This week we talk about school, cafeterias, concession stand food, my worst first day of school, mom shirts, and more. Thanks for listening!
I’m nervous about the first day of school, Sawyer whispered at bedtime. Second grade had come upon him suddenly, right in the middle of a glorious summer that was nothing but losing track of time in a world of imagination and nowhere to be.
The truth is that it blind-sided me, too. I do own a calendar, but I have successfully kept the truth of school buried for as many weeks as possible, willing my brain to pretend that this schedule-less existence would go on forever. But, here we are, on a school night, the first of many, many school nights before we see the glories of summer again.
And, my boy is nervous.
I have seen his classroom. It’s all frogs and rainbows and cheer and potential. He’ll put his assignments in a huge flower-laden mailbox when he finishes them. He has a red locker with his name on it. His teacher is amazing. His classmates are his buddies. He will have a wonderful year.
Yet, I am nervous, too. Not because I worry about how he will do or who he will play with at recess. But, because every time the school bell rings at the beginning of a new year, it is an undeniable marker of the passage of time. Every time a new grade comes around, I remember that each passing day is a day that never comes back to you again. My heart could just about break into a million pieces right here on my worn blue couch. Because kids grow. That’s it. Kids grow, and as wonderful and exciting as it is that kids grow and change and become who they are meant to be, a mama’s heart will still ache. A mama’s eyes will still leak a little. Growing is good. It’s so good. And, it also hurts.
My kids are growing with ease, and I am having all the growing pains.
Every year a few days before school I take the kids to a photo booth to get our pictures taken together. It’s an important tradition that we all look forward to. We hide away behind the dark curtains in the middle of a busy mall and make silly faces and giggle and wait anxiously for our pictures to print. Then we walk to the cookie place and eat cookies and look at our pictures twenty times and point and laugh some more. Sawyer told me he’s hanging our picture inside his new red locker.
Life goes on. Football games and Halloween and golden hues of fall will be here soon. All things I love and look forward to. Christmas will arrive before I can even turn around. And, another glorious summer will be on the horizon in no time. Every stage is magical. I think after ten years of being a mama, I am beginning to understand that contentment lies not in rushing toward the next phase or in longing for what has passed, but in enjoying every moment of the phase that you’re in. Soaking up the delights of having children who are just this age, and trying your hardest to commit the beauty of this day to memory.
So, in the morning, I will wake my kids up with genuine excitement in my voice and a warm smile on my face. This is a big day, and one that will never pass this way again. And, when they walk out the door, if I cry just a little, that’s okay, too. Because mamas can feel so much at once that sometimes it overflows a little bit.
Then I’ll dry my eyes and Emerald and I will look at the photobooth pictures of our big boy and big girl, and we will point and giggle once more. And, maybe we’ll go for a bike ride. Because this day will never pass our way again.
Well, it’s the last week of summer. We spent the day at my parents’ house, where the kids and their cousins ate too much, ran all day, played in water, screamed too loud, and basically enjoyed being kids. It was a great day.
For something a little different today, I wanted to give you a few links that I’ve run across this past week that I thought were especially good.
How Quiet Marriages May Be the Most Exciting Marriages of All. First, this piece by Gary Thomas spoke to me. I love marriage, and I love my marriage. Marriage doesn’t have to be a detriment to our spiritual lives. On the contrary, in fact!
On Showing Your Waist Grace. I also loved this beautiful work of art from Lisa-Jo Baker. Mamas, just read it. Guys, read it and then promptly go hug your wife and your mother.
And, I’m not saying this is especially good, but if you would like to wallow with me in the sadness that is the end of summer, you might relate to this one that I wrote last year: Why I Don’t Do a Happy Dance on the First Day of School.
Four days of summer left! I plan to make the most of them!
Originally posted January 2013.
I vividly remember the first day of my freshman year of high school. I grew up in a town of around 1200 people, and my class, from kindergarten to 12th grade, hovered right around 27 or 28 students. So, it was a small school. But, this felt like a big deal.
