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Embracing kidsí first day of schoolcomment (0)

August 14, 2014

By Ginny Bourland

Embracing kidsí first day of school


So the day has finally arrived. The day so many parents dread, agonizing over for months (or years for some), worrying themselves sleepless, cramming every last bit of “life lessons” into each child’s brain before it is filled with nonsense from others. Yes today is the last day before my daughter — my youngest child — starts Kindergarten. My precious, princess-dressing, wand-wielding, Frozen-singing daughter is entering the world of public school. 

I have read the myriad of articles from so many parents floating around on the web regarding first day of school woes and worries, and I agree with so very much of what they have to say. I can relate to just about every emotion and thought that is going through their heads. 

My son started school three years ago, and two months before he started I was “that” mom — the one who could have written “those” articles. 

The dread of sending him off to public school, the fear of bullies and danger in the school, the anxiety over whether he could snap his pants back after using the restroom, the worry over whether he would make friends — and if they’d be “good” ones, the doubt of whether he would speak up when he couldn’t open his milk carton or just go thirsty, the urgency I felt to teach him everything I ever needed him to know before he actually left the house that morning, and the absolute dread of the horrible, nasty words I felt confident he would learn on the bus. My ignorant and naïve brain, which had no — NONE, zilch, zero — experience with buses growing up, thought all things evil in the world start, grow, develop, unwind, explode and finish on public school buses. 

I was terrified of putting my 5-year-old son on that bus with 10 year olds and would create these awful scenarios in my mind of what would happen when he climbed on. He, of course, was oblivious and thrilled at the prospect of riding a bus. 

Getting on the bus

Though I should point out that he had no clue what existed at the end of that bus route. His view of school was getting on that yellowish-orange wagon and, I guess, riding around with friends for eight hours until it was time to come back home. 

The luster of the bus quickly wore off and he accepted what would be his role for the next 13 years (and then some, I pray) and we settled in to our new routine.

So fast forward three years and here I am doing it all again. It’s a bit different because it’s my last child and it’s a girl, but I’m going through those emotions just like I did three years ago. 

My daughter is just as excited about the bus as my son was, and I still struggle with believing that not all things evil begin and end on public school buses. She is counting the minutes until she gets to leave for school in the morning. But my perspective is — and was three years ago — quite different overall from the majority of these articles. While I can totally relate to the others’ views, one month prior to my son starting Kindergarten my world flipped upside down and along with it my perspective.

The summer was going great and my husband and I were counting the days until my son started school. It would be nice to get a reduction in child-care expenses and have a bit more money in our pocket, but I still dreaded leaving the safe and secure world of day care we had known for five years. I was fortunate to be able to work part-time so I was home with him some and we had had a nice balance of mommy-time and structured school time and other play date times. I was not ready to give that up. 

It wasn’t really not being ready for school, it was completely based on the fact that to this point his little world that had been made up of me, his daddy, his little sister, our extended family and only those friends we allowed to enter in. 

School meant release of control and no say so in with whom he came into contact. He was going to begin hearing and learning lessons not given by mom and dad. Had we taught him enough? Had we equipped him properly? Would he remember the things we had worked on? Would he care? Not just his world was changing, but my world was crashing down around me. I was overwhelmed and worried and anxious and felt this timeline under which I needed to operate to teach him every thing I knew.

But God had a different idea.

‘Let go and let God?’

How about instead of this basket-case mom focusing on her child and Kindergarten and some pointless fears, I give her a distraction? How about I allow a cancer diagnosis to rock her world and help her learn how to truly “let go and let God”? So exactly one month before my oldest child started Kindergarten, I was given a cancer diagnosis (that was, as cancer goes, on the grim side of average) and then endured three separate surgeries including what some people refer to as the “MOAS — the Mother of all Surgeries” and ultimately spent 11 days in the hospital. 

