
Last week was Spirit Week at my middle school, when every day allowed for students to wear a different outlandish mode of dress that veered drastically from the mundane school uniform. Teachers were encouraged to participate, too. Not me, I thought. At nine months pregnant, I can only cycle through the same 10 pieces of maternity wear.
So when “Match Day” rolled around, I was at a loss to find someone on my team with whom I could match. That’s when I received a text from a colleague telling me to wear a light blue shirt and shades to school.
Ok, that’s easy, I thought. But why baby blue? (I didn’t get the hint--I’m having a boy.) The only light blue shirt I’ve ever owned is far too small now; my belly’s so big that the blouse barely covered my naval. But I wore it anyway, with a long white tank top underneath to cover my belly’s southern hemisphere. I felt a bit ridiculous at first because my “outfit” looked so tacky. Besides, I hate it when pregnant women where shirts that are obviously far too small for them--and now I was being that pregnant.
Then I spotted Mr. Avila walking up to me, bearded as usual, but wearing shades, a light blue collared shirt...and...what’s that in his shirt? Is that a baby bump? Noooo! Then Mr. Srikishan came around the corner with his shades, light blue shirt and big ol’ bump. And then Ms. Eli. And Ms. Vigil. Ms. Arce, Mr. Aristeo. All of my colleagues on the 7th and 8th grade team came dressed up like me--pregnant!
And I thought I looked ridiculous! Seeing my female friends instantly appearing ready to give birth was almost more jarring than seeing the guys with their shirts stuffed. One teacher asked me if I was offended.
“Offended?” I said. “No, I think it’s hilarious! In fact, I’m honored that all of you are pregnant for a day--pregnancy rocks!”
Ms. Eli, who is tiny in stature, was wearing her dad’s large dress shirt, which she freely gave me off her back when I told her how uncomfortable I was with my too-short shirt. Fortunately, she had a back-up blue shirt in her bag. So for the rest of the day, I walked around in the science teacher’s dad’s button-down dress shirt.
That’s what family does. We wear each other’s clothes. Play practical jokes on one another. We build each other’s self esteem. When I didn’t think I’d have anyone I could match with, my grade level team decided to all match me.
What if we could teach our middle school students to think this way? To be more open to reaching outside of their cliques and to accentuate the commonalities they have with one another, not the differences? We’d have a whole lot less interpersonal drama, for sure.
But then, slowly over the course of the day, teachers began removing the paper and balled up fabric from behind their baby blue shirts.
“It’s itching me"; “my stomach keeps getting in the way"; “it’s too distracting for the students to see me like this,” they complained.
“Awww, come on--you guys can’t handle ONE day of fake baby life inside of you while teaching?” I shot back.
I told one teacher, newly married, a joke my newspaper editor told me 13 years ago when I first got married: What do you call newlyweds who are not on birth control?
She laughed, uncomfortably. I don’t know her plans for parenthood one way or the other, but that baby bump looked convincingly good on her.
She looked at me and said, “I’m exhausted after work every day and I’m not even pregnant. I don’t know how you do it, Marilyn.”
“I know Jesus, that’s how!” I replied, half joking, half serious.
I’m now exactly two weeks away from my due date. Yes, my workload is even harder to carry now with report cards coming up, but my friends--no, my family--at work give me that little push that helps me make it through the day.
I just wish one of them would take my place in the delivery room. When I suggested this to Mr. Avila, who watched the natural births of all three of his children, he said, “Ha! You’re on your own there, sister!”
He’s right about that, but wishful thinking never hurt anybody.
The opinions expressed in Charting My Own Course are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.