Every day on the way to school, Dad would pray with us. I don’t really remember much of what he said, but I know he took it more seriously than I did. It wasn’t a somber time or anything, but it was important, very important. To him at least. I, on the other hand, often rattled off some quick prayer about having a “fun” day. I was just little, and that seemed to be the only thing that mattered in my light-hearted, care-free world.
We’d pull up to the building, and Dad’s last words to me were always the same. “I love you. Remember who walks the halls with you.” I knew exactly what he meant. Sometimes my answer came with an eye-roll in response to the routine. But usually I, ever the sarcastic one, gave him a different reply. “Yep, I do, Dad. Amy Holliday.” She was one of my first best friends in elementary school, and we were often found side-by-side at recess, in class, or yes, in the hallways.
Fast forward 28 years…
My own girl is about to start Kindergarten. She is so ready. She can spell her first and middle name – ANNALiSEJoY – knows her letters/letter sounds, and she even reads a little. She can count to 100 and write numbers almost that high. She adds quickly in her head, slower if she has to write it out, and not at all if I’m asking her to do it. Like I said, she is so ready.
And we – we are clearly first time kindergarten parents, because we had everything on the supply list and all her school clothes neatly tucked away in her closet by mid-July. We have lunch fixings in the pantry and fridge, and currently, we are working our way back to better/earlier night-time routines and earlier mornings. We are so ready.
But the truth is, we really aren’t. At all.
School and Kindergarten Assessments start after Labor Day. Annalise has a paper chain that she tears off each night, then counts the remaining chains and announces the number of days until her first full-day of school, the following Monday.
The shorter that chain gets, the tighter my chest gets. Tears are flowing more. The lump in my throat is lasting longer. I just don’t know how you did it, Mom and Dad.
We are just days away from that first time we send her off on her own, surrounded by a bunch of little strangers. Questions are flooding my mind. Will she be nervous? Will she be confident? Will she find a friend? Will her friend be kind and have a compassionate heart like her own? Will she know, really truly know, she is never ever alone???
I’ve been up at night, praying and weeping for her. I cry in the shower, so she doesn’t see. Her mind, it’s just so vulnerable. Protect her mind, Lord Jesus. She’s just a baby! But her heart, it is so big! Protect her heart. Make it bigger, a bigger heart for YOU. Help her to see herself – and others – with YOUR eyes. Bring her a friend with a heart as big as hers, no, as big as YOURS. Bring her a friend with a heart after YOUR heart. Help her to be brave, to stand up for others and for what is right, even when she stands alone. Help her to know, to feel, that you are always with her, that when she walks the halls of her new school – or runs on the playground, or sits in class, or wherever she goes – you walk with her side-by-side. Remind her of that, to bring her comfort and peace. Remind her of that, so she will think twice before making choices she knows she shouldn’t. Remind her of that, so if she makes those choices anyway, she will remember that she is still loved, no matter what. Remind her that you are with her, because she is YOUR child.
And now I know. I know what Dad was thinking, each day as he prayed in the car. I know why it was so important to him, not just a routine. I know how desperate he was for me to really truly know what I desperately want my own girl to know.
…I know why the words he left me with each day were used to make sure I knew that he loved me, and that Jesus is always with me. Thank you, Daddy, I know now. But pray with me for my girl, please?
I’ve thought a lot about what words I might say to her on her first day. I want to tell her how much I love her, how proud I am of her. Not because of what she can do, but because of who she is. I want to remind her that it’s ok to make mistakes, that she is there to learn, so she won’t know everything. I want to tell her that, more important than learning a thing, she can be a light to others, that this world needs Jesus, and our school is full of the world. I want to tell her how every day she can be Jesus to others just by showing them love and kindness. Practice this. Practice being Jesus to others. That kid that’s all alone? Jesus loves him too. Show him. And the kid that’s being mean to someone? Jesus loves her too. Show her. And sometimes, even the grown ups don’t know, and they need students that show them the love of Jesus. And Heaven knows, even the ones who do know need that, too! I want to tell her that her most important job is to show the love of Jesus to the world, and to give the glory to God for it all. That’s it.
I imagine all I want to say won’t come out as planned, and probably shouldn’t come out all at once to my wide-eyed, already very nervous 5-year old. As much as I’ve thought about it, I still don’t exactly know what I will say. I just know how it will end…
Annalise my Joy, I love you. Remember who walks the halls with you.