4th grade.

Dear Fourth Grade,

We are three weeks and two days into our relationship, and I feel we’ve now reached the point where I can be honest about how I felt when you finally came around.

I was scared of you.

Actually, I should just go ahead and be completely honest and say I’m still quite apprehensive.

You see, it wasn’t so much the additional homework, reports, and studying for quizzes and tests that frightened me.  No, third grade gave me a good dose of reality when it came to all those things and how no one tells you in those fancy parenting books that you actually will repeat each grade level multiplied by however many children you have.

It’s the memory of how much fourth grade began to change me and thus it makes me want to stick my baby big boy back in a stroller and go back to a time when I had complete control over your comings and goings.

I remember vividly my second grade end-of-year gift.  (You know, because I had a mom who did that sort of stuff.)  It was a gold-colored chrome doll cradle and I cannot tell you enough the delight in brought me for hours upon hours that summer.  It’s one in which I practiced mothering quite hard, surely realizing–perhaps unintentionally–how one day learning those instincts to protect and nurture my baby dolls would actually be of resource one day.

And third grade, the following year, resembled the innocence of a little girl being gifted a doll’s cradle.  Third grade was still about who got the latest Barbie, believing the tooth fairy really did put that money under your pillow, and all the other tales naive little 8 & 9-year-olds may still believe.

But then came the last day of third grade.  And I was gifted a Nintendo.  Which in today’s world does not seem out of place, but in that moment…there was a shift that took place.  The little girl who just one year before craved dolls, now was blossoming–for better or for worse–into a pre-teen who wanted what was popular and current in the culture.  She wanted what her friends had.

Baby dolls were strewn aside in favor of compact discs and posters on the walls of her room of the latest boy band craze.

In 4th grade, I began noticing boys noticing me.  I liked it.  I even wrote a poem about a boy for a school assignment.  I started talking on the phone, not doing my work, and generally acting the fool.  Not all at once.  But that 4th grade girl became the 5th grade girl, the 6th grade girl, the junior high/high school girl who all of a sudden was thrown into a world where she was growing up way too fast.

I long for the innocence of that sweet summer day when my only care was for a Cabbage Patch Doll I laid to sleep.

The year between 3rd and 4th grade changed me so much and I just don’t want you to do that to my amazing little boy.

I know I cannot protect him entirely from being exposed to what this world has to offer.  I know I must do my part to counter it with the truth of what God does.  And yet, I try.  I encourage the train track building and box car races because they are keeping him young.  But I dread the day those are traded in for more mature accessories.  I love the growing up. I dread the growing up.  It is the great paradox of motherhood.

So, fourth grade, you’ve been good so far.  But I know the changes are not noticed in the day-to-day happenings.  It’s in a day in the future that is coming when I’ll look back and see how different things are.  How different he is.  And I’ll miss this time.

So please don’t taint my baby boy, fourth grade.  He’s got a sweet innocence to him and so much faith still in this world and while I know it cannot last forever, I’d like some more time.

And I am grateful for chances to sit down and do fourth grade all over again with him.  I pray I will help him navigate the choppy waters of adolescence and not allow him to make the same the mistakes I did by focusing on what was not good for me instead of being the best version of myself.

And one last request, fourth grade.  If you could ease up on the math difficulty, I’d really appreciate it.  You’re making me feel a little bit dumb.

Love,

This Fourth Grade Mom

***

This could have been its own separate post, but it felt fitting to tuck this photo and memory into this entry as documentation of what this school year has been about.  I went into this school year with a new attitude: to not worry so much about the expectations of the school.  Rather, we would have a homeschool-type of environment while we were…home.  I say I dislike and don’t agree with homework at this age level but then I place so much stress and importance on it and it stresses my son out.  It’s not fair to do that.  The weight of the world does not need to be on his shoulders at age 9-and-a-half.  Sure, we do our best to get assignments done.  But if there comes a night where it doesn’t happen?  Oh, well.

We’re working on being neat.  But it does not need to be to my standard of perfection.

We are trying to stay organized. But it can be his way, not mine.

This photo was a moment in time I wish to cherish forever of the reminder of how sweet it can be when we just relax, breathe, and let go.

Sitting in our living room next to an open window with the most amazing breeze doing our work.  Me, the mom, just sitting there for support.

As much as I love all types of music, classical has always been way down there on the list. But now?  Now, I put it on as we are doing our work; softly in the background its melodies sooth and bring peace and calmness into the atmosphere.  I highly recommend it.

