Eighteen Years

Eighteen years. Yes, it takes 18 years for that newborn to officially be declared an "adult", but I'm referring to another group of years heavy on my heart today.

For the past 18 years in a row I have joined the throngs of other mamas on the first day of school.

My news feed today is loaded with smiling faces, new clothes, new backpacks, lunch boxes, and my absolute favorite -- a brand new box of crayons!

School starts early here in my area, and though we are far, far away from a real seasonal "Fall"-- summer is effectively over for so many.

Though it's been many, many more years since I participated in the back to school frenzy as a student, I cannot lie that I got butterflies in my stomach every single night before the first day of school for my three for the past 18 years.

I sit here this morning in a very different place in almost two decades. I have no one starting school.

I have no new backpack in front of my door waiting to be scooped up and slung over a shoulder with the well-secured lunchbox swinging from its bottom -- a noted tucked inside to be read while munching on that well-crafted peanut butter and jelly sandwich (cut in triangles; because if you really love them -- you note what shape they prefer for that favorite sandwich--and all three of my children wanted a different shape).

I bought no new crayons, no markers, no glue sticks, no boxes of tissues, or binders. I had no list to follow. I met no new teachers and greeted no old acquaintances or new faces. I paid no fees, bought no new school clothes that needed to be washed before wearing, and sought out no new sneakers that needed to be laced.

I sit here a little stunned at all the rhythms I took for granted.

I was the first day mama for 18 years, but the rhythm of my days being attuned to the march of education goes back further.

I was married to a teacher for more than 20 years. My seasons and my days have been dictated by the calendar of the school system for most of my adult life. School breaks, teacher planning days, inservice, early dismissal, and recess.

I took comfort in the regularity of it all. I could count on the sameness. The cyclical nature of it was soothing, dependable. Every year the same. Every year its own kind of different as well. I knew the drill. I bought the supplies.

I cheered on the first day, and part of me cried. Because each year brought me closer to this one. Each year brought me to the end of the cycle. The one in which I no longer belong to the First Day of School Mamas Club.

Lest you think I am wallowing today, I can also be grateful in this.

I can be grateful I have reached a place of being able to offer cheers and encouragement to other mamas fully in the middle of this quick tour of schooling our sweethearts.

You can do this! Here are some things I wish someone would have told me on that first school day all those years ago:

  • Do walk with your little one to his or her class. Don't worry if you need to hold him or her a moment longer before letting go.
  • Do sit down and listen about every single thing they did that day -- in real time, if necessary. All too soon they won't tell you anything about their days at all.
  • Do make the favorite sandwich and cut it in the shape they like best.
  • Do write the notes, even if you have to dig them out of the soggy bottom of the lunch box at the end of the day. They did read them or have them read by their teachers. (I got a notebook made by my kindergartener's teacher one year filled with all the notes I'd sent in her lunchbox. Still one of my most treasured items from my kids' school years).
  • Do let them pick out that first day of school outfit. The sense of style that emerges over the years will be recorded in those customary "first day of school" photos. You will giggle and tear up over all of that too.
  • Do listen closely on those drives back and forth to school. Some of the deepest truths from your children's hearts will find a way out in the quiet of a morning ride. I cherish those moments and am so grateful.
  • Do pray as often as you are prompted: for learning, for friends, for community, for protection, for industrious mindsets, for goals, for dreams. for a calling to be recognized, for self esteem, for an eagerness to be at school, for wisdom, for memories to be made, for openness, for your love to be present in their hearts when you aren't with them.
  • Do know that ultimately Philippians 1:6 is true every single day for your children and mine--both inside the walls of a classroom and now that they are beyond it. The learning does not stop. The method just takes on a different shape on the other side of organized education.
"And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ."
So, I will not be in the pickup line today or any time in the foreseeable future. I will no longer feel the rage at people who cannot follow the rules of said pickup line. I will not hear the after school reports while munching on some concoction I made up to sweeten those moments once we'd all returned home.

Instead, I will entrust myself to pray. I will pray for you. I will pray for your children. I will cherish the moments and the memories, because I have plenty.

Eighteen years.

Leaving a trail of beauty~



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