I missed his Meet the Teacher day, and so many of the other things I had wanted to do with him before starting school weren’t possible but we made it. God took over and provided peace that passes understanding just as He promised. I was there to see him get on the bus the first morning of school. And I was there to give him a great big hug and see that smile when he got off — and he hadn’t turned into a demon during his time on that frightening mode of transportation either. I had to focus so much on healing and eating and just breathing that I had to forfeit those anxieties about school. 

And you know what? He did it. We did it. He did it with aplomb if I do say so myself. I will say there were no tears of sadness that day from my eyes. While millions of moms around the country struggled (understandably) in that moment of growth and independence and freedom for their kids, I rejoiced in being able to be present. 

One month prior and plenty of days in between I doubted whether that would be the case. Yes I have an incredible husband who understood how much all those silly mommy things mattered and he stepped up in a big way. And yes I have a phenomenal mother whose heart probably broke more than mine did at this turn of events because, well, I’m her baby going through cancer. And yes my support system is better than anyone in this world deserves. But truly the only thing that really mattered about my son going to school was that he go, that I see it happen and for him to know I was there and that that moment in his life was important and shared by me. 

I couldn’t tell you what we ate for breakfast that day or what my note in his backpack said. But I can tell you that when my mom and I took him to get ice cream that day when he got home, I got to hear one word answers to every question my heart and mouth could ask and that was golden. I got to see his eyes shine, and I got to feel the confidence in his voice as he relayed that he had “done school.”

And now I get to do it again. My daughter begins tomorrow. This day couldn’t have arrived soon enough. I may not have everything in order, but the critical parts (mom, check; dad, check) are there. There are the fleeting concerns that I haven’t used my time wisely, haven’t prepared her enough, haven’t adequately readied her for this momentous day. But experience tells me God has. If I have followed God as I should have, He has used me (and her father and brother) to equip her exactly as she needs to be. I can trust God in that. 

My cancer has returned twice in three years, and we have learned and experienced a lot as a family during that time. 

Most recently, in February, I was given a terminal diagnosis and discovered that seeing my daughter begin Kindergarten was not necessarily a given. Today I believe — unless one of those terrifying, spawn-of-Satan, noisy, n’er-do-well school buses runs me over — I will get to see her start school. I will once again get to be there to get her on her way and get to be there when she climbs off that bus, hopefully with the same huge grin that her brother had three years prior. 

Yes we are planning a special outfit and yes we have some Ready Confetti to sprinkle under her pillow. But the anxiety? The sadness? The worry, fear, growing-up-too-fast thinking I know I would have experienced minus cancer? It isn’t there. This is her moment — “I did it. I tied my shoes all by myself.”/”I just won a trophy for first place.”/”I’m starting my dream job.”/“I’ve met ‘the One.’” This is all that rolled into one and there will be plenty of those that I won’t get to see, so I will relish tomorrow and be her biggest fan and largest ears as she relays her day in the afternoon. I will be present for this moment and pray that one day when I’m not, she knows that while I could be there I was. Being present for this day was a goal of mine. The more experiences I get to share with her — with them — the more I will continue to be a part of her life when I’m not present. 

Most people are willing life to slow down. Cancer has made me want life to speed up. I have so many things I want to share with my kids, not just things I want to teach and do, but things they will do one day that I want to hear about. 

I’ve learned (in a new way) that God’s timing is perfect. It won’t be wrong when I am not here for some of their life events. I will be here for the things for which I need to be here. I will celebrate each day, and the new things we experience that day. 

I pray I can help my family cherish significant moments with this perspective — to temper the build-up leading to each occasion and enjoy the journey getting there; to live each experience recognizing the blessing of being a part of it; to know that being there is part of a plan with a purpose; and to savor every second of being with family and especially my children. 

And I never would have had this perspective without the blessing of cancer. It has taught me so much. I am grateful to be able to see beyond the surrender or resignation required by me (by choice or not), in order to witness my little girl flourish.

God bless each of you starting school for the first time. And may children of all ages be safe and secure inside those school walls each day. Lord, cover those buildings in the shelter of Your wings and guide the teachers and administrators to grow in wisdom each day as we turn our children over to them.

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