Kids teach me every day, and I am the one getting paid to help and serve them. The first few weeks of school can be traumatic for some, especially a kindergartner. Torn from all they know, stripped from the safe arms of their mamas, and being thrown into the real world in 2.5 seconds can be jarring. Not every child has been in a pre-school for two years prior to real school.
I was making my morning rounds through the kindergarten hallway and stepped into a classroom. There are a few children I know well outside of school, and I often scoot in to give a hug and say a quick, "I love you and am proud of you." As I was doing so on this particular day, I spotted a little one in the back of the room crying. He was not hard to spot or hear for that matter. His crying was more like a mild wailing. I looked at the teacher to ensure it was OK for me to help, and she informed me that he had been moved to her room in hopes that he may settle down. I had permission to intervene.
I sat down on the floor, which put me at eye level with him. The last thing I cared about was my white pants on that tennis shoe, kid stained school house carpet. I needed to SEE him, and he needed to SEE me; Not just see me in a physical, sensory way but to really connect and relate. I told him who I was, shook his little hand, and simply affirmed that Kindergarten is pretty darn scary. New beginnings are. I don't care who you are. I asked him if he could tell me why he was sad. He said, "I miss my mommy."
Y'all. Just kill me now.
My eyes filled with tears, and I said, "Baby, I miss my mommy, too." We talked a little more, and as we talked, I'm thinking of what my plan is going to be in this situation. Because I'm still sitting on the floor, and little man is still crying. So I started to think and plan and talk simultaneously. Lord, help me! This combination usually goes really well or really bad. Bless.
I began with this: "Since we both miss our mamas, we are going to have to be brave today. Let's be brave together." Then I said the words I wish I could take back. This happens a lot, and I'm learning to be more gracious with myself when it does. I said, "You are in kindergarten now. You have to be a big boy."
And then it happened. He looked at me and replied emphatically, "I am ONLY five." I teared up AGAIN, and said, "You are so right, and I am so sorry. It is OK to cry, to be scared, and to not be ready for this no matter how old you are. Let's just do a little bit at a time."
Fear doesn't discrminate by age or by anything for that matter. And being at a certain maturity level or age does not mean fear goes away or that we shouldn't experience it. I put unnecessary and unrealistic expectations on little man. I didn't need him to be a "big boy." I needed him, just as he was, to trust me and to simply take the first step.
I showed him the clock and showed him that when the first number is a 2, it will almost be time to go home. I scrambled around for a piece of paper and found a fat crayola orange marker on the verge of drying out, and we wrote out his daily schedule:
HOME!!!! (With a million smiley faces)
After each part of his day, he and his teacher were going to check it off the list.
One thing I do know is that fear will keep us stuck in the wrong place or in hiding, so I asked him if he was ready to go back to his own classroom; The very room he was avoiding and escaping. He nodded yes, and we walked hand in hand across the hall. He went to his spot on the carpet, gave me a thumbs up, and I left. I will never forget that little thumb. He was brave, he took the first step, and you could tell that felt good. He felt stronger already, and he continued taking the next step throughout the day. The tears kept coming, and he kept going until the clock changed to a 2. He was living out plain, raw courage; Not because he was five years old and a big boy now, but because he perservered in spite of his feelings and roller coaster of emotions.
I think God wants from us something similar. He is not demanding that we just suck it up, and be a big girl or boy. He's asking us to trust Him, and simply take the next step, crying or not. That's bravery: Putting one foot in front of the other when you are sad, scared, angry, hurt, grief stricken, or fearful. Succumbing to unrealistic expecations of where we should or shouldn't be in whatever situation we find ourselves only paralyzes us and shames us. God invites us to move forward just as we are at the pace he sets, whether that be sitting still for a while, baby steps, or giant leaps.
After my morning with the cutest little thing I have ever seen, I went straight to my office and called my mama. I just needed to tell her, that even though I saw her yesterday, that I missed her terribly. I mean, come on. I'm only 32.
"Blessed is the one who perseveres,
who does the hard things & puts feet to the floor & just begins,
who doesn't stop putting one brave step in front of the other because
tough times never last but those who hang on tight to God always do.
The great man is simply the one who believes God Can.
The hopeful stare up the steps. The faithful step up the stairs.
We never see the miracles of God until we start up the mountain."
Image above from Annie F. Downs