When I started college as a thirty-year-old freshman with three children, I thought of those viral stories you’d see on the internet with the amazing professor who steps up, allowing a child to come to class with a parent and even going so far as to hold the child while lecturing.
Looking ahead upon my uncertain journey, I always wondered if that would be me. However, as each semester passed, I discovered that I had serious qualms about being the student who would ask.
Most times when my kids were out of school and I wasn’t, I was able to send them to a relative’s house. When that wasn’t an option, I made sacrifices. I reserved my allowed absences for these days.
Around the end of my fourth semester, when I was graduating from ASU-Beebe, I began thinking about the notion a bit differently. This is when I realized that maybe my education is something they should see.
Don’t get me wrong, I still had that aversion to vulnerability, never wanting to impose on a professor by simply asking. But now, three semesters later, it finally happened. My kiddos were out for the entire week of Thanksgiving, but I had classes on Monday and Tuesday. I didn’t have any relatives available to watch the kids, and I also couldn’t afford to miss school. Not because of too many absences, but because of my responsibilities those days.
On Monday, I had German class, but I also had to conduct two interviews for positions on The Echo staff in spring 2019, and I had two conferences with different advisers.
So, I convinced myself to send that email—singular—to my German professor, asking him if my three children could come to class with me. As for the other responsibilities, I just brought my kids along with me, no asking for permission and no apologies.
And it was an amazing thing. My kiddos watched their mom interview someone (or at least they sat and played cards in the floor in the same vicinity). They watched their mom struggle to translate a foreign language. My professor noted how my youngest daughter was looking expectantly at me while I was staring at the projector screen. I could feel her in my peripheral wanting me to succeed.
We ate lunch at the food court in the Student Center and toured Baum Gallery. We popped into Torreyson Library and my oldest immediately found the graphic novel section which I had passed a million times without noticing.
They watched their mother negotiate with her advisers over courses and her schedule for the next two semesters and what she needs to do to graduate.
They experienced a pitch meeting full of student reporters discussing what should be covered and by whom. They witnessed collaborative considerations of what angles could be taken or what problems may arise while reporting.
On the way home that day, I asked them if they had fun. Of course, they all said yes. Then I asked them if they could see themselves in college someday. I was surprised to get more than a simple yes or no. My oldest daughter, who is nearly 15, thinks that maybe she would like to live off campus without any roommates and that she would like to join a soroity, but she doesn’t like the way they are represented on TV.
I was blown away. She’s absolutely right that the only perception she has of college is what she has seen on TV. Sex and parties. Late night assignments and shenanigans. This made me realize that maybe I should’ve been bringing them along with me much sooner than this.
However, I still skipped three classes on Tuesday. I justified leaving my kids home alone long enough for me to attend one class in which I was writing an essay. Because I couldn’t miss my workshop day, but I wasn’t comfortable discussing the content of my essay in front of them, either. Besides, four hours home alone for a 10-year-old, 13-year-old and 14-year-old is a lot easier to justify than nine hours away.
These are the decisions students with children must weigh.