Wednesday, September 9, 2009

To The Wolves

Yesterday, Grant started 3rd grade, Katie started 2nd grade, and Alli officially has her first full day of Kindergarten tomorrow. And I, well I felt like I fed them to the wolves. This is the 5th year we've done "back to school," but only the second time we've done it at a public school. The first three years, they attended a tiny little Christian school with one class for each grade and class sizes capped at 15 students. It felt more like an extended family than school, but most of all it felt safe. I knew the kids. I knew the parents. I knew the teachers and the principal. And best of all, the school enforced our worldview so we got to watch our kids grow in their understanding of God's plan for their lives while they learned their ABC's.

We chose to settle in Newberg because of its community feel and the excellent reputation of the school district. And our kids have experienced two of the five very excellent elementary schools. We have nothing but positive things to say about the teachers, the principals, the staff and the level of education our kids received. And I feel like they are just where God wants them to be. But every time I enter the doors of their school, I get a bit panic-stricken. It seems so big. So cold. It has cement floors and a crazy, maze-like layout. It has five 2nd grade classes with 28 kids in each of them. I don't know a fraction of the kids. I met all their teachers for the first time on supply night and I might recognize the principal if I saw her in the store. To this hyper-emotional, see-only-potential-danger mother's heart, it feels scary and unnerving.

Never mind the fact that both my kids were so excited the night before school started that they could barely fall asleep. Or that they sprung out of bed at the crack of dawn chanting, "School starts, school starts, school starts!" And did I mention that the "maze-like-layout" makes perfect sense to them? Graduating to the next colored hall is actually a bit of a badge of honor and every student is proud to broadcast where their classroom is located.

As we walked through the crowded entrance to the school, all I noticed was that my 8-year-old who was ready with backpack donned for 30 minutes before school started, walked slower and slower the closer we got to his classroom. His excitement over his new rock star hair and his Chuck Taylor Converse hi-tops dimmed as his nerves took over. By the time we reached his classroom, he ditched his backpack in his cubby, found his desk and refused to even glance at a certain little girl he'd been waiting months to see. Oh, and did I mention he followed me out of his classroom and gave me the most heart-wrenching hug imaginable?

I noticed my uber-fancy 2nd grader with her sparkly scarf, sequined tank top and newly bobbed hair standing in her very long classroom line, surrounded by rambunctious, crazy boys, LOTS of BOYS, with no girls in sight (or at least none that I noticed because I was too busy imagining worse-case scenarios). Her brand-new, pink camouflage backpack engulfed her entire back and as she took in her new surroundings, she just looked so small. And baffled. And a little overwhelmed. And did I say small?

I am not the mom who normally cries at drop off, but I headed straight to my best friend's house and before I had time to swallow my first sip of coffee, the first sob erupted. What kind of mom leaves her precious treasures with a bunch of strange kids and an adult they don't know? For EIGHT hours at a time? Oh right. Almost every mom.

As I poured my heart out, the Lord used my friend to comfort me and I felt my emotions start to come back to planet earth and off of hyper-drive. I remembered how we prayed for each of the kids' teachers all summer long and waited anxiously to get the announcement letter in the mail. I remembered that putting faces and personalities to Mrs. Kirk, Mrs. Young and Mrs. Harris confirmed to us that God had indeed placed our children in just the right hands. And I remembered that last year, I wasted the entire first day of school torturing myself with worse-case scenarios and endless tears, only to have them both come home thrilled with everything about their new school environment.

So I dried my tears, slapped a little sense into myself and watched the clock move toward 3:38 p.m. As expected, they bounded off the bus, pushing past each other and talking over each other to tell me about how great their teachers are, how fun it was to reconnect with old friends, and how cool it was to see that Converse are indeed the "most commonly worn shoe," according to Grant's unofficial poll. I guess we didn't feed them to the wolves after all, but I'm not guaranteeing I won't feel the exact same way next year!

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