My calmness affects him greatly.  I see it now, and wish I had gotten to this point so much sooner.  I’m learning to not take things so seriously, yet balancing it with the goal of teaching responsibility and self-reliance.  My attitude is different and it has brought peace.  He had matured so much just a few short weeks.  I’m amazed at how different, but how much better, things are this year so far.

I looked across the table at this amazing little being I get to help raise.  And I had to document that moment.

Let’s see what the balance of this school year looks like. 🙂

I’m linking up with:

BetterMondaysLinkup

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When words fail.

I’ve began this post a million different times, in a million different ways.  Words on the tip of my tongue, now pouring out from the tips of fingers.  I wish I could write that August was simply a whirlwind filled with fun and the desire to focus on my family as the calm days of summer dwindled down.  And partly, that would be true.

I’ve often remarked how much I admire full-time working moms, whether they have to work because of financial reasons or have to in the sense that they know that is what makes them a better mom; to have their time away to come back refreshed to their children.  I only work a paltry 15 hours a week, and I feel like the balance of available time escapes me far quicker than I can keep up with.  So, I had to take advantage of the free time when I had it.

But in truth, August was perhaps the most difficult month I’ve had to date.  In my entire life and in my faith walk.  While I can’t and won’t go into details, at least not anytime soon, I’ll say it was a trial.  I asked someone, “How do you respond when people ask how you are in a circumstance like this?”  A circumstance where you truly cannot share what’s happening, and, yet, do not want to lie and say you are “fine.”  The answer was, “I am going through a trial.  I can’t share about it, but thank you for praying.”

I never responded like that.  My default is “fine.”  Sometimes, I like my default.  It’s easier.  It’s safer.  It’s what I know.

***

whenwordsfail

I love this quote.  When I moved on from a teaching position, the next teacher to come in decorated an empty space with this quote that just zapped my heart.  I knew we’d be great friends after that. 🙂

I don’t know why music has always spoken to me, but it has.  I’d spend hours growing up listening to lyrics that seemed to describe how I was feeling and what I was going through better than I ever could.  Maybe that’s why I was never expressive; other people could do the work for me.

In the midst of just trying to get by day by day some weeks back, I knew in my heart that things needed to change.  I resolved; I pressed on.  And in those moments, what spoke to me were different songs.  I downloaded.  I made a playlist.  I titled it, “I’m gonna make it.”  Because I was.  Because I am.

And I know this can seem controversial in Christian circles.  I can imagine men in suits wagging fingers in my direction wondering why I was not finding my comfort in the Bible alone.  Because, psst, here’s another revelation: They weren’t all worship songs.  Some were; some you could turn on your local pop radio station and hear.

But they spoke to me.  Just like that little girl who lay on her bed with a Sony CD walkman and felt the emotion behind each chorus sung, there were songs that reminded me of the good I had in my life (trust me, this isn’t wasn’t about wallowing). They brought to remembrance that it’s okay to feel and it’s a beautiful thing that we do; they validated that’s it’s okay to not always be okay.

And one song that I had on repeat for many weeks eloquently puts into perspective a problem I’ve had all my life: this lack of communication.  This inability to just share; to be truthful.  It gets me no where.

Nothing’s gonna hurt you the way that words do
When they settle ‘neath your skin

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Oh, that Sara.  She reminds me to be braver.  To know that keeping it all in helps no one, especially me.  To step out of comfort zones.  And don’t get me wrong, I find that when I read the Bible too.  But who is to say what means that even God himself can use to get a point across.

Maybe there’s a way out of the cage where you live

I want out of the cage.  Out of a warped mind that believes the lies her mind sometimes tells her.  I don’t want to feel or to be trapped by fear.  There’s wisdom in thinking before you speak, for sure.  But there’s damage to be done when nothing gets said.  At all.  And it feels icky when those words do just settle in.  They permeate.  They develop into bitterness.  They grow.  Bottling it up doesn’t make the issues or problems go away.  If anything, it can make those issues and problems worse.

When words fail, music speaks.

Sometimes I don’t know what to write in this space.  Sometimes I won’t know what’s appropriate to say right away or what I will need to meditate on for awhile.  But I know there’s always a song waiting to help me through.

But the music is not the default.

The Lord is my strength and my song;
    he has become my salvation.
Psalm 118:14 ESV

God puts the song in my heart.  To cope.  To sometimes just make it through the day.  But more than anything, to overcome.

