Updated on July 31, 2017
What I need to remember on this back to school day
The little one is a bit scared; the older one kinda nervous and the middle one’s just plain mad. But like it or not; here we go again. It is Back to School Day here in the southern suburbs. It feels like we just did this. Or like we should be packing up to head to the pool; not the bus. The calendar still says July?!? But nonetheless it’s backpacks and peanut butter and jelly this morning.
I think that this middle age thing has somehow managed to speed up the clock and whirl the days around in a blur before my very eyes. Didn’t everything used to take forever to happen?
Yet, somehow, we are standing here in the kitchen in the early morning light having blown through this summer thing with our noses pressed right up against these days that will unfold into this new year.
And I feel a bit undone by it all.
I know that most of the world thinks of the new year as rolling in with the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve. But us moms and teachers and students?
We know that the year actually begins the moment you tie up your new tennis shoes, strap on your shiny new backpack, and open that new box of crayons with all of the points still on each color.
New year. New chances. New friends. New teachers. My kids roll their eyes, but still I hug them each a little tighter after I wrangle the first day pictures out of them. “Remember everyone is nervous. No one knows where they are going yet. It’s like taking out a blank piece of paper and knowing you can fill it in however you like.”
My metaphors and gentle reminders simply render sighs and nervous laughter. “Really, mom? Only you would be excited about a blank piece of paper….” I know. Weird, right?
And it’s strange how I have done it for 10 years, now; packed a kid off for first day of school, and it still gets me every time.
Lord, go on before them. Prepare the way. Walk beside them. I whisper it under my breath. And let them know that it is you, Lord.
Every year they move a little farther away from me. Every year a little more independent. I am raising men; so it is good. Good for them to stretch their legs and see how far they can run. But as I hug my man child, the one who is taller than me now, and pray for his day, I have this fleeting moment where I miss his sweaty head tucked up under my chin. His little face for so many years framed with glasses and that sweet voice that called me Mama far into the days of elementary school.
“Mom…” his deep tone shatters the silence and he shakes his head as I get teary.
“Go, on.” I whisper. “Remember I love you.” He shakes his head at the childish reminder, like maybe he’s outgrown that stuff now. But I say it again. Because I want him to know it, all the time. I love him. And then he’s off. Leaving me on the porch praying for what is yet to come.
This day always reminds me that I am not in control. I am simply the sender.
You see, us Mamas and Daddies, we are the preparers, the behind the scenes workers on this day. We let them go right into their new space and we wait to hear how it will be, this new year. We can fret and pray and hope that it will all go well. We can pray that they are kind, that others are kind to them, that friends will be made, teachers liked and work done well. We can pray that much will be learned, brains engaged and hearts turned. We can pray for what they will become in all of these unfurling days.
But we can’t make it so. It isn’t up to us.
And here’s the thing. It might all fall apart. In fact, here’s something I know for sure. At some point this year, it will all fall apart. The grade will be bad, the work forgotten, the harsh word said, the door slammed, the privileges lost, the pathway unclear. What looks shiny and new today will at some point be complicated and broken. And it will not all seem well. Trust me. I have three boys. I’m an expert at dirty and broken things.
So, on the cusp of this new year, I find myself praying for the hard days. It quiets my soul as I remember that I can’t wrangle these new days into submission. I can’t insist on perfect and have it all lined up nice and neat for everyone to survey my success. None of this is mine in the first place. These kids, this year, their friends and teachers and work. None of it is mine to produce. It is God’s. Every last shoelace and pencil of it. And he loves it all.
I hear him whisper the words of this ancient text over me; over this day.
“I (the Lord) have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you in within loving kindness. I will build you up again and you will be rebuilt, O Virgin Israel. Again you will take up your tambourines and go out and dance with the joyful” (Jeremiah 31:3-4).
So here we go; racing off into this new year. But before the spin of it all gets to us, maybe we need to be reminded on this one simple thing. Maybe we scoff at the childishness of it too, like my big kid. But, I think God still says it over each of us, anyway.
I. Love. You.
He loves those kids we packed off into school buildings and onto busses this morning. He loves their teachers and friends and bus drivers. And you and me? Wherever we find ourselves this morning, He loves us. And he does not love us because of all the perfect ways that this year will go. He loves us simply because we are his. All. Year. Long.