What We Learned in Kindergarten
Thursday morning was Daryl’s final day of Kindergarten. Thursday night was the Kindergarten graduation ceremony. And in the middle, his Momma had a mini-meltdown.
It didn’t obviously have anything to do with Daryl and the fact that he’s growing up so fast, as they all do. Oh, I’m sure the emotions surrounding the day primed the pump. But the actual episode felt more self-focused than that.
The LOML and I were both home in the afternoon. He has just finished his teaching year, so we are making the wobbly transition into our very different summer routine. Namely, this summer, he’s setting aside his doctoral work to be home more with the kids, so I can finish the This Odd House manuscript. Bless him!
After lunch, while Amelia napped and Daryl played in the sandpit, Peter and I met on the sofa with cups of tea. And he let me read to him.
I started with this piece about writing by Sarah Bessey because it resonates. I hoped it would help him understand why I’ve been struggling these past couple of months. Why I feel as if I’ve hit the wall with This Odd House. Why the words won’t always come in the two-hour window on Wednesdays while the kids are both in school. Why the August end of my sabbatical year looms large. Why the word “platform” still gives me hives. Why it feels as if I’ve been coerced to compete in a cyber-popularity-contest. Why it’s hard to stay motivated and moving forward when the “nos” pile up around you. When “success” seems to come easily to others and I can’t help but compare. When I seem to get close. But then remain so far.
Then I read him this piece about writing by Donald Miller because a part of me—the idealist part—would love to run away to a cabin and knock this thing out. The one pictured on Miller’s website would do me nicely. But then the realist in me knows that my actual problem is not my location, my schedule, my responsibilities, or my life. The real problem is me. My fears. My preoccupations. My wrong thinking. My self-obsessions. And so on. And if I traipsed off to a cabin, these would undoubtedly tag along.
Then I read him the essay I am currently writing. Or trying to write. Or trudging through. Or stuck in the mire of. And I asked him for help. He is my go-to guy for perspective and brainstorming. But yesterday. When he voiced what I already knew to be true. That this piece isn’t working. It isn’t yet clear. Doesn’t yet have my voice. It felt like the proverbial straw. Commence mini-meltdown.
The LOML spoke truth and grace to me. Reminded me of what I had just read by Sarah Bessey. Reminded me of Who God is. What He has already done. The doors He has already opened. What we believe He has gifted me to do. Who I am in Him. And—point of growth for me—I (relatively quickly) pushed open the gates of self-defense and let that truth and grace gush in.
Cue Daryl. Who appeared in the dining room. Eyes wide. Chin quivering. Hands flapping. Shorts covered in Elmer’s glue. Voice rising in crescendo. “I was playing with Daddy’s Daddy’s car (his name for a Mini Cooper model that is actually Peter’s and is fragile and usually off-limits). And it crashed. And the wheel came off. So I got my school glue out of my backpack. And I tried to fix it. But the glue was clogged. So I tried to take off the top. And the glue got EVERYWHERE!”
We tried to calm him down. He was pretty upset. I think he felt the weight of his multiple wrongs. But we told him that it would be okay. That we could work it through. Then, as I rinsed off the gluey shorts, I watched his daddy deal with him. With the same measure of truth and grace he had shown to me minutes before. He was the hero of the hour at our house, for sure.
He asked Daryl to explain what happened. And—point of growth for Daryl—he told the truth. Every bit of it. Without hesitation. He didn’t lash out. He didn’t lie. He didn’t try to pass the blame. Instead, he owned what he had done. He pushed open the gates of self-defense. And, it seemed, he let the truth and grace gush in.
A little while later we were all settled down and all dressed up. Daryl chose Steak and Shake for dinner. Then we drove over to his school to celebrate the end of the Kindergarten year.
Of course, I got all teary when he and his precious classmates paraded down the aisle to Pomp and Circumstance. When they filled the risers and sang with gusto and recited Psalm 23. When his teacher (another hero!) handed him his little diploma.
I couldn’t help but remember picking him up from the first day of Kindergarten back in August.
“How was it?” I had asked, searching his little face as I buckled him in.
I should have known better. He can talk my ear off. But always in his own time. “Momma, can we talk later?” he had asked. Followed by the question he asks almost every time we get into the car. “Can you turn on the music please?”
So I turned it on and listened to him sing. At the top of his lungs. His lovely little voice filling the space. And I waited. Until we were almost home. Then I tried again. An easier question. Yes or no. “Did you like Kindergarten, Dar?”
“Yes!” he said. But then—with a heavy sigh—he offered further explanation. “But, Momma, Kindergarten is work, work, work.”
And wouldn’t you know. His initial assessment was correct. It has been work. This Kindergarten year. For him. His teachers. The LOML. Even Grandma. And for me.
In our combined efforts, we have tried to teach him so many, many things. To read and to write. To add and subtract. To play hard. But also to sit still when necessary. To pay attention. To take his time. To express himself clearly. To ask good questions. To be responsible for his own stuff. To solve his own problems when possible. To wait for his turn. To put others above himself. To tell the truth. To say he’s sorry. To forgive. To receive grace. To love God and others. To pray.
Not that he’s mastered these things. Of course not. We have a long, long road ahead. But by the grace of God, he has grown.
And what strikes me as well is how—as we get older—the lessons don’t actually change a whole lot. How during his Kindergarten year—my sabbatical one—I have been learning (again) so many of the same things. In this new blogging and book writing endeavor, I feel every bit the oversized Kindergartener.
It strikes me how I, too, have been learning to read and to write in new and exciting and terrifying ways. I’ve been learning (again) to add what is good and important and essential and healthy to my life and to subtract what isn’t. I’ve been learning to play hard. With the LOML and my kids—because this is one of the good and important and essential and healthy things. But also to sit still when necessary. With them. With myself. With God. I’ve been learning to pay attention. To the people in my life—little and big. To the world around us and what God is doing therein. Because you can’t write well if you don’t. And you can’t live well either. I’ve been learning to take my time. To trust the process. To be responsible for my stuff. To own my faults and failures as well as my strengths. And to tell the truth about both. I’ve been learning (again) to say I’m sorry, to forgive, to receive grace, to love, and to pray.
And I’ve been learning (again) to wait for my turn. To put others above myself.
In fact, yesterday morning Daryl came into the big bed for a cuddle. We were reflecting on his graduation ceremony. Talking about our favorite parts.
Then his lip curled in a pout. “I liked the video,” he said. “Except the pictures at the Chinese restaurant.”
“You were sick that day,” I reminded him.
“I know,” he said. “But when I saw everyone else sitting there, eating with chop sticks, it made me jealous. It’s not fair that they got to go and I didn’t.”
So we had lesson #643 on how life isn’t always fair. And fair doesn’t mean equal anyhow. How even though God loves us the same, He allows different good and bad things in each of our lives. How the bad things can bring growth and can reveal His glory. And how—though it’s very, very hard sometimes—we can praise Him for both.
And yes, as much as lesson #643 was meant for him, it was also meant for me.
Anybody else learning (again) some of those Kindergarten lessons? If so, which ones?