Last week you began preschool. Last week you put on your Ninja Turtles backpack, because your Knight one was on back order and because you have a newfound interest in Ninja Turtles since that is what big boys like. You stood underneath the Hazelnut tree in our front yard, flung your shoulders back and gave me your best “I am not nervous. I am a child-man” smile. And as I watched you through the lens of my camera, everything suddenly became a bit blurry.There comes a moment with each child, I am sure, where you look at them and realize they are not a baby or a toddler but that they actually look like a KID.
Tears began to fill my eyes, as I realized who it was standing under the tree for the milestone first day of school picture, who it was bouncing around the front yard, clinging to the door handle of the van, begging for it to finally be time to go. It was you.
My B-boy: the one who taught me about fighting for love, the one who burrowed and carved out a place for himself in my heart, the one who I never knew I needed but God knew, the one who since birth has wanted to cuddle me cheek to cheek. You are the hero who valiantly fights for what he strives for, my sensitive spirit, the one who taught me to appreciate little boys. You are the one taught me to let stuff go and not take myself so seriously, the one who laughs with his whole body and smiles most with his eyes, the little brother taking 2 steps and a little hop to keep up with his sister’s stride-the one always trying to prove he is big enough, the big brother doting on his little sister-tickling her, babbling in her face and making up goofy-mush-mouthed nicknames that stick. You are the one who apologizes at least a dozen times without breathing and makes a wincing face when he thinks he has been dishonest and tricked me when I play along with his pretend games. You have been King Peter of Narnia, a Pirate, a rock-star, a digga-man, his sister’s prince and groom, a super-hero, and most often a Knight but truly you are my favorite boy in the world. And that morning you were a kid ready to begin a new adventure of school.
And then it was. Finally time to go.
You have waited through two years of Hayleigh going and you tagging along, never staying. Always hearing stories, but never having ones of your own that are quite as fantastic. You have spent two years coveting juice boxes and birthday snacks and holiday parties and crafts with lots of glue. Well my sweet boy.now it is your turn. I have known for a long time that you were ready. And I thought I was too.
Then the morning of your first day came and so did the tears. More accurately the tears set in the night of the orientation. I saw your name on the attendance stick where your picture would go each morning as you checked yourself in at school. And for some reason that just got me. I thought of my little boy doing big boy things-the things that Hayleigh has always been the one to do, the same things you have been watching and waiting to do for the past two years. (When you are 3 1/2, two years is a long time to wait.) I had spent so much of my energy preparing myself for Hayleigh’s transition to Kindergarten that I had not prepared myself for your’s to preschool. Oh, I knew you were plenty ready. And we made a big deal out of you going. I made sure that this milestone of yours was not glossed over in any way, except maybe in my own emotional preparation. It was strange walking you into preschool for “Meet the Teacher Day”. I was so used to you tailing along behind or trying to drag you out of the play room after dropping Hayleigh off. This time you walked in not as the younger brother, but as the student. Where has the time gone? How is that my baby boy wearing a backpack and grinning a self-conscious smile for the camera? I shed a couple tears after you left for your first day. You chose Daddy to take you. I both loved and was saddened by that.
You were quiet with nerves as you left. Unlike you, but it made sense because in the days since Hayleigh has started school you are a bit of a puppy without an owner. I was excited for you. I was anxious with anticipation for you to have your own experiences, your own stories, your own crafts with lots of glue, your own friends and your own adventures. And you were so sure you would have your own adventures too. Day 2 you dressed in a Spiderman mask, a “sword belt” made out of an old necktie (a staple around here for the past 6 months or so), your “hard sword”, a paper towel roll sheath, your bow and arrow, your arrow belt and a handful of broken arrows and foam swords bent from the endless battles they encountered this summer.
Oh how I love your personality. There is almost too much of it for your body to contain. And now I send you and your personality that fills up a room off to preschool every Tuesday and Thursday morning to fill up new places with your contagious joy and adorably mature beyond your years thoughts.
When you came home from your first day (only an hour long), you literally burst through the door screaming for me. “Mooommmmmmyyy!! It was SOOOO GWEAT! I want to go back EV-AW-WY DAY!” And later while you were on the toilet you called me in to say “Mommy, I made a block road with BOYS today!!!” That was my favorite part of that day-just hearing you say that.
I am so happy for you, my B. You will never have to be the first to do something, the one braving new territory the way your sister does. You have the luxury of having it all tested out for you first. And for all the waiting you did, I know you were a bit nervous to try it out for yourself. I am sure this will be the pattern in some ways for your whole life. What if this doesn’t work out the way it did for Hayleigh? What if I don’t do as well as her? This is what it looked like for her…but what if that doesn’t work for me? What if it looks different? Is that worse? And even if Hayleigh has done it all before and Daddy and I have done it vicariously through her, it doesn’t mean it isn’t new to you. I promise I will try to remember that throughout your life and milestones, my B.
