Blink—And They're Grown

Parents, Families and Child Care

More Than a Means to an End


For a long time, I’ve debated whether or not to begin my Master’s degree. Many factors have caused me to put it off:  work obligations, health issues, finances. Perhaps the biggest concern has been how it would affect my time with my family and my children in particular.

What better way to inspire your children to finish their homework than giving them the opportunity to watch you finish yours?

Photo courtesy of César Astudillo.

Growing up as an African American girl in a poverty stricken community, I got the message that education was the key out of poverty loud and clear. As a result, despite my tendency to meow and bark instead of talk when I was five, I heeded my mother’s pleas and  kept that under wraps long enough to ace the Kindergarten readiness exam at a Magnet school. When the teacher congratulated me on passing with flying colors, my response was a coy, “Meow.”

Soon after entering first grade at a bilingual school, my beloved animal sounds were replaced with a love of learning that served me well. While my peers “got into trouble” with boys, I devoured books. And I was that weird child who lit up at the teacher’s command to “Take out a clean sheet of paper.” I wrote instead of running the streets. Though I still viewed education as a vehicle to transport me to a better life, I relished the blossoming feeling I got whenever I learned something new. Or when something finally clicked. It was as if my mind was full of intelligence seeds thirsting to be watered and bloom.

Now I love watching this happen with my children. Last night when my son struggled through several math packets that he’d “lost” because he didn’t think he could do them, the shift inside him when he finally got it was almost tangible. Feeling smart, he opened up and proceeded to share facts he’s learning about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in his class’s study of Black History. Then there’s Liv with her ability to latch onto new words and then use them in the right context. During American Idol, when her 15-year-old step brother asked why one of the contestants was so small, recalling the explanation she’d heard last week she told him, “He has cystic fibrosis.” What a memory. What a mind.

These glimpses into the potential that lies within my children cause me to suspect that though they buck at doing their homework at times, they’ve inherited my love of learning. So what better way to encourage that than for them to see me doing homework? Or better yet, us sitting down and doing all of ours at the same time? I guess that’s the answer to how pursuing my Master’s would affect our time together.

Even with the above benefit and the many others (advancing my career, increased earning potential, the sense of accomplishment and best of all fulfilling a lifelong dream), I won’t kid myself and pretend that I’m not still a little anxious about embarking on such a huge endeavor while parenting two young children who need tons of support in getting their own school work done. But then little in life worth having comes without some struggle.

As we celebrate Black History month and I reflect on the struggles of the ancestors who have gone before me, like my great Aunt Birdie who had to leave school in the eighth grade to work on the farm, I’m immensely thankful for the opportunity, for the privilege, to not only further my education but to live out the fact that, for me, for us, education is more than a means to an end.

2 thoughts on “More Than a Means to an End

  1. Tammy ,
    This was so well written! I have been living this for the last three years since I decided to go back to school to further my education. I had the same apprehension about my time with my family but I have a different outlook , , , now that I have been doing it for this long. I think it is important to model for your children and what better way than for children to see how much you value education. I also think sometimes as parents we get so wrapped up in our families needs we forget about our own. By pursuing a goal that I set for myself I am a better mother and wife because I feel completely fulfilled. Now I am not saying timing is not everything because I think it is , but you will know when the time is right for you and your family.

    Good luck to you ,

  2. Shelly, kudos for you for not allowing your apprehensions to deter you from pursuing your goal. And thank you for sharing from your personal experience. I especially appreciate your insight about parents not neglecting their own needs while tending to those of their families. Just applying for school feels great because it moved me from talking about my dream a step closer to making it a reality! ; )