Monday, August 20, 2012
Ode to the First Day of School.
This morning, hundreds of moms across Lake County woke up a little earlier. We sleepily turned on our Keurigs, made breakfast (or something resembling it at least), and crept into quiet bedrooms for the first wake up call of the school year. Ain't gonna lie-- I was a little nostalgic this morning as I crawled into bed next to my third grader. I lingered a little longer than usual and smelled her cheek. I paid attention to how soft her skin feels on her neck as I breathed her in before I handed her over to the school system for another nine months. I looked at her hair, tangled and tousled from a good night's sleep and her blissful unawareness that yet again, her life will change from the very first day of this school year.
I remember so clearly her very first day of school in kindergarten. She had never been to preschool. I kept her with me every day I could until the big day arrived and I had no choice. I hardly slept the night before. My mind would not shut down! What if she falls and gets hurt? Who will pray for her in a public school? What if she can't open her water bottle? What if she gets made fun of? What if she suddenly feels afraid? What if her teacher is not as nice as we think she is? What if she needs me?
All day, I wondered what she was doing. I don't think I stopped praying all day long. At the end of the day, I swear I must have been 30 minutes early. I sat and stared at her classroom door. When the release announcement was made, I almost ran to her. But I stopped myself. I stood, composed on the outside, heart about to burst inside, as my kindergartener RAN to me and fell into my arms in a collapse of joyful relief. She talked non-stop about every kid in class, what they were wearing, what they ate, what they said, what they thought, what they did. The next words out of her mouth?
"Mom, hurry and get home. I didn't pee all day. I couldn't get my belt off, so I just held it."
My heart broke. My tiny tot sat all day, needing to potty and didn't have the nerve to ask her teacher for help. She held her pee for 7 whole hours.
I wanted to BAWL.
You better believe, from that moment on, I thought of everything. I made sure there was extra underwear in her backpack. I made sure her water bottles were unscrewed enough for her to open them easily. I double checked her clothes were buttoned right, her shoes were velcroed just the way she liked them, and her ponytail was looped three times, tight like she prefers. I prepared for everything. Until I realized one day...
We weren't really prepared for anything.
Like the first time she fell and no one prayed for her. Like when a boy in her class called her a demon and broke her tiny heart. Like when a teacher (not hers, but one who was in charge at the moment) called her a troublemaker and humiliated her in front of her friends. (She said, "I didn't know what to do so I just stared at my shoes until everyone looked away). Like when she herself called a child stupid. (God help me). Like when she was burning up with a fever of 102 and having chills when I walked into the office to fetch her.
In His mercy and gentleness, God has taught me a few things about the control-freak tendencies we possess as mothers. Can I pass them on to you?
We are only stewards of His greatest prizes. We love them as much as is humanly possible, yes. We lay down our lives, yes. We would eat styrofoam peanuts in order to give them filet mignon, yes. But on our very best days, we are merely corralling them for HIM. HE is the One that loves them with an everlasting love. HE is the One that laid His life down-- literally laid it down-- to save theirs. We intend to. He DID.
And if He laid down His life, He surely loves them most. For that fact alone, rest easily.
Their hearts will get broken. Deal with that fact as soon as possible, and move on with your life. Take each blow as it comes-- because there's WAY more victories in this life than heartache. Don't anticipate the pain, but expect it. Because it WILL happen.
Controlling their every move, is setting them up for great failure. When your child is old enough, have HER talk to the doctor about what's wrong. Have HER order her meal at a restaurant. Have HER introduce herself to new people. When it's fundraising time, have HER make the awkward phone calls to relatives. You're a parent. Not a gopher, spokesperson, or advocate. Ok-- you are sometimes. Which brings me to my next point...
We have to be their eyes and ears, and we MUST rely on the Holy Spirit's wisdom. Know when to step in! A child left on his own decision making abilities at any age produces a spoiled, entitled, and ungrateful human being. But micromanaging a child is basically emotional paralysis. We have to let them fall sometimes. We have to take our hands off and walk away because it's too painful to watch sometimes. And sometimes, we have to put on our butt-kicking shoes and clean someone's clock for hurting our child. Ask God to show you when each is appropriate.
Never, ever underestimate a good night's sleep.
Choose a confession and speak it DAILY (or more) over your child. Abi's is "You're smart, safe, healthy, kind, and obedient." We say it Every. Single. Day.
Get involved on their campus. Obviously, this will look differently if your child is in kindergarten versus when he is in middle school. But the point is, make it a goal to know the office staff. Take them donuts and coffee occasionally. Send the teacher a Monster energy drink. Make a point to have lunch with your child at least once a month, EVEN IF SHE'S IN HIGH SCHOOL. And don't say you don't have time. Because you do. This is their world for nine months. Become a part of it.
Talk to them EVERY DAY. And not just about homework. But about who has a crush on who, who wore the same color shirt as them, and which kid had the grossest lunch. If you need conversation starters, hit me up on here or on Facebook and I'll set you up! Talk, talk, talk, talk to your child. All the time. Until your ears hurt. Because these little things you don't care about that they choose to talk to you about will one day turn into life-altering conversations that they won't want to discuss if you weren't willing to talk about Barbies, Legos, and the kid who smells like cardboard in their class.
Be prepared for this never to get easier. It's just a fact. It just means we will continually need Him. Always.
All weekend, Abi had said she didn't want me to walk her to class on the first day. Of course, I said TOUGH, and walked her in anyway. She was confident and sure as we walked through the campus toward her room. She made sure I wouldn't do this again tomorrow. I agreed. We got to the door handle. Abi says, "Mom, please don't leave me." I swallow. We open the door and find her desk. My little girl who acted 15 last night, trying on my makeup, wearing high heels, and dancing to Kidz Bop suddenly looked 5 and like it was her first day of kindergarten again. I get her all settled, thank her teacher, and walk out. I stood on the sidewalk for a few minutes, watching my heart look around and take in her new home for the next nine months. She sat, quiet and shy- a vast departure from her normal bubbly nature. After a few minutes, the boy across from her broke the ice. And she spoke back. She turned toward the window, until that moment unaware I had been peeking in. I gave her a thumbs up. She gave me a thumbs up back. And I walked down the sidewalk and back to my van.
It may not get easier. But it sure gets better.