As I mentioned last year, I am usually not the parent crying into my latte on the first day of school. For one thing, my kid LOVES school, so I am just happy to see her skipping off into hours of playtime, new-friend-making, and math–which she loves, which is beyond me, but go girl anyway. Mostly, I am just trying to get out of the massive crush of suburban parenthood without a)having a panic attack or b) absolutely losing it at the mom who is TEXTING IN THE DROP OFF LANE and blocking the crosswalk, while hundreds of kids walk nearby. No big deal. (I bet she made an illegal left turn into the school too, teaching her kid that it’s totally ok to cut line in front of the other 50 cars, because Hey! You’re in a hurry! And your car is bigger, so whatev).
Anyway. I get up and make a special breakfast, I buy fun new shoes, I take a picture on the front porch. I do all of those things, but the actual dropping off at school is not such a ‘moment’ for me. Seriously, when there are 500 kids and THOUSAND parents trying to squish through one set of double doors, me and my anxiety disorder are just happy to get out alive.
But when you are a pastor and a parent, you are not just sending your own kid to school on the first day. You are sending your own kid, PLUS all your church kids out into the wide world. So what happens is, I am just fine dropping off my one little person. I get back home and I post the picture of my little person in her awesome new shoes. And I think how lucky I am to be the mom of such a weird little math-loving, vegetarian-artist-ballerina.
Then I do a quick scan of the newsfeed… And it is filled with ALL of our church kids in their first-day-of-school-rock-star poses. They are athletes and band kids and science geeks and dancers and gamers; and they are all good and kind and brave. And that is my ‘moment’ right there, when I may or may not get a little choked up. Thinking of our young disciples, going out to be a force of peace and fairness and diversity in the community–one which, let’s face it, is not always so diverse. And not always kind to poor people. And not always fair. And FOR THE LOVE, texting while driving through the drop-off lane.
I think of our peace-loving, LGBT-affirming, globally aware and socially conscious kids, marching out there into the fray–and I think of all the ways they will shape their surroundings into better places to be, for everybody–and you tell me that is not worth at least a few tissues of your morning.
Go get ’em, kids. Infiltrate! With thanks to your parents, your youth leaders, your Sunday School teachers, and your classroom teachers for helping to shape you into the awesome little people that you are. Here’s a prayer for all y’all today:
God of all the weird, wonderful world–make them curious and creative, and fill them with awe. Yes even for math, we pray.
Thank you, God, for the village: thank you for the teachers, the neighbors, and the parents of their friends; thank you for the nurse, the counselor, and the music teacher who is still hanging in there with a salary that survived budget cuts. For now. Thank you for the strong network of love and care that surrounds our young ones; for the power of good influence; and for all the extra sets of caring eyes, out there in the world.
Send your Spirit, Lord: to the band room, the basketball court and the science lab; to the dance studio, the art class and debate practice; to the stage and the student council elections and wherever else these amazing little people discover the gifts and talents that you have given them. Give them courage to share those gifts with the world, even if that one mean kid calls them a nerd, or a jock, or some other word that we old people don’t know yet, but that no one wants to be, for sure.
About mean girls: may they not know them. May they not BE them.
Regarding buffoonish boys who do not know how to treat a lady or deal with anyone who is different: may they not be them. And may they not have to sit by them in homeroom.
Let there be no guns, God. We will ask you this one again, every day. And every day we will wonder if you are listening. And every day you will wonder the same about us. Let’s keep in touch.
Where there is overwhelming whiteness, or culture-deaf color-blindness–let them be askers of hard questions. Where there is glorification of war–both past and present–give them voices of compassion and peace. Where there is much dressing-up-like-Indians for Thanksgiving, let them wonder aloud if this is respectful to actual Native American communities, who may or may not be represented in the demographics of their school.
Bless those teachers, God. Shield them from helicopter parents, and kids who just can’t even. Restore their spirits from the demands of under-funding and over-standardized-testing. Fill them with the joy that led them to this calling, and may their espresso drinks be plentiful, strong, and topped with whipped cream.
May lunch be free of gross slimy stuff; and may lunch be free for all who need it to be.
Let there be freedom from rigid gender norms and impossible expectations of body type and wardrobe labels. Let this be the generation that, finally, could give a $h^t about who is gay and who has two moms and who used to be a boy but maybe isn’t any more. Let it just all be cool so that the bullies will get bored and just go read a book already. After which, probably, they will no longer be bullies because books tend to do that to people. Who knew.
And finally, may a paint-eating, rust-causing pestilence of biblical proportions descend upon the SUVs of all who text in the pick-up line and make left-turns into the parking lot. Protect our children from their wheels in the meantime, and let us not set bad examples by starting fights with other grown-ups on the first day of school.
It seems like there should be so much more, but it is only the first day, God. We’ll be back.