To my great surprise, a few months ago, I agreed to work in a Chinese kindergarten. Those who know me well, know that when I teach, I usually choose to work with adults or teenagers. The reasons for that are multifold. Partly, I like intellectual pursuits and discussion – you don’t get that with 4-year olds. I also prefer to work with people who want to be in your classroom. You usually only get that with adults, although I’ve had some spectacular teenagers with enviable intrinsic motivation. Partly, I try to avoid stereotypically ‘female’ jobs, and of course, I see the hypocrisy in that – by turning my nose up at ‘women’s’ work, I only continue to devalue women in the same way that men usually do.
I did spend my teenaged years babysitting successfully and frequently, but following that, I’ve kept children out of my life. Mostly, I’m just not drawn to them like women are ‘supposed to’ be. I don’t have a ticking biological clock. But, as I’ve come to realize and speak out more about now that I’m 40 and committed to uncovering the source of some of my hang-ups, I’m afraid of hurting children as I’ve been hurt.
I come from an abusive family. My mother disliked children. She had been abused as a child by a brutal, narcissistic mother. And the abused became the abuser in almost exactly the same way. She terrorized me over years of emotional and psychological abuse. I escaped when I was 20, but I’ve always been afraid of turning out to be a monster like her. No kids for me, thank you. But I know that I am different. I have empathy and self-awareness unlike the two before me. I have plenty of other problems, don’t worry but I’m not an abuser. It has taken me 20 years to be able to accept and say this.
Anyhow, I’ve just spent almost 2 glorious months with a group of fantastic, little beings, and I wanted to do a pictorial celebration of them as I say good bye and head off to Nanjing to teach 20-year-olds.