Posted in Parenting

It’s the First Day of School…and I Think I Need a Tylenol

I literally sit here with a coffee, a water, and a Tylenol after sending my 10 year-old off for his first day of school. My 5 year-old only starts on Friday, so it’s TV time for him right now. Mama needs a little breather. A bit of processing time.

I was up for several hours last night, fretting. Thankfully, I’m more worried than my kids are. They seem totally fine. I’ve micro-managed every detail within my power. What’s for breakfast, lunch, and supper, for the next week and a half? What’s the best deal, on every last marker and pencil crayon I can find? Does my older boy know the way to his new school? Has he practiced the route about twenty times? For the things I can’t control, like friendships, I’ve been on my knees praying. And both of my kids have a close friend in their class to sit beside. Even my Kindergartener, for whom I couldn’t make a classmate request. God arranged a girl he went to preschool with this last year to be in his class, sharing his locker, sitting next to him in school, and, if you can believe it, her family has even moved in next door. All of this by “fluke” – the teacher didn’t know they knew each other or were neighbors, when she made the seating and locker arrangements.

And although my 10 year-old lost a three year-long friendship last year, which devastated him, God provided another friendship for him to step right into. He’s seen this boy several times over the summer, both by arrangement and “coincidentally.” Come to think of it, we’ve bumped into his family several times over the past few years – at the town fireworks, at the grocery store, at church, at the museum’s summer festival. We chose the same 10-minute block for an appointment with the teacher yesterday. Also by happenstance. I’m not even surprised when we bump into them anymore. Well, of course they’re here too! I suppose I’m getting the point, God.

God’s done this with me in the past, and I’m grateful. Because I’m a little dense when it comes to this idea of “community.” I know I need people, but I’m a bit of a loner so it can be difficult for me to make friends. I’ve asked Him to build a loving community around my family. And He’s doing it, little by little. It began about three years ago, when my husband and I felt led to move away from a place that we had intended to stay, until we were old. As it turns out we were only there for five years. In a process that went very quickly, during the summer of 2018, we had sold and moved to a place we never intended to live.

No, it has not been perfect. But I see God’s hand in shaping our lives, and providing the things our kids need as they grow. Many times, this happens through the people around us. The volunteers at church who took care of them when they were little and still greet them by name whenever we see them. The schools and teachers, of course. A great street full of people. Friends for our boys, who knock on the door and ask them out to play. Other moms for me to talk to. Neighbors who are careful as they drive slowly by, waving at the children playing on the street. Who also greet my boys by name and even give them things – like hockey sticks; scooters; basketball hoops; baseball pants. As I write this, it sounds almost idyllic. It’s exactly the kind of life I prayed for, although it has happened so gradually that I sometimes take it for granted.

It has not happened over night. It’s taken patience, and persistence, but I’m starting to feel like we’re putting down roots. And that’s important.

In the midst of this, I may be sensing an identity crisis coming on. I’ve heard an older mom mention something of the sort, after her kids were all in school. It’s a feeling that, perhaps, many mothers experience – first, when they have children and say goodbye to portions of their former lives; their old ways of doing things. What was important before is no longer so crucial, because of the new little lives under their care. But eventually – though it seems, some days, like it will never happen – those little ones are packing their own bags, riding their own bikes to school, and spreading their very own wings. And then it’s time for the mother to begin to find herself again. But now, she has changed. It’s just not the same anymore. She can’t drift back into her old life. Her priorities have shifted. Her values have been altered. She may have lost some abilities or connections. But she has also gained new ones. And more importantly, she’s gained a perspective, that she didn’t have before.

Lord, I ask for a blessing over every mother that reads this, and over her children, as they begin a new school year – whether at home or away. Please provide everything that the kids need for a happy, healthy, and successful year. And please encourage and bless the mothers. Show them what and who they are to be this year, and give them the ability to fill those roles. Help them to also be able to take some time for themselves – to stay rested, healthy, and replenished. Thank you for our many blessings. May we never stop counting them.

What does the new school year look like for you and your kids? I would love to hear about it in the comments section below.

Warm wishes,

Lisa

Posted in Mental health, Parenting

Crying at the Rink

They came, finally. The tears. Yesterday, in a flood… releasing the overwhelm, frustration, and confusion that had consumed me for weeks. It felt good. My boys looked at me questioningly, as I puttered about with laundry and dishes, sobbing in between loads.

“I’m fine,” I told them, “just a little bit upset.” They nodded knowingly, with endearing concern in their eyes, before continuing on with their games and chatter.

This second lockdown has got me feeling like I am losing my mind. In addition, my church is experiencing conflicts that are dividing the congregation and resulting in hurt feelings on both sides. I have felt exhausted, emotional, invisible, and value-less.

And I finally told somebody.

“Some days are good,” I had typed in the email to her, “but I’ve had more bad days lately than I’d like to admit. Maybe you can pray for me.”

“Yes, I get it,” came the reply. “I would LOVE to pray for you.”

Was it her simple acknowledgment that my feelings were valid? The immediate effect of her prayers? Or the fact that I am learning to be more vocal about my concerns, whatever the outcome, as opposed to veiling them in some kind of ridiculous, prideful, even fearful – stoicism?

Whatever the case, I felt as though I had put down about seven suitcases full of bricks.

But I was still sad. Once the tears began, they didn’t want to stop.

“Are you coming skating?” My nine year old asked, his hope unhindered by my sorry state.

“I don’t think so,” I said deeply, through my stuffed up nose. My body and mind were weary. And the neighbors might see my tears.

“Ok,” he replied, and was off.

“Mo-om,” my youngest pleaded, “I want to go-oh.”

His persistence brought a smile to my lips. “Oh, alright,” I conceded, “let’s go.”

Ski pants. Boots. Gloves, coats, hats. Boy and skates in the wagon. Skate trainer in hand. Stepping onto the street, we squinted against the sun, and made our way to the rink.

A short time later, gliding over the ice, the cold air dried my tears, and freshened my lungs. A neighbor came to stand beside the rink and chat. Discretely, he held a cigarette between his fingers, not wanting my children to see. He was the one who had set up the rink for the community.

“I’ve seen you out here,” he said to my oldest. “I’ve seen your red jacket out here a lot.” Then, to me – “The last thing you want is to set something like this up, and have no one use it.”

A few minutes after he had returned to his house, a woman came by, walking her dog. “Having a nice skate?” she called. My boys engaged her conversation, in their typically nonchalant way.

“Can I pet your dog?”

“If you like dogs, you can pet her,” and she released the animal from its leash. We learned she was a therapy dog, and that her name was “Claire Bear”. The woman said she didn’t have children (other than Claire). She was on a walk to deliver a gift to a friend. She held a small gift bag in one hand. Later, I wondered if she lived alone (aside from Claire). What kind of loneliness must that be, at a time like this?

The skate was over too soon, even though I hadn’t wanted to come. “Let’s go home. I have to make supper.”

“What are you making?” (The daily, suspense-laden question.)

“Spaghetti.” Cheers, all around.

On the short walk home, I thought about our community. The rink. The Christmas lights. The people. My boys, and their unfettered positivity.

I felt better. All divisive issues aside, we need each other. The woman who prayed for me, the man who set up the rink, the woman with the sweet dog. Where do they stand on everything? Who knows. Who cares. One thing is for certain: we’re all in this together.

“I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.”

Mother Teresa

A simple question for today: How are you doing? Let me know in the comments.

Warm wishes,

Lisa