We were moving from the junior high building to the high school building, and all of the high school students had lockers on the same two halls, classes right next to each other, and lunch at the same time. So, I knew that I would encounter older kids. Cooler kids. And, I was a nervous wreck about it.
My mother took me shopping. We bought a killer first day of school outfit: a long red plaid tunic, black stirrup pants, and black flats with enormous bows. Add to that my big, big hair, virtually no makeup, and braces, and, well, let’s just say that I had it going on. I was feeling confident. I was ready.
My parents forced my older brother to drive me to school, despite the fact that he was, is, and always will be way cooler than me. He drove me there in silence, not much of a morning person, not much of a high school person, not much of a drive your sister around person. Like I said, totally cool.
When we arrived, I was determined to be cool, confident, and aloof. I entered the front doors and looked way, way, way down the hallway to my destination: the freshmen lockers. But, I had to walk through what seemed like enormous crowds of junior and senior boys to get down there. I stuck my nose in the air, trying my best to ignore them in an effort to seem way too cool to pay them any attention. Right as I got to a group of senior boys who were already quietly laughing and talking about my obvious attitude, I hit a slight downward slope on that slick tile floor. My awesome bow-laden flats slipped just a little. Not enough to make me fall down, but definitely enough to make me put my arms out and wave them in a circular motion to try and stay on my feet. I felt like a cartoon character whose feet are going every which way right before she hits the ground. I managed to stay upright, but the arm waving and big eyes and near disaster totally ruined my fake coolness.
To top off that humiliation, when I got down to the freshman lockers, I discovered that another girl in my class was wearing the same long red plaid tunic that I had chosen as my signature first-day-of-high-school look. Only, she was wearing it with an adorable black mini-skirt. And she didn’t have braces or big hair or fake coolness. She had actual coolness. I was crushed. I felt like the world’s biggest moron. Why did I have to make such a bad entrance in the hallway, with my Scooby-doo impression? Why did that girl in my class have to wear my outfit better than I did? I wanted a high school do-over before I even got started.
And, as much I as I can laugh at all that now, the feelings I had on that morning are still so fresh in my mind and heart. Because I feel them all the time. Now. As a grown woman, with a wonderful husband, fun kids, an adorable house, nice clothes, and great friends. I still often feel like the world’s biggest moron. Do you ever feel that way? Like you just got totally shown up by the cool kids?
This is easy to say, difficult to do: We should get our sense of worth from God. Not from our husbands, from our friends, or from the cool kids. He loves us, He created us, and He finds us beautiful. God thinks you’re cool! God would NOT laugh at my slip up in the hallway. Ok, maybe He would get a little chuckle out of that. But, then He would assure me that I don’t need the approval of those senior boys or of anyone else in this world. Because the One who imagined the universe also imagined me and you. And He looks at us and says, “Very good.” He doesn’t despise our crooked noses or our big feet or our extra pounds. He simply loves us. And, He isn’t criticizing the way we do everything. He isn’t looking over our shoulder waiting for us to mess up. He’s cheering for us. He’s helping us. And, most of all, He’s loving us.
God approves! Of you and me! He thinks we’re great even when we feel ignored, criticized, torn down, and shown up by people around us. I bet He even liked my stirrup pants. They WERE pretty cute.
The two older kids started school this week, and Emerald has not been too happy about it. Sure, she gets to rule the TV and watch nothing but Mickey Mouse if she wants, but in her heart I think she would much rather be getting up early, getting dressed in new clothes, and heading out the door to an adventure at school.
For awhile she was in denial that the kids were gone. She was asking if Sawyer was in his room. When I said no, that he was at school, she kept saying, “No! He in he’s room!”
And, tonight when I put her to bed, I was telling her all about what we’re going to do tomorrow, but she just kept saying, “I go to school tomorrow, okay?”
And, I can sort of understand how she feels. Not that I want to go to school tomorrow (please, never again), but I know how it feels to want to do things that I’m really not ready to do. I know how it feels to want to skip steps in a process (especially the difficult ones). I know what it feels like to want to fast forward to the wiser, more discerning, more spiritual version of myself that I pray that I will grow into in the coming years.