But there are some things I want you to remember too. You don’t have to do things the way Hayleigh did or does. God made you different. He made you to be just the right person to fulfill His plan for you, just as he made Hayleigh just right to fulfill His plan for her. I fully expect you to have different victories and struggles throughout school and life. I am proud of the person you are and I love you unconditionally. More importantly, God does too. Just because you may do something second, does not make it any less significant to us or to God. You and your life are a big deal to us. I am confident that you will excel wherever you go. You are such a light. Literally wherever we go Daddy and I notice people look at you and smile. People who know you will laugh as they recount stories of you to us. You have a God-given ability to make people smile, and not just on their faces, but from deep within their hearts. You touch people and bless people in very meaningful ways, without even trying to. It comes so naturally to you. I am just so excited for you to spread some of your joy in school.
We talk a lot around here about being strong and courageous. I think we talk about those traits as much for me as for you guys. You see being strong and brave and courageous is not natural to me. But motherhood has a way of forcing you to be and do things you never thought you would or could be or do. I am learning to be strong and courageous. I am hoping it is something I can impart to you-although from what I have seen in your 3 1/2 years here, you possess a God-given strength and courage which I both envy and am proud of. I guess more than being strong and brave, I want to teach you why. One of our memory verses this month, one that hangs on your wall, one that I have prayed over you since before you were born is Joshua 1:9. “Have I not commanded you be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified. Do not be discouraged. For the Lord your God will be with you wherever you may go”.
It is my prayer that you can see the heart behind this verse. It is not a harsh command, but a bit of a pep-talk. It seems to be to be kind of like a coach giving his team final directions before breaking from the huddle. The chide to be courageous and strong is not an empty one made from the sidelines though. It isn’t from the words of a chubby, grey haired coach panting as he paces up and down the sidelines- the same coach who reminisces about the good old days, but who you have never seen take a jump shot. You may even wonder if he can get his arms much above his shoulders. God is not that coach. He isn’t the fuddy-duddy trying to tout the importance of using the “bang board”. God is not on the sidelines. He is “with you wherever you may go”. He commands you to act with strength and courage because you have every reason to. He is by your side. His strength is yours. “The battle belongs to the Lord” (1 Samuel 17:47). God loves you enough to fight with and for you. He loves you enough to give you a reason to be strong and courageous. He loves you enough to carry you when you feel weak (which sometimes takes the most courage to admit). God told Joshua, and he tells you, to be strong and courageous. But he doesn’t leave it at that. He tells you why. Because He is with you. He is with you at preschool. He is with your weepy mommy at home. He is with you when you go to “big school” and then even bigger school. He is with you in the classroom, in the locker room, when you get your first job, when you someday have a family of your own. Take it not as a sweaty coach spitting clichés in your ear at a timeout or shouting instruction from his seat on the sidelines. Take it not as a warning or condemnation. Take it for what it is-comfort, encouragement, a source of the same strength and courage it demands, a promise that requires and prompts action.
After Joshua heard this command and promise from God he immediately obeyed. He went straight away to begin the task that God had for him-leading the Israelite people. In the very next verse he is bolding telling his army leaders to prepare for battle. He isn’t obeying in his own strength or for his own renown-but Joshua obeys with the strength that God provides and for the glory of God. I don’t know exactly what battles God has for you to fight in you life, my B (hopefully there arent a ton in preschool…hehe). But I pray, oh how I pray, that you are dilligent in obediance to God, and not empty obediance, but heart obediance that is spurred on by you love for God because of God’s “first love” for you. I pray that you will fight with the courage and strength that God commands, the courage and strength that God gives. Because as we know, “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” (2 Peter 1:30). And we “can do all things through Christ who gives (us) strength” (Philippians 4:13). That is why I don’t ever just tell you to “be strong” or tough or brave or whatever. I never want to leave out the how and the why. I never want to deceive you into thinking you can accomplish that on your own, or to leave you feeling helpless when you inevitably find yourself to be weak. God is your strength, my B. He is your strength now as you begin your school experience, even if it is “just” preschool. I pray that you will walk with obedience to valiantly pursue the things that God has for you. I pray that you would not spend your time flexing your muscles in the mirror but putting them to use as you obey God and lead where he puts you, for His glory, not your own. And I pray that you would start now.
I love you; I love you; I do, my Buddy-boo.