Saturday, July 23, 2011

Unintentional Admission

"Schools are going to be all run by computers now. It won't be long before everything is on that internet. What will you do instead of teaching?"

My mother-in-law and I were driving to exercise class together. We had been discussing my neice's education in the car when she posed this question to me.

I was a little taken aback. Linda is not affiliated with education in any way. She doesn't even have a computer, so I have no idea where she is getting this idea. I am a high school teacher who knows how to use the internet and I highly doubt the entire education systen will transition into completely virtual teaching any time soon. But there is no arguing with Linda, so I shrug and say, "I'm going to be a stay-at-home mom."

"Oh, you won't want to do that forever, Sandy. You'll have to do something when the kids grow up."

I sigh. Why is she making me think fifteen years in the future? I have enough to think about in this decade to worry about the next. But now I feel guilty for not instantly having a plan for when my hypothetical children grow up and my hypothetical future job disappears to a hypothetical virtual teaching system.

"Well, they'll need someone to run the virtual classes," I attempt. She interrupts,

"You never know, Sandy. There will still be too many teachers left over. Those jobs will be filled."

I wonder desperately what she wants me to say.

"I am going to be a writer." I blurted out the plans I didn't even know I had before I had a chance to keep the words in. A ripple of fear shoots through me. Why did I say that? It's too precious, too tenuous a dream to speak out loud to someone I barely trust.

She has nothing to say for a few seconds. I force myself to breathe and smile faintly, gripping my arm-rest until my knuckles ache.

"Oh," she finally says. "That will be nice."

"Yeah," I say and relax my deathgrip on the arm rest. Suddenly my plan seems legitimate. Of course I'm going to be a writer. How could I have ever thought otherwise?


  1. "She doesn't even have a computer, so I have no idea where she is getting this idea."

    The question in the second part of the sentence is answered in the first. Some people who don't own computers, who don't understand them, and who are highly suspicious of them, tend to think of them as these magical omnipotent machines that are a threat to our lives and our lively-hoods. "Schools are going to be all run by computers now" is a simplistic statement made without really understanding what's involved in running a school and what computers are capable of and how equipped they are for the task. It's just a flippant declaration that, "The computers will do it all!"

    If I can be even more blunt, your mother-in-law strikes me as one of those type of people who get a kick out of playing on your fears and anxieties. She grins as she twists the knife, reminding you of the possibility of the wound getting infected. If you're one of those rare people who have a good relationship with their mother-in-law, then I apologize for my lack of tact, but I call it like I see it.

  2. Bryan,

    interesting observations. Thanks to God, my MIL and I have a good relationship, but she does like to say negative things sometimes. The focus of this piece was meant to be about a moment where I found some focus on my future, but I think from your comment that it could also be a vignette about the difficulties of learning to live with in-laws.

    thanks for your observations- Sandy