Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Brave and Kind

There are so many things you can choose to be. I'm not talking jobs- those are vocations, not necessarily who YOU are and what makes you that person. I'm talking about the choices we make as the outward expression of our inward character.

Monkey is about to embark on a new school year- 2nd grade- bright and early tomorrow morning. I can't believe we're here already. This summer has been one for the record books, if by record books you mean "soap opera melodrama screenplays."

We have been tested and blindsided this summer, and relationships are changing and conflicts arising and fading. In other words: we're alive.

Welcome to Humanity, population: Us. 

It is hard to remember what it was like to be seven years old and having so much riding on details that seem trivial to adults. What teacher will you have? Who's sitting in your section of the class? Which backpack is juuuuuuuust right?

To MDD and me, these "little" things are tiny drops in our very large, 40+ years' buckets. Percentage-wise, no big deal. Right?

But to this little girl we're raising, it IS a big deal. All of it. The anxiety of not knowing if her best buddies will be in the same classroom or alllllllll the way in the NEXT ROOM-- it's big to her.

Once again, she didn't get assigned to the teacher she wanted. That happened last year too, and yet the teacher she did get wound up being the exact right match. She brought out all the best in my girl, and helped keep her wanting to learn and LOVING school. Monkey absolutely SOBBED on the last day of school this year. I had to drag her out of the school to go greet her summer.

This is NOT how I recall my school years ending...!

I believe we are entrusted with a heavy responsibility when we see our children anxious. It's crucial that kids experiencing something that feels so big and overwhelming to them have someone else to look to, who can and WILL ease that burden and offer assurance.

Handling some of the issues of our blended family can be a terrifying tiptoe through landmines a-plenty. Out life is complicated, to say the least. There have been many unholy messes when we set one off, and much repair and tentative movement afterward. This road is not for the feint of heart, that's for damn sure.

The treacherous nature of our path-- and the very real, hard truth that we have major components of it that are 100% out of our control-- means we step lightly. We often backtrack and sometimes sidestep. There are many wrong turns, and many, many tears. Fear comes with this territory.

But it's also a gift. When my daughter looks at me with those eyes-- MY eyes-- wide, seeking out a safe place to land-- that is my blessing. That is my chance to take her fear and give her my strength. To place my grown-up hand around her smaller one, and guide her to a place that is safer, where she knows she can step without blowing up her world.

This is sacred. I do not take it lightly.

That's not to say I fret and fidget over every minor bump in the road. I can't. There simply isn't time or energy, and nothing productive would come from hovering. I can't hover.

I grew up with a sense of independence so firmly entrenched in my persona that I have struggled greatly to allow myself to rely on other people once in a while. I got me, and that's all I generally NEED- but to be close to others, I have to let them near me. Not my forte'. I am a work in progress in that regard.

I want to give my child enough of that inner sense of independence to know she will be able to navigate her own way someday. I also want to temper it with guidance and comfort in letting other people share your heart more readily than I can do myself.

To her IMMENSE credit, she is already doing that. I can easily say my seven-year-old is better able to express her emotions than I am. Not sure if I am proud of her or embarrassed by my own weaknesses in that area. At least I can recognize both exist, right?

When your baby is scared, you want to make it better, safer, okie dokie. I don't sugarcoat things because I really don't know how. Blunt honesty is my happy place.

So when she's worried she is going to start this new year and not know how to do it, I am bluntly honest:

Yep. It's scary. You're totally entitled to be worried. But what I can tell you is this: You will be OK. 

You will, because I have seen you do great things. You are brave, and you are loved, and you are not alone. Not ever. Anywhere you go, the God who loves you is there with you. So you've got this-- because He's got YOU. 

All you have to do now is go out there and be who you are. Be brave, and be kind. That's all we ask and I know you can do that. Because you're doing it.

There's a song I have been singing to her every year, the night before school starts. It started the night before kindergarten, and she asked for it again last year before first grade. So I sang it again tonight in what's apparently our tradition. It's called "These Simple Truths" by Sidewalk Prophets. Check the last chorus:

Be strong in the Lord, and never give up hope
You're gonna do great things- I already know
God's got His hand on you, so don't live life in fear
Forgive and forget- but don't forget why you're here
Take your time and pray
Thank God for each day
His love will find a way
These are the words I would say

My sweet, amazing Monkey:

Be brave. Be kind. Be you-- because you've got this.