Friday, 7 December 2012

Questions and Answers

I get asked a lot of questions in this job. They range from the banal and repetitive - 'Matron,where are my games socks?' - to the amusing; 'Matron, are you thirty-six?' 'Matron, are you married?' 'Matron, are you in love with Mr {insert name of male teacher they've most recently seen me talking to}?' 'Matron, do you have babies?' 'Matron, does your family live in your room?'

Sometimes it's tempting to go along with their overactive imaginations. 'Why yes, children, I am in fact nearly forty and married, but currently having an affairwith the music teacher. I keep our illegitimate babies in the laundry cupboard as there's just not enough space in my single room accommodation.' It would certainly give them something to think about and possibly stop their questions for a while.

I have, however, noticed a common thread in these questions. The children seem to think I'm a grown up. Goodness only knows where they got this mad idea from, as it's certainly not one that I've promoted! In fact, even after a term here, when things go wrong my natural instinct is still to go and find a responsible adult in the hope that they might sort it out. My heart sinks every time when I remember that, to all intents and purposes, I am said responsible adult.

Being mistaken for a grown-up takes some getting used to. There are perks obviously, such as cutting in at the front of the lunch line and crossing the hallowed threshold of the staff room to find out what really goes on behind the door (it’s all rather disappointing, for those of you who were wondering – although there are often biscuits!) However,the role of responsible adult comes with some pitfalls, the main being responsibility for oneself. What am I going to do next year? The year after? For the rest of my life? Who’s going to take care of me when things go wrong? Who’s going to answer all of my questions?

This was highlighted to me a couple of days ago when one of my youngest girls piped upout of nowhere, ‘Matron, who are you going to marry?’
Did I detect a note of despair in her voice? I wasn’t sure. I considered my response carefully. ‘Do you know, I’m not actually sure. Who do you think I should marry?’
After all, every good Rabbi answers a question with another question. However she was undeterred. Without missing a beat, or even looking up from what she was doing, the child replied, ‘David Beckham.’
‘Hmm,’ said I, ‘I’m afraid he’s already married, Sweetie. Plus he’s a little too old for me.’
‘Justin Beiber then,’ was the instant proffered solution.
‘Perhaps a little too young?’
At this point my young charge put down her sewing and gazed knowingly at me.
‘Yes, I suppose you really do need someone in their late twenties or early thirties, don’t you?’
Problem solved.

I was glad that one was settled, but it got me thinking firstly about how life as a child is simple. Thought processes come in either black or white: there are no shades of grey. Secondly, it made me realise that often I want my life to be like that conversation. I want instant answers along with the assurance that, if I don’t like the response I’m given, I can ask again and again until I get a reply that is more to my liking. Yet I know it doesn’t work like that and that my questions are quite likely to be met with silence until it’s good for me to know the answers.

In all of this the key is to remember that, whilst I may be cunningly disguised as a responsible adult, I am in many ways still a child. A child, no less, of one who tells me not to worry about tomorrow for tomorrow will worry about itself. For who by worrying can add any more enjoyment to the blessings that already surround them? 

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