I get very anxious about Chase being away at school for eight hours each day. Don’t get me wrong, I would get much more anxious if he were NOT away eight hours a day, but still. That’s the thing about parenting. Anxious if you do, anxious if you don’t. I’ve been trying to figure out what my anxiety is really about lately. It’s not that I don’t trust the school, I do. It’s not that I think they’ll teach him too much . . . as a matter of fact I worry they won’t teach him enough. Chase and I have a little ritual. I say, “What did you learn today, honey?” And Chase says, I learned about Christopher Columbus!” And I say, “Great! Grab a cookie and sit down. Let me tell you that sweet little story from the Native Americanpoint of view.”
The thing is that I’m not worried about my little man’s brain. I’m worried about his heart.
When I was in elementary school, all of these little teeny things happened to me that made me embarrassed, or confused, or sad. Like when I had to stand against the huge cafeteria wall with my nose pressed against the big purple painted grapes, or when all the girls teased me at my lunch table because my hair was greasy, you could start a car with all that grease, they said. Or when the boys never chased me at recess. Or when a classmate brought a Playboy to school, or when my friend Jennifer called me a gay wad. What’s a gay wad? But these things didn’t seem big enough to talk about, and I didn’t want my parents to know that all wasn’t perfect . . . so for whatever reason, I kept all these little sad and confusing things secrets. And keeping secrets became second nature to me. Which didn’t turn out so well for me for a couple decades.
So when it comes to how my kids are doing at school, I don’t worry about academics. I worry about social things. I worry about their time at lunch, at recess, on the bus. Mostly, children learn to read and add and sit still eventually. But not everybody learns that he deserves to be treated with respect and so do others. And not everybody learns that he is OKAY and loved and precious and that it’s all right to feel hurt and all right to hurt others, as long as he cleans up his messes. And not everybody learns that different is beautiful. And not everybody learns to stand up for himself, even when it’s scary. So I worry about that. Seven is young to navigate a big social sea all by oneself. I feel like thirty four is too young sometimes.
Last week, I snuggled in bed with Chase and told him all about the embarrassing, sad, scary little things that happened to me in elementary school. I told him that I never gave Bubba and Tisha a chance to help me, because I kept my worries in my heart. So my worries became problems. I told him that this was a shame. Because the beautiful things about being a kid, is that you don’t really have any problems. You might have worries, but if you share those worries with your parents, they don’t have to become problems. I told him that his daddy and I are his team. That his worries are really our worries. And that the most important thing in the world to us is his heart. And we talked a lot about this scripture.
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again, Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4: 4-7
I explained to Chase that every night before bed, he and I were going to lay in bed together and try to remember any sadness or worries that he might have had during the day. And I told him that we were going to talk about them and then pray to God to help us with them. And then he’d be able to relax and sleep soundly. Knowing that God and mommy and daddy were on it.
Over the past two weeks, as Chase and I have laid in bed together and remembered his worries . . . I’ve learned a lot about my little boy that I didn’t know before.
Like . . . He thought that the first few weeks of school were a “try out” and if he wasn’t perfect, he could get cut. I was tempted to let him keep believing that one.
Li Like . . . the reason he always wants his dad to take him to baseball practice is that I embarrass him by cheering for everybody whether they hit the ball or not. You’re not supposed to cheer and yell THAT’S OKAY when people drop the ball mom. It’s NOT GOOD to drop the ball. I don’t know if you really understand baseball, mom.
L L Like . . . there’s a big girl on the bus who may be a bit of a bully. And Chase is scared of her. He told me this Sunday night. I told him that his job on Monday was to find out what color her eyes were. That’s all. Just find out what color her eyes are, Chase. I need to know that. Chase came home yesterday and said, “MOM! Her eyes are BLUE! But listen . . . while I was looking at her eyes to find out what color they are for you . . . she quit her mean face and looked away! And she didn’t look at me mean the rest of the bus ride! And then on the way home . . . she didn’t look at me at all! She just passed right by!” Yep, always look them in the eye, buddy. Mean can’t handle the truth.
Anyway, I’m just happy about this. This worry talk is a little ritual that’s worth keeping. Because if we empty our hearts every night, they won’t get too heavy or cluttered. Our hearts will stay light and open with lots of room for good new things to come in.
Tell me your worries, honey. And we’ll pray. Because that’s what God, and family, are for.
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
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