“Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days” (Psalm 90:14).
I held her hand through the parking lot and pushed open the heavy double doors. We maneuvered through swarms of eager kids and frazzled parents, some wielding cameras, others blinking tears. She hung her backpack on her hook, collected her morning snack from the zippered pocket, then spun around and marched toward the doorway of room 315.
Where did our summer go?
I love the school-free months. Popsicles, lazy mornings, back yard sprinkler runs. As soon as Labor Day passes, I start counting days ‘til June. Give me playground picnics and tennis courts and sparklers by the dozen. Yet here we are again, another first day of school, another lurch forward in the growing up parade.
I poked my head in the classroom. Tidy and inviting. Bustling yet surprisingly empty. What’s missing?
Unlike years prior, the second grade room is void of free-time toys. No buckets of blocks or LEGOs or puppets.
My girl is too serious for those now.
She must read and write and discover science. She will learn full sentences in Spanish and increase her English spelling list beyond two-syllable words. Her class is oldest on the playground and veterans at lunch. She will teach the younger kids how to open their milk cartons and search the Lost and Found. She is the queen of the monkey bars. A pro.
But she’s still a piece of my heart.
“Bye, sweetheart.” I called after her. “Have a wonderful day.”
She turned around, red hair swishing across her shoulders. “Mom, wait!” She hurried toward me then stretched her neck to reach my face with pink lips puckered. I leaned down for a kiss.
“Bye, Mom!” And off she fled toward a desk piled with pencils and glue sticks and stiff new math workbooks.
My firstborn is growing up, that’s inevitable. But she still kisses me goodbye.
Friends are gaining influence and teachers get smarter than Mom. But she still kisses me goodbye.
She wears glasses and lisps over a mouth full of orthodontic gadgets, true beauty in its shifting, awkward form. But she still kisses me goodbye.
She climbs her top bunk to weave bracelets and read Pippi Longstocking—with a “PLEASE KNOCK” sign tacked on the door because she needs her time alone. But she still kisses me goodbye.
I will blink and she’ll be driving to high school, pledging a sorority, shopping for a wedding gown, and rocking my grandbabies in her arms.
And then she’ll know this feeling. This ache that settles in my stomach like a stone whenever a new school year comes and a child is ushered closer to the expectation of maturity and independence. She thinks she’s just learning cursive and multiplication. But a mother knows the fleeting measure of childhood is found in these rites of passage, one grade to the next, like a ladder with fourteen finite rungs from preschool to senior year.
We cannot peel our children off the ladder. We cannot shake them loose. They must climb. And our job is to spot them from below, to coach and cheer so that one day they can reach the top and leap—into God’s plan for their adult lives.
The choice rests in a mother’s hands. We can sniffle over days gone by and resist what lies ahead. Or we can embrace today as a gift and entrust the future to an all-knowing, perfect-loving God.
I’m choosing today. And I’m grateful.
Because my big girl still kisses me goodbye. I’m still her momma, her first love. And no grade, no graduation, no college nor job nor lifetime to come can take that away from us.
So on second thought, instead of counting days ‘til next summer, I’ll count my blessings instead. I really ought to soak up every moment of this second grade business, knowing this could be the year when my daughter develops a healthy sense of embarrassment over her old lady. And when that happens, I will survive. Because as much as I love my little ones, I love God’s will for them more, and I want to see my children grow into the people he designed them to be.
There is no greater privilege in parenting. Amen?
Happy school year, fellow moms. Whether you’re on the first rung or the last, may God bless your child’s steps—and hold you tight in his arms as you learn to let go.