I don't consider myself to be particularly maternal... I mean, I'd like to say I have a pretty big heart for people in general, but I also feel weird and awkward around little kids. Toddlers are awesome, but to me, little babies are a lot like science experiments. When I first learned about child behavior acquisition, I began to realize they're just a bunch of tiny mimickers. Oh, they like when you make a silly face at them? Do it 400 times and they'll still giggle. I wish pleasing all people was that easy. The truth is: kids learn from us. So if you want to teach them to see the color green as the color purple, they're going to until they get to kindergarten and they're called a freak when they say "that frog is purple!"
Disclaimer to any considered readers: I won't actually do this to any future children of my own.
In college, I remember during student teaching when they told us that as a teacher we become "in loco parentis." In broken Spanish, this would seem to translate as crazy parents, but in Latin it means "in place of a parent." And for the next eleven months of my life, I'm going to be "in loco parentis" for a Swedish teenager.
Suddenly, a few maternal instincts have kicked in:
I'm beginning to consider the thousands of different situations she could get into, as I remember what it's like to be seventeen, and I'm beginning to fear the dreadful call reporting "I messed up." And even though I haven't met her in person yet, I'm beginning to care for her in unexpected ways like making sure she can be taken care of if she gets sick. I'm worrying about her grades already, and school hasn't even started. I'm hoping she will make friends at school, but I also hope she won't get too cool that she won't want to hang out with me still. What a dreadful thought.
And then, I'm worrying about a whole lot of other factors too. Like, what will people think of me? I'm already receiving criticism in the form of doubt. I think about things like Meet the Teacher night and going down to talk to her teachers, and knowing they doubt me because I'm so young. Yes, I know, I couldn't have birthed a seventeen year old at my age. But does age actually amount to your ability to parent? I think many factors determine your ability to love and care for another individual.
Now my exchange student is seventeen, yes, and most of her raising has been done for her already, but she's still got a bit to learning to do in the next year of her life. She already has her village back home in Sweden, but now she'll find a whole new one here in Pennsylvania too. And when I think about how lucky she is to have so many people looking after her, I realize, she'll be just fine.
I might be loco, but I hope I do okay at this whole parentis thing.
"I have no special talent.