Monday, August 4, 2014

For Jayci, on her first day of Kindergarten

My dear sweet Jayci,

You bounded into my room this morning at approximately the same time my alarm went off. I hit snooze and tried to talk you back into your bed, but you felt far too excited about your very first day of kindergarten to climb under the covers again. Instead, you dressed yourself in your adorable uniform, slipped on shiny black mary janes fresh from their Target box, and pulled your knee-high blue socks up over your thighs. Everything fits just a little too big, but I don’t mind because it reminds me you still have room to grow. We brush tangles and teeth, and slip on a matching plaid headband, which you take off when you notice your friend Ava just has her hair in a ponytail. I bite my lip and remind myself I still have plenty of time to teach you to be an individual, smoothing your hair and both of our nerves.
I always knew I wouldn’t be the mom who cried when my baby went to school for the first time. My feelings mix equal parts proud and ashamed of this lack-of-tears. Because sometimes I worry about myself as a mom; particularly on those days when I long for summer’s end and then read other mom’s posts about how desperately they want to keep their babies home forever. Quite honestly, the last few weeks of summer have been a tense knot of time spent uninterrupted together. Your little brother spits fire most days, and even the best big sisters have trouble keeping their cool.

But then inexplicably last night, as I cut crust off your bread and tucked an applesauce next to your grapes and coveted last bag of Pirate Booty, I felt tears well and I scribbled a quick note on your napkin. I couldn’t believe I suddenly had become the very mom I expected least. And I lay in bed and turned things over and over again, interrupted several times by tucking you back into your own bed and praying over your lingering fears and excitement. Finally I decided before drifting to sleep to just let myself be who I am as your mommy. Without expectations of crying or not-crying. Of homeschooling one day because I cant stand to be without you, or of never-even-letting-that-thought-cross-my-mind because I’m so giddy at finally having a little space.

Mostly I reached this conclusion because when I think about you going to kindergarten, I want you to know how to be yourself. How not to pile expectations on your own head, because so often I’ve found that I am my own worst critic and hound. I want you to embrace the shape God has made you, whether that means you sit quietly in the back of your class or raise your hand to answer and ask all-of-the-questions.

I am excited for you to keep learning how to read and write, how to add and subtract, and hopefully even how to tie your own shoes. But mostly, I want you to learn how to stand up for yourself in ways that honor those around you. How to stand up for others too, and how to offer hugs and love for the ones who maybe feel just as shy as you do. How to encourage and help those around you, but even more how to ask for help when you need it. To learn truth and chase it hard, to fight for integrity and stand up for peace. Oh my sweet girl, school means learning and struggling and I can scarcely stand to send you in there, knowing you will most definitely get hurt. But the world desperately needs to see the way a beautiful girl like you responds to hurt with grace and peace, and for that reason I know you will be a light in your classroom and in your school.

Your school does this thing for kindergarten parents the first week called “kiss and cry.” It involves funny songs and cheers and tears and pictures, dropping off school supplies and trying to force parents out the door far before they feel ready to leave their sweet babies in the hands of brand new teachers who frankly look just about as terrified as I feel.

At one point, mid-song about Monday mornings, Caden throws a huge tantrum because he is just so hungry. And I am embarrassed, looking around at the chairs around me full of all the other kindergarten parents, most of whom I’ve never met. I feel my cheeks redden, until I shrug and laugh and ask if they wouldn’t mind taking Caden to kindergarten too. I think of how late in life I learned this ability to laugh at myself. To face the things that embarrass me with humor and grace, recognizing my own humanity as merely a different version of all the other humans around me. I pray that this year you will learn that embarrassment is mostly a waste of time. That you might find your identity in Christ, and not in either your accomplishments or your mistakes. That you will know you can laugh at and learn from missteps. And that both of us would remember even when we trip and fall flat on our faces, we can get back up and keep on walking, and even do it with a smile.

While Caden sits in time-out, I watch you cross-legged in the huddle of kindergarten girls: nestled between a tiny girl with short braids with white beads on the end, and another girl with stoic eyes and black hair that falls straight down her back. Your head stands nearly shoulders above them, and I think, “crap, I hated being the tallest girl in my class.

And then I remember again (thanks to your oh-so-wise-daddy reminding me), that you are not me. That God gave you long legs and wise quiet blue eyes and that your frame inside my belly was never a secret to Him.

It all feels like a far-less-scary version of sending Caden away to have his heart cut open. Because we are helpless and letting you fly from our arms into the world feels vulnerable. We want to protect you, and keep you safe, and not let anything hurt you ever. But it turns out that life is meant for living, and not simply for watching. It turns out that adventure and friendship and everything good in this world always involve some sort of risk.

Which, of course, enfolds the truth of exactly why parenthood leans so hard. Our job mostly entails readying you to not need us anymore. You will come home from school today and daddy will take you to get your cast off your little arm. And suddenly I will see in your eyes that you are bigger, and that your bone has healed straight. And that you will be ok. And I will be ok. Because our relationship will change and grow every day. But I am always your mommy, and you are my Jayci, forever.

I love you,


  1. Now, I cried at Jayci's first day of kindergarten! You are the perfect Mom for that girl!!

  2. So sweet. My oldest turned 3 Sunday and I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around her baby years being over. Reading this made me all teary. It's so cliche, but time really does fly! And that picture of her reading in her princess dress is just too much! Love it!

  3. I can't believe how big your kiddos are getting!
    I love that Cinderella picture... with a cast. Perfectly explains who she is, doesn't it? :)

  4. I love this AND YOU! This made me cry... I love the Cinderella picture... your tomboy princess :)

  5. Oh my word. Between this and your birthday post for caden, you have me bawling my eyes out this morning. Partly because i have my own precious girl to send to kindergarten this month, but mostly just because your words are so beautiful, so universal for mamas. Thank heaven for your ability to put into such beautiful words the things that so many of us feel. You're a blessing!


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