This morning when you got up you requested that we sing He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands. Last night as you went to bed we recognized that you were feeling a little nervous on the eve of your new adventure and we talked and prayed together about it. This morning you were all eagerness and it spilled out into this urge for a song.
Today you went to school for the first time. Since I am intending to home school you (for the early grades at least) this is your rite of passage.The start of 1st grade will feel anti-climactic. We want you to experience the rhythm of “going” to school and the discipline of a teacher and a classroom and peers – all things we want you to learn to respect. And (let’s be honest) I want to experience a little breathing room; this is partly for me.
I wish I could’ve captured the private look on your face as I sang from my station flipping pancakes: “He’s got Mrs. Gebhardt in His hands…” It was a delightful idea to you – that God’s hands were for your teacher, too – and I witnessed it, quiet, not drawing attention to the moment, just treasuring the opportunity to see your heart just a tiny bit.
Saturday morning we went to Target for school supplies. We went at 8:30 a.m. so we wouldn’t have to shop amongst crowds. We went two days before the local First Day of School because your mom was homeschooled and it only just occurred to me to read the teacher’s email carefully and marvel at the concept that you would be responsible to bring school supplies. Apparently, in this world they call School, kids come to class on that first day loaded down with the things they’ll need. It’s not the teacher’s job to acquire the glue stick and markers. Since I’m from this weird planet where I never stepped foot into a standard school building on a standard school day for standard school purposes any day in my life, I found this surprising. Who knew? So there we were, picking from the dregs of the marker and glue stick selection.
I was proud of you there in Target: We walked in and your eyes took it all in there in that first $3 aisle of enticing clutter. You wanted all of it, and each request was qualified with “for school,” as in “Mom, I should get THIS for school.” It was not a good start, and I paused to explain that you were being greedy, wanting everything you could see. I showed you our list, and how your teacher – the leader in this situation – had prepared it for us. Our job was to find everything on the list and to not show up to class with a bunch of miscellaneous ideas of our own. And like magic you took the responsibility in stride, calmly making decisions about what sort of markers and what sort of pencils. Then there we were, standing in the Lego aisle, and you studied the pictures on the boxes with easy contentment, not feeling the need to own, just to observe, and you didn’t even notice me pick out a present for you and slip it into our cart.
(Congratulations on your first set of Legos, by the way.)
So you had your first day of school and it was all very relaxed. You proudly wore your orange backpack, asking me to remind you what the characters on it were. (It’s Star Wars, baby boy.) You smiled for a few too many pictures. Together we found your teacher, found your locker, found our places. It was a unique moment: I was as baffled as you about this “school” thing, wondering where a locker would be, wondering whether to ask questions of the teacher or stay out of her way, wondering when I was supposed to leave. I unpackaged all your markers and crayons and put them in the pencil box she’d prepared with your name on it. I helped you write your name on a paper and then marveled at how well you traced it. I kissed you goodbye and walked down the hall to the front door in awe of your eagerness and calm. And then three hours later I was back, trailing Patrick behind me – a spontaneous surprise – enjoying your accounts of the playground and learning about the beginning of the world and the days of the week, and discovering (no surprise) that while you didn’t remember any of your peers’ names, you did remember that there were 13 of you in total.
I’m loving watching you grow up. I’m a sentimental mommy, always grasping at what’s fleeting, always leaning in for one more snuggle before you grow ANOTHER day bigger. But I’m realizing what a treat it is to watch you get bigger, and I’ve seen a lot of it this month. You’re taking responsibility for so many things, you’re learning to communicate so well and to manage yourself. You understand your little world and you are thriving in it. (Never mind the return of Potty Phobia; at least this time you’re still using it, just trying to get out of flushing it.) When you want a drink, you get it for yourself. When your hands are dirty, you wash them for yourself. You are even learning to manage your own daily chore – emptying the waste baskets and taking the trash and recycling down to the garage.
As if a first day of school weren’t passage enough, I got to witness another beautiful moment in your unfolding world this week. Friday we had an all-day visitor, a 6yo boy who needed a place to be while his mom was at work for the day. Somehow his mom and I recognized immediately that the two of you were wired the same, and I am so thankful for your presence in each other’s lives. The three of us and our temporarily-adopted dog Mocha headed to the park in the middle of the afternoon. As I walked behind you, managing Mocha on her leash and pushing the double stroller with Gabe’s scooter in it, I watched the two of you team up to get your bike up a big hill and I was in awe at that moment: You have a friend. Someone you want to be with for no reason, just because you enjoy being in each other’s company, even if it involves dumping handfuls of sand down your shirts together.
I stood in the parking lot of our local city park on Friday, shouting-distance from the two of you – the fulcrum between you. You were there together but separate, an introvert’s playdate. You were tired of the team work and each had your own idea of what to do. So there I was, watching you, and I got to thinking about this new way of motherhood, so different from the intensely involved, physical season of the first few years, which is all I’ve known yet. Being a mom is about silently facilitating and witnessing: sitting on the sidelines with the stroller and the dog, doing nothing while you ride your bike around the empty basketball courts to the left and your friend digs his toes in the sand of the volleyball pit to the right. I was there to keep you safe but just out of reach, letting you grow into yourself by yourself. You’re doing your own thing and I’m just here, essential but so unimportant.
I love you.