Last week, my oldest child started kindergarten.
I’ve never had my whole life flash before my eyes, but that morning, when we pulled up to the school for the first time, his whole life flashed before my eyes.
His baby fuzz and wrist rolls suddenly gave way to little boy knobs and angles. Just like that.
In the days and weeks leading up to the big day, I had been repeatedly asked, “How are you doing?” As often as I’d been asked, I’d come to actually believe the answer I was giving. “As long as he’s okay, I’m okay,” I recited.
But then I watched him walk confidently and assuredly up the sidewalk and towards his classroom. I wrapped him up in a hug and got my kiss, I observed him turn to face this new frontier and it hit me.
He was okay. More than okay.
And I, well, I wasn’t.
Luckily, I dropped him off and got back to my car without melting into a puddle of tears. Part of that was due to the excess of tears already cried in expectation of this moment. But it was also because that day I started to realize how I handled this milestone didn’t just matter for me. It mattered for him. I started to see how I behave communicates what I believe is true about the world he’s heading into.
In 2013, I watched Stephen Colbert—who lost his dad and two older brothers closest in age to him in a tragic plane crash when he was ten—win an Emmy. His acceptance speech has stuck with me all this time. “I want to thank my mom,” he began, “for not worrying about me and believing I’d be okay.”
If ever a mom had reason to worry and earned the right to be fearful, anxious and nervous, it was her. In one day she lost her husband two of her boys. But under the most challenging circumstances, she made a choice. She decided her worry wouldn’t set the tone. Her fear wouldn’t drive her decisions. Her anxiety wouldn’t rule her behavior.
Her son had learned, along with her, terrible things happen in the world and life is hard. It’s full of challenges that seem insurmountable and weightier than we feel equipped to handle. But by watching his mom, he learned what to do, how to behave, and who to believe in light of it.
For me, as a mom sending my firstborn into kindergarten, the world out there seems big and scary and full of anxiety producing scenarios. And since worry is a mother’s native tongue, defaulting to what comes easiest, and talking and behaving with worry setting the course feels like second nature.
But if I did that, I would be missing out, and I would be selling Asher short. Because I would never hear my boy grow up to say, “Thanks. . . For not worrying about me. For believing I’d be okay. For showing me, not there’s nothing to worry about, but that worry doesn’t have to get the final say. And as scary as the world may be, I don’t have to be afraid.”
In light of my fears and Asher’s impending independence, it’s important I learn my lesson now. My son is watching and observing to see what my beliefs and my behavior say about the world. I want him to know I believe in a God bigger than the world’s scariness and sturdier than our well-constructed worries.
Our kids will be fine. Not because of anything we did. But because every day, as they move farther from our reach, we are reminded of Whose they are and how impossibly much they are loved by the One who gave them to us in the first place.
It’s a learning process, I think. Two weeks in, I still tear up a bit dropping my little buddy off at school. I’m sure I’ll always have my moments. But as long as I keep it together enough to see him walk confidently and assuredly into a future for his taking, I think we’ll be just fine.