I'm doing a lot of breathing today, deeply I might add. I suppose I thought I would just get through this day with lots of distractions and activities but now that it's here, I've changed course and decided to just let myself have this day to feel everything I want to. Which means I've sobbed some, smiled a little and imagined what she's doing about every hour. So you know, I'm a hot mess basically. I have for the most part, had a lot of joy about this new stage and in seeing Ava blossom before our eyes. I've tried hard not to squash her excitement, taking comfort in knowing she is ready for this and all of it is good. But today I'm facing the ache I didn't realize was just under the surface of those smiles. I have the best friends and parents who have been checking in on me all morning. It does make me feel better to know that most Moms have walked a similar road on the first day. I'm not the only freakish Mom almost racing back to my car so I can burst into tears in "private." Let's just say on a rainy morning, which really ruined my plans for a sweet family walk to school, I've never been more thankful for umbrellas! After I kissed Ava and choked on the lump in my throat, I basically hid myself under my umbrella while I passed all kinds of grinning parents so that my hot tears and the look of anguish on my face was not easily observed by the masses. I resisted the urge to yell, "What are all you people grinning about??? Don't you know this is a sad day?? Why are we all OK with leaving our kids here??" I figured Ava didn't need a label or a "weird Mom" on her first day, so I refrained. But I was thinking it. My feet couldn't get me to the van fast enough and when I opened that door and caught one look at Trav's face, the floodgates opened. Everyone told me it was OK to cry. I out did them and sobbed instead.
One of my dear friends texted me with all kinds of perfect wisdom, having been through this five times before. She reminded me of the wonderful promise in Psalm 139:5, the Lord has already gone before her and He hems her in on all sides, laying His hand on her. She's out of my eyesight for a few hours each day, but never outside of His. My Mom commiserated with me about the hard seasons of letting go in parenting. It seems once these years begin, it's a new heart struggle now as they rightfully and appropriately gain more independence while we hopefully cheer them on and help guide them through. One of my favorite insights about parenthood came from an author I heard interviewed on Focus on the Family one day. He basically said our role as parents is to help our kids gradually shift their dependence on us to a dependence on the Lord. That's the big aim. At the beginning, for the last 5 years, Ava depended on me for everything. Sure she's grown up a lot this last year and she certainly still needs us for most things, but right now she's at school and she's doing a new thing without me all day. And that's good and it's right and it's all part of growing up, but as I told my friend this morning, maybe that's the part that hurts the most today. She doesn't need me like she used to. She's stretching her wings for about 6 hours every day and all without my constant supervision. That's a tough pill to swallow for my heart.
In fact, as a severe thunderstorm rolled through here this morning after we dropped her off, I had my first panic as I realized it was thundering and she hates "funder." It stops her in her tracks every time. Just last week when it stormed, she ran over to me and wanted me to hug her. As the tears rolled down my cheeks again I wondered, who will hug her through the "funder?" And then it hit me. Jesus will. This is exactly why we always ask her, "Ava, who makes the thunder? Who is in charge of the storms?" It wasn't just so we could fill her head with knowledge or get her to repeat some Biblical insight. It was for moments like these, when we can't be with her, for her heart to remember that truth and rest in it. She knows she can pray at anytime for any reason because we taught her that God is always a whisper away. She knows who controls the storms and who will make her brave because we've talked about it and she's heard us pray for strength in a variety of circumstances. In fact, she practiced it last week before she had her final kindergarten shots. When I asked her if she was nervous at the pediatrician's office, she told me had already practiced being brave and asked Jesus to make her brave when she was in bed the night before. Not when we prayed with her, but later when she was by herself. All those truths we've tried to impart, all those Biblical accounts and testimonies we've tried to explain, all that modeling and reminding...it's all for moments like these. For the first day of Kindergarten when the "funder" rolls and Mommy is not there to reassure her. I'm hoping and trusting that the Lord reminded her who was in charge, who was in control, who she could trust. Yep, this is a new season of transferring her dependence and also, transferring mine. When they are little and you meet all their needs, it's easy to believe that you actually can meet ALL their needs, forever. But even that's a lie. We do a lot to help them, to care for them, but ultimately the control we think we have isn't really much of anything. God's always been Sovereign over all their days and mine too. This is another lesson in letting go and one I'm determined to learn.
So now, as I count down the final half an hour before we go pick her up (!!!!!!!!!) the tears have dried up and already I can see how sweet these days will be for the boys and I as we spend time together. This will be a good season once we're all used to it. I'm excited to hear how she did all day, excited to see her cute little face, excited to squeeze her tight and hear her giggles while she plays this afternoon. We've almost made it and when I say "we", I mean me. The first day is almost in the books and I'm glad. I'll be back tonight with pictures (did you doubt that??) and her impressions for all the relatives to hear :) For now, I'm comforted in this truth we've built in her, to the best of our limited abilities...
"You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain." Psalm 139:1-6
He's got her.
Today and every day after, she's in His hands...
right where she's always been.
And because I know I can trust Him, even on the first day of Kindergarten, that's exactly what I am doing.