This summer, my wife and I reached a new milestone in parenting. Some claim the event is a rite of passage. Others say the experience is the final nail in a coffin that burries your man card and any cool factor you may have once held dear.
I feared this looming possibility, nay, probability, [naively] convinced my cool factor was just beginning to peak.
So, like many dads, I tried to avoid the inevitible- not wanting to be forever-marked with the giant "M" sure to prevent me from being invited to future neighborhood BBQs.
Then the Hyundai died. Then I realized a family of (almost) five can't exactly cram into a Mazda 6. Then I got the needle and thread out and began to stitch the dreaded letter to my polo shirt now properly tucked into my dad jeans versus left free-flowing.
You guessed it, we bought a minivan.
We thought we were officially parents when the Twinado was delivered some three-plus years ago. That was before we started rolling up in the Black Mamba (my name for the man van) and pulling out our dual stroller and cooler of snacks from the automatic hatchback and dual-sliding side doors.
Now we are real parents.
And in just over a week we will reach another milestone- our kids will begin school. Sure, it is preschool and only twice a week, but they begin school nonetheless. We will join the fraternity of parents who entrust the care of our chldren's education and formation into the hands of other thoughtful adults.
This year we are going back to school, not as students or a youth pastor, but as parents.
And we have our own anxiety.
So while this time of year I typically write a letter addressing youth, this one is for parents. Not because I work with some of your kids, but because I have kids, too. I write as a parent not a pastor. I write in solidarity versus from afar. I write pleading for your prayers even as I offer my own.
Dear Back-to-School Parents
I write this letter because we just received one. We got that letter in the mail written in the same comic sans font I remember my preschool-teacher mother using in her mailings to parents. We got the letter not addressed primarily to us, rather to our kids from their first-ever teacher.
And we cried.
We didn't weep and sob, we just shed a few tears.
We cried, not because of what the letter said, but because of what the letter meant. It was a nice letter. Actually, it was a beautiful letter saturated in kindness and welcome.
But still, we cried.
We cried because the letter served as another reminder that our kids are no longer babies. Our children, like yours, are rapidly evolving into persons unprotected from this world that is a holy mess, a hybrid of sacred and painful wonder.
And we have realized in a whole new way the value of that hard little word, trust, and it's faithful companion, prayer.
We have to trust and pray for the parenting of others. We have made our humble attempts to raise our kids in the kindness of Christ, which celebrates the value of every person made in the image of God and called a child of the kingdom. We have to trust and pray other parents are seeking to instill a similar kindness that, while not always lived out by adults let alone preschoolers, enables children to co-exist within a classroom.
We have to trust and pray for our kids. We pray they become those kids who befriend versus bully, demonstrating they have already been schooled in peacemaking. We pray our children learn to use their imaginations as they practice the delicate art of love and compassion. We pray they are the ones who look after the kid others may steer clear of because of some sort of difference. We pray they offer kid-sized forgiveness when others don't treat them with the kindness they know to be good and right. We pray they receive the same sort of forgiveness when they fail to exercise kindness.
We have to trust and pray for other people's kids. We pray all children experience the fullness of community as they meet new people their age and begin to discover the goodness that dwells within us all. We pray for the circumstances that surround other children, some more difficult than others. We pray, should they not know of a caring environment at home, they would experience hospitality and dignity while in classroom or on campus.
We also pray for those children who, for whatever reasons, are tilted more towards violence and agression versus gentleness and love. As parents, we have all experienced the best and worst of what kids can be, so we pray for more of the former than the latter. We also pray for the ability to navigate difficult encounters our children may have with others. Even more, we pray for the ability to shepherd our children gracefully when they may be instigators of conflict with other children. We pray other parents are trusting and praying for us, too.
We have to trust and pray for teachers. We have to lean on those adults who have felt called to care for and educate young people. We have to trust their wisdom and giftedness as they uncover the briliance and creative possibilities of our children. We have to trust teachers are looking out for our kids' well-being and will ensure they are safe when we are not there to protect them. We have to pray teachers have the support and training to do their job well. We also have to advocate for teachers when they do not. We also have to generate opportunities to celebrate, elevate, and empower teachers so they know they are appreciated as they partner alongside us in the formation of our childrens' young hearts and minds.
We have to trust God, whose ears our prayers fall upon. We have to trust that the God who walked alongside us as we navigated the same hallways will also journey with our children. We also pray our kids sense that presence every day of their lives.
We have to trust and pray that presence is what they practice, too.
So as this new school year begins, which is a first for us and many others, I am trusting all of you. I am also praying for you.
I hope you will offer us the same.
Grace and Peace,
A Fellow Anxious, Excited, Nervous, Eager, Fearful, and Hopeful Parent
What I Would Tell My Graduate: Letter to Class of 2014: http://gregklimovitz.blogspot.com/2014/06/what-i-would-tell-my-graduate-letter-to.html
10 Living Hopes for Class of 2012: http://gregklimovitz.blogspot.com/2012/04/10-living-hopes-for-class-of-2012and.html