It was finally here. Heidi’s last day of pre-k. Gavin and I walked into those double doors to pick Heidi up for the very last time as a preschooler. I found myself feeling nostalgic and thinking of the very first time I brought her as a three-year-old. I had been so reluctant to let her come, and I had teared up the first day I dropped her off. Yet she fell in love with the teachers, the kids, the colorful classrooms, the playgrounds, and even the homework sheets. It was her happy place away from home when Gavin was born and turned her world upside down. It was where her friends were and where she learned a little bit more about the world. It was where she ushered her toddler brother into his class for the first time, explaining to him where things were and how they worked. It was the place she missed most on Christmas and summer breaks.
Gavin and I waited in the hallway for her teacher to open the door and let the students out one by one. Her teacher called Heidi’s name, and instead of an excited little girl ready to jump into summer, Heidi came through the door slowly. Her shoulders were slumped. Her head was down. In her hand, she held a photo of her entire class including her teachers, all beaming and happy and together. I looked at her face, and her blue eyes were rimmed with tears.
“Honey, what’s the matter?” I asked, already choked up a little myself. I was asking her a question I already knew the answer to because this girl is so much like me.
She held up the photo without saying a word and pointed at the smiling faces. Her lips trembled and more tears fell as she began to cry. I bent down to hug her, tears in my eyes too. A couple moms noticed and sent their kids over to give Heidi a hug. It was quite possibly the sweetest and most heartbreaking thing to see. I knew that she was already missing her friends, her daily routine, her teachers, her classroom. She knew big changes were coming.
My daughter didn’t want to let go. And quite frankly, neither did I.
How often are we like that? When life changes, for better or for worse, it can be so hard to let go of what we know and love and what’s comfortable. We may even try to re-live or re-create the “good ol’d days.”
Last fall, her year of pre-k seemed to stretch out before me, long and wide and comfortably far from her transition to grade school. Then suddenly I found myself staring down the barrel of her last few precious days as a little pre-k kid, and I (and Heidi!) wanted to freeze time.
All I could do was hug her. (And of course, take her out for ice cream!). I am not sure I have learned to navigate life transitions any better over the years, but I hope I have learned to do it with a little more grace and gumption. I have been anticipating Heidi’s first day of kindergarten for so long now that I failed to account for the little bit of time she needed to be sad for what was now over. I was slightly unprepared.
And maybe that’s what I haven’t allowed for myself. I have tried to tell myself to buck up and be excited for this sweet girl who is so ready for school. It’s not something to be sad about. In fact, seasoned moms simply laugh at me. “It’s your first, right?” they ask with a knowing smile as I talk about how much I will miss my girl, and they assure me I won’t feel that way every year. In fact, I will count down the days to school as they kids get older.
But I have been a stay-at-home mom to Heidi for almost six years of my life. She has been my shadow. We go to playgrounds, the library, the pool, the grocery store, the coffee shop…we take road trips and wrap gifts and bake cookies and walk the dog…we watch movies and do Legos and do our nails…we play cards and take care of Gavin and work in the garden and visit our friends. Of course I will be a little sad when all-day kindergarten starts. She’s been my life for six years. It’s ok to grieve the loss of all that time with her.
Heidi’s not going anywhere permanently. She’ll only be in school all day, every day, and then come home to me. She’ll be home on weekends. We can still do all those things together that we did before. But still, the shift is big. It’s a milestone.
Maybe we would do well to honor what has been before we move on to what will be. Maybe we are too hard on ourselves sometimes but trying to convince ourselves we’re being too sensitive. I think in some ways too I grieve every piece of dependence I see that falls away from Heidi as she grows. Life can be amazing but it can also be heartbreaking. And I don’t want her to be heartbroken. But I can’t protect her from everything.
So for the first time the other day, I prayed about it. I guess sometimes I just wait to do that until I realize I can’t get a grip myself. And the second I brought my anxieties and sadness to Jesus, the peace came in. And He reminded me that though life changes swiftly, He never does. He still has big (and good) plans for Heidi. He walks beside her every minute of her day, even if I am not. He cares for her and loves her, and He doesn’t want to see her heartbroken either.
He also gently reminded me that He feels the same about me, and He still sees me as a little girl navigating life too. He still has big (and good) plans for me. I sometimes forget that. Sometimes as a mom, I kind of forget about my own plans and dreams. I focus so much on helping my kids succeed that I sort of forget to keep working for the other things I had in mind for myself.
He reminded me that He will never fail to dispense His grace and strength to me. I may waver and get emotional, but He will not. I may think of all the worst-case scenarios, but He assures me He’ll be there regardless. He is strong enough to take my fears and anxieties and remind me that He has not left me alone. And while I still struggle and have big faith questions, I will try to simply take what He gives me and trust it.
A season is over, yes. And it’s ok to be sad about that for awhile. But then, instead of staying sad, I thank God for every little part of the past six years I can think of…the good, the bad, and the ugly. I look back now and see how God has worked out His mighty hand in our lives instead of looking back to simply miss all the good things. We definitely had some growing pains. But those years have provided a solid foundation for which to continue growing. That foundation is a path to new opportunities and life stages and work and so many other things to look forward to. That foundation is precious and priceless and should be looked upon with gratitude and happiness.
And that should be celebrated.
Remember that you were separate from Christ, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. For He himself is our peace… Ephesians 2
I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you maybe be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3