Remember how August’s first day of school was Tuesday? It was also his last. I know that sounds dramatic and I probably deserve that criticism. But his teacher had rubbed me the wrong way the week before at the Meet and Greet. We don’t have to go into details here. I just didn’t have a good feeling. The P in my personality type is “Perceptive”…I’ve been learning to trust it.
August’s stubborn nature, especially regarding when and how he goes potty, resulted in a cry-fest on his part when he was forced to go potty, which brought on chastisement and disappointment from his teacher, who told me he was distracting for the other kids. (On his first day? After moving across the country and struggling with this major life transition? As a 3-year-old?) I felt no kindness or compassion in that room when I picked him up. And after taking home a sad boy who kept repeating: “My teacher was scary” and “it was a sad day,” I haven’t been able to recover.
That little boy loved school in San Francisco. He was and is imperfect. And I get it: He can be a real pill. But his teachers in SF were kind and compassionate and full of grace.
So I spent yesterday struggling through whether it was worth it to take him back to a room of strangers and leave him there when I felt genuine unease about what made him so sad the day before. I decided to pull him out. There’s nothing he needs to learn right now more than the reality that I trust him and I’ve got his back. Enough tears have been shed over peeing in the potty. Let those tears be mine and not his. And let no one of authority in his life make him feel like a failure for what he can and can’t do.
And do you know what I considered yesterday as I made the decision and crafted a “we quit preschool” letter for the director of the program? I thought of Ann Voskamp’s words: “All is grace.” Even this. Even as the woman-stranger forces your kid to drop his drawers in front of the potty on the first day of school in a strange bathroom with strangers while he screams, “no!”, then tells him his cries are hurting the ears of the other children. All is grace. My non-combative nature, standing beside the woman who is disappointed in my boy. My attempts to piece together his story while I nursed his brother in his bed, smoothing his hair before nap time.
All is grace: Those moments when we realize that being a mother has lit a fire in our bellies: we the passive, the sweetly natured, the peacemakers, who suddenly can see nothing but the glaring flash of our mistreated child.
Do you know what I thought of as I cried in the living room, my boy (who had smiled so big for his first day of school picture only hours before and now begged me not to make him go back) sleeping in his bed? I thought of the mom of the boy whose heart I’d twisted and wrung Sophomore year of college. How much she must have ached because of me.
All is grace. Do you know that was this teacher’s name? Ms Grace.
How good it is to be grateful. Even as I pressed send on my carefully constructed quitters email, even as I spent two (fruitless?) hours searching Austin webpages for one opening for my boy at some sort of 3-year-old program. Even as I cried for the teachers who loved him and knew him and understood him in San Francisco. I felt a sense of peace. How good that he doesn’t have to be anywhere where he is mistreated. How good that he knows how to communicate his unease with me. How full of grace that I can trust him when he tells me he is afraid.
All is grace. Even the achey parts. Even the first day of school picture and the new backpack and the big smile for the camera.
We love a God who is in all of our messes, even the ones that bring out our most angry Mama-fires. We love a God who burns in his belly for us, who longs for us to know our value is not based on our performance, our stiff upper lip, our ability to please. It is based on belonging. We belong to our creator. That is enough, I thought, as I pressed his sweaty hair behind his ear. That is enough.