As I scrolled through First Day of School photos, Back to School ads, and nostalgic memories on Facebook, this statement came across my feed: “Well, it is the start of another school year. By the end of June, I wonder how many students will have been gunned down.” What a thing to say as all the parents are sending their precious children back out into the world, with no other choice but to do otherwise! I challenged the person who posted it for being insensitive and ill-timed, however well-meaning. But, of course it made my heart race, and raised my blood pressure, just thinking about it. And think about it I most certainly did! Of the multitude of things I have been worried about, that was probably down around #12 on the list of things to obsess about for my son who would be a freshman in four days. But, now, along with, #1 Graduating, #2 Having meaningful relationships with those who are good influences, #3 Finding a passion and developing a focus for adulthood, #4 Excelling at sports and having a great time, this one was usurping #1 to bump all the rest down a notch: STAY ALIVE!
It’s not as if we don’t have enough challenges to contend with at school. Nothing, I mean NOTHING, comes easy with this kid. He has learning challenges, behavioral challenges, attitude challenges. It’s not as if, since I’m his mother, I think he’s amazing and his teachers just don’t see how special my little darlin’ is. I’m dealing with all the same challenges they are, PLUS! And they do recognize his potential; the charm, the wit, the heart, the sheer magnitude of his personality, and, yes, his intelligence, even when it doesn’t translate onto a page or compute into a test score. But, day after day, week after week, month after month, he challenges them to their very core, and eventually, almost all of them reach their breaking point and give up on him. They can do that. He’s just one of many hundreds, perhaps thousands of students over the years. I can’t give up. I won’t. I’m his mother. His only parent. His only immediate family. It’s us two against the world. And even when he is fighting against me, I’m still fighting for him. This is something he may never understand.
But here we are, on the brink of high school; the gateway to adulthood. During the next four years he will learn to drive, have his first girlfriend, have his first job, have his first opportunity to vote. SO MUCH ADULTING! Part of me screams, “He can’t even match his socks! He’s not ready!”, and part of me says, “This is what we both want. A man, not a boy. Yes. A man.” But, that’s operating on the assumption that he will live to see adulthood. And if there is anything current events have taught us it’s that there are no guarantees. Of course school shootings are only one danger, probably the least of them, statistically: car accident, drug overdose, suicide. You see where the mind of a mother could go if you let it. Does yours go there? No? OK, maybe it’s just me.
I’ll bet it’s not just me.
Every time we hear or read of a tragedy, have a close call, or lose someone close to us, we ponder our mortality and the fragile and precarious nature of the lives of those we love the most. How do we cope with the somber and morbid nature of sadness and death while still embracing the joy and beauty of life? We do it just as we raise our children each day, if we are able, when given the opportunity; embrace them tightly, love them fiercely, and release them bravely with a smile and a tear.
It is now the night before the first day of high school. As is par for our family course, we are completely unprepared. My son has not done his laundry and hasn’t picked out what he will wear. I gave him an entire summer to figure out if he wanted to buy new clothes, and, being the procrastinator that he is, he waited till today and has no new clothes to wear for the first day. On my lunch hour, it occurred to me that I should check to see if there were school supplies that needed to be purchased for a high school student. There were a paltry few items, which he could not care less if he has, and, being the procrastinator that I am, I will be digging pencils, pens and paper out of my desk drawers to put in his backpack. (Feel free to insert an ‘apple and tree’ idiom, here.) I’ll pack entirely too much food for him, which he won’t eat because he’ll be too busy networking with all his peeps. And he’ll be up all night, not sleeping because he’s too nervous, then, fall asleep an hour before he has to get up and I’ll have to hire a team of horses to drag him out of bed before I leave for work in the morning and even so, he’ll admit to me that he was almost late. That’s just how we roll.
Tonight there was a Back to School Barbecue at the high school so the students could pick up their schedules and the kids and families could mingle. He had football practice till late, and was tired, so, even though the school is practically across the street from our house, when he asked I agreed to drive us to the event. “Oh. You’re coming in with me?” he said. Well, yes. It’s for the students AND the parents. Did you not want me to go with you? “Nah, that’s ‘ight, I was just going to hang wit’ my friends, you know?”
Yes, I do know. But, oh, my heart!
I did go in with him. Whether he wanted me to or not. I said Hello to all his friends, and shook their hands. And marveled at the fact that he could work a room like a politician, but still needed his mom to stand in line to get his class schedule, lest he crawl out of his skin in sheer boredom, I eventually left him there and went home to start the load of laundry he did not deal with during the days/weeks preceding, but… did I not explain the whole apple/tree concept? It’s 10:30 pm, now, and I’m still working on his laundry.
I’ll be up at 5 am tomorrow, and, at 6 am, I’ll be hitching the hired team of horses to drag my son out of bed to face his first day of high school. I have no idea what he will wear; I do know that all his clothes are clean and dry. He will have coffee in the pot, which he may or may not drink, breakfast in the kitchen which he may or may not eat, lunch packed, which he may or may not eat, school supplies in his backpack which he may or may not use. And a destiny that is entirely out of my control.
Psalm 90:12 “Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” How am I numbering my days? By counting each one significant, even the difficult ones, by counting my blessings, even the small ones, and releasing that which I cannot control with a smile and a tear.
~Love is Risk; I feel it now, more than ever