A lot of parents worry about their kids. Worry comes with the job description. But, honestly, I haven’t consistently worried about my kids in quite a while. Both are old enough to express their wants and needs to me, both have been doing really well in school and at home recently, and family life has seemed easy for the past few months.
But this week, parenting has defeated me and I have lived in a world of worry over my kids. I find myself stopping to pray for them all day long, anytime the worry creeps in, I try to remember to turn it over in prayer: “Lord, bless my children. Keep them happy and healthy and safe. Show me how to parent them.” But this week, those prayers have been more along the lines of, “Father, what do I do now?”
Last week after Michael was punched in the face, Chris and I originally said that we either wanted the other child removed from the class or Bean removed. But that night as we talked more about it, we came to realize that we really wanted Bean moved. We have not been happy with his class for a while, and this was just the thing that pushed us over the edge. I met last Friday with the director of the daycare and told her that we would like Michael moved over to the other pre-k class. She was hesitant, but not argumentative. And I insisted because, as Chris put it, “Are we going to wait until he gets pushed off the top of the playground equipment?”
The director gave us the option of doing a transition week, where Bean would spend mornings with his old class and afternoons with his new class. But Bean has some trouble with things like that, and so we said we would rather just jump right in to the new class this week instead. So, Monday morning, Bean headed bravely into his new class.
Now, Michael is my tried, true, brave little guy. He is flexible and easy going, which makes him adapt to change relatively quickly. But even with all the preparation in the world, even the bravest kid is going to have a hard time in a new classroom on the first day. And Michael was no exception. His teachers said he cried for a little bit that morning, and then spent much of the day hanging off to the sides and not wanting to go play with anyone. He was very interested in what was going on, but didn’t want to run up to new friends just yet. He was very observant, and seemed to enjoy watching for a while. All things considered, I though that was a pretty successful good day.
But when we got home, things were a little different. At first, whenever we asked him about his day, he would just recite back all the things we’d pepped him up with this weekend: “There are lots of fun games and the kids are very nice,” kind of thing. But I could tell that he wasn’t feeling as positive as he sounded. Later that night, when things quieted down a bit, I asked him how his day had been. He got these huge crocodile tears in his eyes and that sweet bottom lip started to tremble.
“It was really not a good day,” he whispered to me.
There are no words to describe what it feels like to see your baby struggle through something. It does more than just break my heart. It breaks my heart and then reaches down into that deep part of my soul where peace resides. As a mother – as HIS mother – I want to take all of that away from him. I’d do anything in this world to keep that little lip from trembling. But we all say that, don’t we? That’s the easiest line of motherhood to utter.
The part that creates the challenge is when WE are the ones forcing them to go through a situation that makes their lips tremble. I know it is the right thing for him to be in a different class. And I know that in a week or two, this will seem like a small little blip of an adjustment period. But in this moment, with that lip trembling, I want to say, “Just put him back! Let’s not do this to him! Let’s just go back to the way it was!”
And therein lies the greatest challenge of parenthood I’ve faced thus far. To hold my baby while he cries, knowing that there is a solution, but choosing, in his best interest, not to act upon it.
Tonight, after Chris and I showered Bean Man with encouragement and love and kisses, I sat quietly in my office for a while, and I prayed a new prayer.
“Lord God, you sent your only Son into this world knowing he would die for others. Deliberately putting him in harms way. How great is your love for me, but how greatly your heart must have broken. Keep breaking my heart for my children, Lord. Guide my steps as I guide theirs.”
I find so much joy in my children. True, lasting joy that echoes through the chambers of my heart and deep into the center of who I am. Their joy radiates out of me. But the price of that kind of joy – the true cost of parenting – is the breaking of our hearts, piece by piece by piece.