He just has creative ways of helping us along the journey.  And for that,

I’m grateful.

*The picture used in this post was originally found, by me, here. I do not know if this is the original source, but I am simply trying to give credit to how I came by it.

For a mother’s heart on her child’s first day of school. {Re-post}

This is a re-post of a blog published on September 5, 2012 published here at “A Life Well Done”.  The words still held true this year as we journey into the 4th (!!!) grade.

The tears fell daintily onto letters of a keyboard as I brushed my also tear-stained fingers on them to post a status update last night…

I suppose it’s not normal that I began crying a week ago. Or that I cried when I woke up this morning. That I’m sobbing right now. And most assuredly, will be a wreck tomorrow. I know I am blessed to be one of those mommies who isn’t ecstatic with relief about school starting. No, quite the opposite. To have my son with me for 100+ days in a row is the greatest gift in the world, and I don’t want it to end. It is so very hard for my heart to have that and go back to long days without him by my side. I miss him tremendously during those times. I hate to tell all my mommy friends with babes just starting school–it doesn’t get easier at all. No, it only gets harder as those babes turn into young men and women who one day won’t want the cartoon bookbags, or notes in their lunchboxes; who won’t still hold your hand as you enter timidly the first day of school…thank God we are not there…yet…but I can accept the day is coming. And I…I’m going to miss this. I miss him. Already. I missed him a week ago. So if y’all could pray for my heart tonight, boy would I appreciate it. And know, that I am praying this week for all your babes too. ♥

I can appreciate the humor of a Staples commercial for the pure joy the actor has in portraying a gloating father happy to see his kids off, so that he himself could perhaps indulge in some ‘me’ time. But that is where I stop being able to relate to such advertisements when my heart is in the midst of breaking ever so slightly at what I know is to come.

The time…it’s going by so fast. And I rejoice in every bit of it from the very beginning of the story. That I was chosen to be his mother; and held him close for nearly three years and even then for the next four he was but a few doors down from me. And as he’s grown, and things had to change because I’ve had to change, I’ve still been available and he’s been near. For two months now, he’s been right there and the sadness that overpowers me on the eve of when I must bid him farewell for even just a few short hours is almost too much to bear.

But God mercifully and gently whispers into the ear of a sobbing mother who is aching into her pillow,

He’s mine too.

He continues, though it hurts to hear,

And he’s mine more than he is yours.

And he implores me to trust Him with all things, when all things to me is the very one thing I care most about aside from the earthly father who helped to create him.

For how will I ever be able to send him off to wherever the Lord places in his heart to go if I can’t bear something as simple as third grade? I pray for things to stir his heart, for compassion to move him far beyond his comfort zones, yet can’t handle not being the one to protect and shield him at all times. How will I be able let him go to possibly death-defying missions and places where the cost may be too great if I can’t have faith that the Lord will oversee it all now? The Lord prods me and I respond; I will be that mother who whispers into her son’s ear Fly, my baby boy. Go where the Lord leads. Because I will know that He knew the plans he had for you long before he knitted you in my womb.

It is worth it.

But the Lord isn’t through me yet.

I had to let mine go too.

And the tears flow harder as I remember how much more you had to let yours go, Lord. This pales in comparison to the sacrifice you made for your people. But you understand. You always do. The Gospel is woven into the aches and sobs of a mother learning to not make idols of the things, or rather people, that never belonged to her in the first place.

He is yours, Lord. And you can do with him as you please.

It’s third grade, but it’s moons away already from diapers and first words and tiny fingers that would cling tight to a mother’s hands. And it seems far enough into the future the life of a boy who will one day be on his own, but I know it draws near rapidly. The years are slipping by. I rejoice at health and life that goes on, but I lament that is just isn’t long enough. There will never be enough time to love you with all that I have.

But for now I try. Try to make every moment count. To have no regrets. To leave nothing un-whispered in a darkened room as you try your best to fall asleep when it is three hours earlier than you’ve had to in 100+ days. And I pray for my heart and ask Him alone to remove the fear of the unknown; to be able to be okay with letting go.

Because I am SO excited to watch your story continue.

So with resolve, we press on. Together.

But I pray you will always remember the mother who loved every moment of having you by her side. And if the Lord grants me one desire, I would plead it be that one day, even when you’re the man of your own house, you would still enjoy being by mine.

Happy first day of third grade, papa bear.

I can’t wait to watch you soar.