But, growing up isn’t an easy business. It isn’t when you’re too little to go to school but too big for a pacifier. Just ask Emerald. The truth is that she has a lot to learn, a lot to deal with and go through before she finally becomes a kindergartner. She has to potty train, to learn all her letters and numbers and colors and shapes. She has to learn how to handle frustration and disappointment without throwing tantrums. She has to learn how to say more words, how to communicate better with people, how to interact socially, and lots of other things. Some of these things will be easy for her to learn, and others will be struggles. Some things will require discipline. And, in all of these things, she is depending on me, her daddy, and her brother and sister to help her grow and learn.
I feel every growing pain along with her, just like I do with Sawyer and Adelade. And, I want nothing more than to see all of them grow, even when it hurts a little bit.
Meanwhile, I’m going through similar growing pains. I may know my letters and numbers, but I struggle to know when to speak and when to stay quiet. I wonder what is the best way to love people. I can’t ever seem to get my thoughts in the proper order. I constantly fight my own pride. I love the applause of the world too much. And, with each mistake, with each painful misstep and every wrong motive and all of the ways that I don’t trust Him with my life, He gently leads me forward, wanting to see me grow.
I know He is working. It isn’t always pleasant to be a work in progress. And, there is no fast forwarding through the tough parts.
God is a father. And, in some ways, He is like a Mama who feels every growing pain in her children. He loves us enough to keep working at it because He wants to see us grow.
And, He is no stranger to pain.
So, when we feel the wringing out of our faith, when we are squeezed and prodded and torn down and rebuilt, when we are taking one tiny baby step after another, we can trust that God is making us more like Him. However slow and painful the process, the God who sacrificed everything for love and mercy and forgiveness is sticking with us, is using us, and is teaching us more about His promises each and every day.
So, I say this to you, to myself, and to Emerald Darling, my youngest and wildest: hang in there, baby. Growing is slow. But, it’s worth it.
Summertime is melting away like a popsicle on a Texas sidewalk. Every morning I wake up thanking God for another summer day with my kids, and every night I grieve just a little bit that another day has passed and we’re one step closer to school supplies and meet-the-teacher and new shoes and fresh haircuts.
I’ve seen plenty of funny articles about how moms are on the verge of killing their children, counting the minutes until the school bell rings in August. I’ve seen the Facebook statuses about how long the summer is, about how wonderful it will be when the routine comes back. I don’t know why–none of that rings true for me.
While other mothers grieve the beginning of summer, I mourn for weeks after school starts again. While other moms can’t wait to have a routine, I struggle to keep up with the routine. While mamas everywhere grin all the way home from dropping their kids off on the first day, I leave in tears.
It’s not that my kids never get on my nerves. They do, of course. They are small people with underdeveloped levels of maturity and patience. They are constant question-askers and they like to sit really, really close, even when it’s 105 degrees. But, try as I might, I just can’t tell them to stop asking questions. I can’t bring myself to move away when we are sitting together in a sweaty lump on the porch swing. All I can think about when we’re together is how limited the time is, how quickly the moments go, how funny they are, how loud they are, how alive they are, and how quiet and lonely things will be when they are gone.
I can’t decide if it’s a deficiency in me or if it’s a gift. But, every day I am so keenly aware of how fleeting this experience is. Not just summertime, but motherhood.
Right now, though, summer is slipping through my fingers. So, while many mothers are counting the days until the first day of school, I am just waking up each morning happy that we have no place to go.
And, at least twenty times a day, I look at my kids and I try to burn into my mind what they sound like, smell like, look like, think like, and talk like this summer. Because these few months of freedom with a nine, a six, and a two year old will never come back to us again.
I know what will happen. Fall will come, right on schedule, and it will be precious and exciting and fun. I will be thankful for another awesome school experience for the kids. Emerald and I will get into a routine. And, my longing for summertime will fade. But, for now, I guess I am just trying to live right in the middle of the gratefulness. I’m trying to drink in every second as if I may never get another one.
And, as summer continues speed by, I will hang on tight and sit as close to my kids as possible, even when it is 105 degrees.