This afternoon, just like every couple of weeks, this happens: A student comes over to my desk, sees a photo hanging on my filing cabinet, and says, "Awww ... she's so cute! Is that your daughter?"
"Nope," I answer. "That's my niece. I don't have any children."
"Why not?" the student asks. It's a girl asking the question, and at 16 or 17, the one thing she knows is that she eventually wants a child, or several. "Don't you like kids?"
"Oh, I love children," I say, "but then they turn into teenagers. And I hate teenagers!" I try to keep a straight face, look stern. But I'm busted anyway.
"No, you don't! You love us!"
If I do, it's definitely a love-hate thing. I mean, I hate them because they're young. And I'm getting old. And they're wasting their youth. And if I knew then what I know now, I wouldn't have wasted my youth. And I would've listened when some older person gave me advice. But I realize that, if anyone really was giving me advice, I wasn't listening, and so why should they?
I hate the ones that aren't wasting their youth, too, because they're reckless. Or stupid. Or do things I've never done. And they're definitely not taking education seriously, because they're out there living, too busy to read, to do homework. And, more than anything, I hate them because they sometimes won't shut up, especially when telling me about something I really don't want to hear.
Case in point: A couple of years ago, one of the nicest guys I have ever taught told me about prom night. This was a kid I had known for three years. He was polite. He was something of a mama's boy. A little shy. Soft spoken. Basically, he was the kind of boy I wouldn't mind my daughter dating if I had a daughter. But then again.
"Hey, so how was prom?" I remember asking him on the Monday after. He said it was OK, but there was something about the way he looked that made me think he had more to say. "What did you guys do afterwards?" I shouldn't have asked.
He smiled. He tried not to say anything, then struggled with himself. Finally, in a whisper, he said, "Um, we ... we had an orgy." I didn't say anything, but he continued, saying how there was liquor, then someone taking off clothes, then a whole mess of nakedness. The weird thing about him telling the story was that he wasn't bragging, he wasn't excited, or trying to get me to high-five him or anything. He had just done something remarkable, and he really, really wanted to tell someone. It's probably something he would never tell his mother. Teacher, though, why not?
The only thing I could think of saying was, "Oh man ... I hope you used protection." He swore he did, said he made sure everyone did.
I've gotten better at steering clear of certain topics. If I sense something is about to be said, I change the subject, cut the kid off, run out of the room screaming, something. I've also gotten better at lecturing kids, sounding like a parent, being a voice of reason. I scold them, threaten to call their mother, take the side of the family, or teacher, or whoever is being complained about. And then, on the weekends, when I talk about my job with anyone who isn't a teacher, I end up talking about "my kids." And so, that's the way it goes. Even when you choose not to be a father, you end up with something like 150 kids each year. Sheesh. I hate 'em.