I thought I knew. But really? I had NO idea.

As my wife and I were expecting our first child, we did everything we could think of to prepare our son for a wonderful welcome to the world. We read books. We prayed. We were constantly monitoring our environment and diet. We checked in with our own parents. We researched baby preparations online, like thebump.com, for example, and we attended every scheduled doctors’ appointment. I even sought (and am still seeking) first-time parenting advice through twitter, wordpress, and flipgrid. We even reviewed baby plans discussed in premarital counseling. While attending baby classes, we met fellow parents-to-be and learned very specific delivery details and strategies. WOWThere’s a lot going on! And I had it all figured out.

Throughout sixteen years of education so far, I have always wanted the very best for my learners. I was (and still am) ALL-IN for creating meaningful, hands-on, doing kinds of learning opportunities as a fifth grade math/science teacher and now as an elementary STEM specialist. I’m constantly seeking ways to facilitate better learning experiences for students. And I had it all figured out.

Still, several friends–especially local friends Bill Ferriter, Chris Tuttell, and Melanie Farrell–tried to warn me. They knew me. They knew how I frequently obsess over wanting to #becomebetter. They knew how I was addicted–or I mean very dedicated–to using certain tools like twitter to connect, learn, and grow as an educator. My friends were worried that a potential perfectionist would NOT be able to defy math–to give 200% (100% educator + 100% parent), and these experienced parent-educators could see the diaper in the pail. Bill even composed this heartfelt reflection regarding “Advice on Teaching and Parenting for Kyle Hamstra.” Still, I had it all figured out.

Until. THAT. Moment.

In the blink of an eye, the doctor handed me a lifechanger. Fingers spread wide, my rough hands enveloped smooth baby skin. Arms and legs flailing. Screaming and crying. Heart racing. Little lungs gasping for every breath. Shaking subtly. In those precious, few seconds, my life changed forever.

At that specific time, our son was totally dependent on me. He was trusting that I would take care of him. He was at my mercy. His well-being was up to me. His life was literally in my hands. And OH–How the value of life is realized when you hold a newborn–especially your newborn.

There’s nothing like that experience of holding your child for the first time. There was NO way to prepare for that moment. When I looked at our son, I realized that previously–I had nothing figured out.

Because while his arms and legs were flailing, mine were right near statuesque. While he was screaming on the outside, my emotions were a hot mess on the inside. While both of our hearts were racing, mine was also melting. While his breathing increased, mine nearly ceased. While he was overflowing baby tears–tears of joy overcame me. Together, we would take baby steps into a whole new world.

And now that we have our own kid? I want the very, very, very BEST for him! And it’s a different kind of BEST than any other best. When fellow NC fifth grade science teachers asked when our son would be learning about weather (because they know that abstract weather concepts are among the most challenging to teach and learn in elementary school), I wholeheartedly replied:

The  Forecast exhales a gentle sea breeze, caressing your face, sweetly, softly whispering: “I love you unconditionally. I lay down my life for you. I will fight for you. I will provide for you. I will do anything for you. I want the very BEST for you. Because I LOVE YOU more than anything in the world.”

My friend Chris Tuttell reflected: “See, Kyle? There was no way that we could really prepare you. Being a parent isn’t something you can understand just by me telling you.

You have to LIVE IT.”

I have been repurposed! How will this newborn perspective change me as an educator?