School Daze: 12 Years later

lilTomorrow my girl begins her senior year. It feels like seconds ago I wrote this note on Facebook about her Kindergarten beginnings. My brain cannot comprehend the swiftness of time and how it steals away dollhouses, pink dresses, ponies, and fairies. Though my bathroom mirror tells a quite a different story. Twelve years ago Kindergarten seemed big, and it was. But I’ve found that while time changes a little girl into a woman, time leaves a mother’s heart much the same.

My baby girl started kindergarten today. Five years swiftly flew by… till now. Some mommies told me I would love “sending one off to school”. Others simply patted me on the back, and suggested I hit a day spa for a massage. I was unable to imagine the surge of emotions that came over me as the big day arrived. Today, the first of my three precious children set off to face the world.

Lily woke herself up bright and early this morning at 6:20 am, and said “I knew I had to get up and go today, mommy”. To start the day on the right foot, I tried to fit in all the food groups for breakfast. She ate blueberry yogurt, a sausage, egg and cheese homemade breakfast sandwich and drank milk. I opted not to grumble when she discarded the biscuit and only ate the sausage, egg, and cheese.

It was a one single day later that getting up early for school lost its luster. Over the years, bright and early, became dark and barely out the door. I’ve tried hard to feed my children well in the morning before they go, but by high school and with 6:20AM bus pick-ups, healthy breakfasts soon became “grab that banana and granola bar before you walk out that door!”

But just like that day twelve years ago, she’s ready to go. She’s ready for this year. She’s ready to move on. And like that day…I’m not so sure I am.

The chosen attire for the big day was a navy blue sailor dress with red trim and a red bow. She was not happy when her well-meaning and nostalgic mommy snapped a big red bow on top of her head. (I am fully aware there will be many days that she chooses her own outfits…today she wears a stinkin’ bow.) If you know Lily well, you are not surprised to learn- there was some negotiating involved in regard to the bow. Needless to say, tomorrow Lily will choose her own outfit and her own hair ornamentation. Today she wears a big red bow.

Her backpack is a two-toned pink Janzport that engulfs her little body. Seeing her swallowed by the supply stuffed backpack– is when I had to fight back the first tears.

And she never wore a bow again, until last week when she wore a black bow because she decided it was “ironic”. Pink also went out the window rather swiftly as our girl slowly became her own person. It has been fascinating to watch her become who she truly is. She wears a lot of black and t-shirts advertising her favorite bands. She’s had her own style and opinions from day one.  Most parents may panic over this. We rarely did. She has always wanted to be taken seriously as her own person and as a female. She’s never been a child in her mind; always the independent one and the individual. I am proud of her for that. I’d rather her be herself than lost in a crowd of plastic followers. She stands on her own two feet, has her own beliefs and opinions, and can stand alone when she needs to. 

Dave took the official “first day” pictures on the front porch meanwhile our two year old, Elijah, adopted Lily’s uneaten biscuit.

Her brother still finishes her unwanted foods sometimes before they are even declared unwanted.

Our family of four, soon to be five, climbed into the car for the delivery. The line to enter the school doors was long. Lily immediately noticed the “big kids” and quickly reached for my hand. She asked, “Why are the kindergarteners so big, mommy?” Of course, I felt terrible that I hadn’t explained that she would be in school with older kids, too. Suddenly, a flood of things I should have said ran through my mind. After explaining the bigger kids, we got into line and started the grand entry. We entered the doors just as the first bell rang. The elementary school aroma of new shoes and gym floor wax brought back so many memories.

There are so many things that I hope I’ve said. So many words that I wish I hadn’t let leave my lips. I have lists of things to tell her over the next 49 weeks, yet I know I can’t cover it all. What will I forget? What will she remember? Will she offer me grace that I don’t deserve for the mistakes I’ve made?

We turned the corner down the Kindergarten wing. She recognized her classroom from last night’s ‘meet & greet’, and her little hand started to sweat. I noticed Dave’s hand latched onto her other little clammy hand. Elijah rode on Dave’s shoulders, still eating the stolen breakfast biscuit blissfully oblivious to all the unfolding drama below.

My hands are sweating now. Time is so short. How do I do this? How do I let go of her hand when we only just walked her to that classroom yesterday? Her hands are now strong and sure. Mine shake.

We walked her into her colorful classroom and found her assigned chair at a little table. She sat quietly and stared at a couple of her classmates who were crying. I hugged her and told her to have a great day. Dave hugged her and said, “Lily we know you are such a good girl, and you will make good decisions, and we are so proud of you. Have a great day!” We both told her we loved her several times. She didn’t respond and simply folded her hands in her lap. Her teacher quickly passed out a coloring page of a gingerbread man to the miniature students and ushered the nervous parents out the door.

We stood outside the door peering in for about five minutes. We took a few deep breaths. We let go together and walked. I let the tears fall.

Tears fall again. But it feels different this time. My heart is full. I have the priveledge of watching God paint this beautiful woman into existence. I am honored that I can be a small part of His grand design in her life. I don’t want to begrudge her of one single joy this year, in this year of jubilee and celebration. One chapter of her life and mine meets an end while another is rushing toward us with a momentum that I can’t slow, and we eagerly await to experience the joy it brings.

Today was the first day I let my little girl face the world all by herself. It was hard. Possibly one of the most difficult things I’ve done. I’ve always been so hard on home schooling families, but now I get it. The temptation to shelter, hide, and protect my sweet little blue eyed innocent from the world is unimaginable.

Letting go of my little girl for something as simple as kindergarten makes me wonder… Does God ache to see us leap out on new endeavors? Does He hope for the best, and reflect on our victories past? Does He consider how much we’ve grown, and anticipate what is to come? Does He long to shelter us and hide us from sin? Or is He eager to see us fight Satan on our own? Does He eagerly wait at the end of each day to hear about our adventures?

I know there will be many more difficult days and times to let go of all my children. I can’t even consider college, and quite frankly, if given the choice today, I would undoubtedly lock them in their bedrooms. Today was our first step in letting go, and the first leap off any new diving board is difficult.

And there have been harder days. Days that brought moves across the country. Days without friends at the lunch table. Days of loss and betrayal. Days in the hospital after an accident. Painful days. But.. many…MANY countless other days of joy. The day she played the piano for the first time, the day she picked up her cello, the day she started middle school, the first day she drove, the days that she laughed at pug dogs and memes so hard she cried, the day she chose Jesus. Those are the days that I carry with me. The days of joy are what I choose to tattoo on my heart and dwell upon. Those are the days that sustain me.

Joy comes easy when I remind myself that all the love I have for my children is miniscule compared to the love God has for them. He knew them before I did. He holds them when I can’t. He blissfully watches their future.

And so we lift our heads and look forward. We wait expectantly for more wonderful days; days of success and joy and triumph and excitement in the planning of what is to come. God has had her back story and he holds her future. Glory to Him.

Senior year here we come!

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