We parked the car and immediately unbuckled seat belts in our haste to get inside the church building. Caleb bounded out of the van exclaiming, “I can’t wait to go to school tomorrow!” Matt and I laughed at his enthusiasm, a new kindergartener not yet disgruntled by the institution of school.
That night as I ironed new uniform shirts, I was surprised at the familiar smell of the hot iron meeting the shirt fabric. Seven years ago I stood ironing a navy Polo shirt to wear on the weekends of Officer Training School. After so many weeks, we could earn privileges to go off base, but not without donning that navy Polo with the letters O-T-S spelled below the shoulder.
Seven years ago.
It’s unbelievable how quickly time escapes us, unbelievable that I have a child starting school. It feels like yesterday that I was starting my own adventure, but, instead, Caleb was starting his.
Leading up to this day, I wondered how I would feel. Would I cry, feeling sad because my oldest would no longer spend his days home with me, or would I rejoice, feeling relief that summer was over and a few hours of freedom for me were in sight? Surprisingly, I felt neither. Instead, I felt excitement.
Five a.m. did not come easy for me that morning, or at all, for that matter, mostly due to the fact that all three kids had managed to worm their way into our bed at some point during the night. I slept later than I should have, so I didn’t get to write my blog that morning as I planned or spend time with the kids over a leisurely breakfast. They had trouble waking up, too.
But the excitement kept me moving forward.
Caleb was starting school. My little boy with a fountain of constant questions pouring from his mouth, holding an innocent curiosity, would start his journey of learning within the walls of the cozy classroom, full of books and bulletin boards and crayons.
That Sunday morning when Caleb bounded out of the car expressing his excitement at starting school, I sat in the cushioned chair at church reading from 2 Chronicles 14. Our church’s word for the year is ‘gumption,’ the character to commit and complete, so we looked at the life of King Asa. King Asa was an Israelite king who started his reign doing what was good in the eyes of the Lord. He turned the nation back to God and away from idols and trusted God for military success when surrounded by enemies.
However, later in his reign he sent Israel’s gold and silver to the king of Aram, requesting a treaty with him, showing he no longer trusted in God to protect Israel. And from that point on, his reign took an unfortunate turn, as he forgot who was the source of his blessing and protection. King Asa lost his gumption–he didn’t complete the plans God had for him.
My pastor asked us to evaluate our own lives and search our hearts for those areas where we have lost our gumption. I thought of a few spiritual disciplines, but the focus of my mind was on my kids. I haven’t lost my gumption–I am committed–but I want to complete and complete well.
God recently reminded me of what I signed on to do when I left my career in the Air Force to take on the career of ‘mom,’ and because of that renewed purpose, I can look to Caleb’s first big step into independence with excitement. I’m not sending him to school to wash my hands of the job–this decision came with a lot of prayer as we weighed homeschool, private, and public school options–but instead to work alongside his teacher as he embarks on this journey.
I look forward to volunteering every week and pouring myself into his education. I can’t wait to take him to a museum when I hear that an exhibit correlates with a unit he is studying. And I’ll gladly wear his school colors when we cheer on the sports teams together.
Perhaps part of this excitement stems from the realization that I have a fresh start as we begin a new phase of life. For many reasons, Caleb’s preschool years were tough for me. When other kids his age may have had a sibling come along and join the mix, Caleb already had two by the time he was three. Because most days for me were about survival, I never really felt like I could sit and treasure that time the way older moms always advised that I should.
But I won’t waste time on regret. I’ll treasure this stage and the next and the next for the different joys that they bring.
That morning when Matt and the girls and I kissed Caleb goodbye, I didn’t leave with tears but a smile. Caleb eagerly entered his classroom and barely looked at us as we walked out the door. But that’s okay. He had looked forward to this moment since he turned five, five months ago.
I can’t believe how quickly five months has flown by…or five years…so I best not get caught looking behind me. We’ve got new sight words to learn.
Caleb, I love you so much, and I’m so excited for you! Because you’re my firstborn, every new experience for you is a new experience for me, too. I’m glad we get to take this journey together. And even though I sent you to school on that first day with a smile, I felt a pang of sadness when I read “Sarah, Plain and Tall” to your sister that afternoon without you. You’re my buddy, and you make me proud.
I started this post three days ago, but I’m still figuring out our new schedule and how to squeeze in time to write. Nevertheless, I’m linking up (albeit late) with Michelle for her “Hear It on Sunday, Use It on Monday.” What emotions ran through you during your last transition from one stage of life to the next? Did you long for the past, or were you excited for the future?