I enrolled Olivia in 4K at a private school for the 2012-2013 school year. Her birthday falls after the state’s you-have-to-be-five-by-this-date cutoff, but I just had it in my head that she needed to start this year. I was one of those younger-than-everyone-around-me kids in school, and I felt like she needed to have that same experience. I don’t know why, but somehow I invented this correlation between starting school early and being smart. So Olivia took the 5K test. The school said she wasn’t ready, but they have a wonderful 4K program that focuses on getting kids ready for 5K, and she would fit right in. In essence, she would still be starting school. She just wouldn’t be starting kindergarten. Since I’d decided starting early meant she had the best crack at being a genius, I signed her up.
I don’t recall taking much time to pray about it.
As August 20th drew closer, I started to make the necessary preparations: uniforms, supplies, scheduling…but something about it felt odd. I was standing in the aisle at Walmart, trying to find this certain brand of watercolors, and I realized: I am beginning my child’s scholastic career. One year ahead of schedule. In three days, when she starts school, she will begin a journey spanning a minimum of 14 years. I shook it off and kept shopping, but that just-below-the-surface panicked feeling wouldn’t go away. We met her teacher, I read the student handbook, I wrote her name on boxes and Tupperware and Ziploc bags and blankets and t-shirts. And I still felt unsettled.
Monday morning came, and with it, her first day of school. I dressed her in her pink polo shirt and khaki jumper, and I had her stand on the front porch to pose for a picture. Still, the odd, unsettled feeling persisted. I figured I was just nervous that we would be late. So I hurried her into the car and we headed to school. I was literally ill the entire day. But I dismissed it as a case of the jitters. Five days this continued, until late Friday night, we were at Nana’s and Livi told me a story about something that had happened that day, something that had hurt her feelings. And something inside of me snapped.
I rattled off all the things I’d been feeling, all of my questions and hesitations and worries. Then I made it around to my reasons for enrolling Liv in school, and I realized: I had not done this for her. Not really, anyway. I had done this for me. I did it so I could feel better about the fact that I’m not able to be home with her all day, every day, teaching her the alphabet and how to count to 30 and how to tie her shoes. I don’t want her to wait until she is almost 6 years old to know how to read, and I know that if I had that life where I get to be a wife and mom who stays home and bakes and sews and home-schools her kids, she wouldn’t have to wait until she is almost 6 years old to know how to read, but as it is, I do not have that life, so while I go to work five days a week, I need someone spending all day with her making sure she learns. how. to. read.
I wish I had been willing to articulate that four months ago. It would’ve saved me a boatload of cash.
Long story short, I spent the weekend processing everything, and first thing Monday morning, I talked to this person here and that person there, and presto change-o: Olivia was back in her beloved daycare. The daycare I never should’ve yanked her out of in the first place. The daycare where she may not learn to read before next fall, but where, while I go to work five days a week, someone is spending all day with her making sure she knows she is loved. Making sure she knows who Jesus is. Making sure her little body and soul are nourished.
In all of this, I realize just how tightly I cling to Olivia and to my plans for her life. I am reminded that I did not fashion the world with my hands, and my plans are flawed and short-sighted. I am reminded that my precious daughter is a gift, and she ultimately belongs to the Lord. My job is not to cling to her but to cling to the One who made us both, trusting Him to guide me in mothering her. I know He has a plan for her. I know that plan can be trusted. I know He can be trusted. I know…
…that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28