Show of hands, who else has a ragin’ case of the Monday’s? Thankfully the sun is shining and there is NO snow in sight (I’m turning mental cartwheels in my head because I lack the skills to do a real one
A few weeks back I narrated our family’s struggle with accepting that parenting was not going to be part of our life journey. Immediately following that revelation, my husband and I started making a list of couples or single folks we knew who had come to the same conclusion. Now, it’s not socially acceptable to go up to a childless couple and ask them why they are without children, but a strange thing happened after we made our decision. Without any prompting, we began hearing accounts from our childless friends about why they didn’t have children. Finally we felt we had a community we could relate to.
Back to that list. The list of people we knew who didn’t have kids? One of the most healing things I’ve done was put my kindergarten teacher on that list. Her name was Kathryn Aschliman. Ms. Aschilman for short.
Ms. Aschilman was simply one of the best teachers I ever had. She was the professor of education at the college where my kindergarten was located. Yes, I went to kindergarten on the campus of a college. Every year, a few education majors would rotate doing educational activities with the 15-20 kindergarten students that came through each year. This gave the college students real world training, and a chance for the kindergartener to interact with adults other than their teacher. Every year Ms. Aschilman made sure the class was made up of a diverse group of children from all backgrounds and creeds. In my kindergarten class I was the token disabled kid. There were also african americans, Asians, and children from different economic backgrounds. By the end of her 34 year career, Aschilman managed to teach and influence the lives of 700 children. All without raising her voice. As someone who works in childcare, I can tell you this often takes the patience of Job. 😉
I have many happy memories in Ms. Aschilman’s class. Every day we’d have story time, where we’d gather on a mat on the floor-in a circle, and she’d read us a story and have a short lesson. I also remember having a day where we learned about and celebrated Indonesian culture with one of the students mom and grandma. They came dressed in traditional clothing and we ate traditional Indonesian food. Another day we dressed up as hospital workers and went around the community, collecting donations for a family in need.
The neatest thing about Ms. Aschilman was what happened after I left her kindergarten class and journeyed through my school career, entering senior year of high school 10 years later. At my graduation open house, She arrived at my party and handed me a tiny diploma! Later that summer my kindergarten class–all of us taller and older–gathered for our kindergarten 10 year reunion. Upon walking into that same classroom of our youth, we were struck by the reams of newspaper that covered the walls. Each of those newspaper clippings chronicled each child’s life from kindergarten to the present. Any time any of her students were in the paper or on TV, Ms Aschilman made a point to save the article or watch the footage. Like a mamma bear, she kept track of all her cubs. And looked on in pride at their accomplishments.
As a child it never occurred to me that the abbreviation Ms. was to denote singleness. At some point in kindergarten, we visited her house. I never thought it strange that there seemed to be no children living there. Of course years later I learned that she never married or had children of her own. But in a way, she did. 700 of them. And she loved them all as her own.
If you find yourself going through similar circumstances, I encourage you to seek out the Ms. Aschilman’s in your community. Know that you are most certainly not alone!