Thursday, May 19, 2016

Thank you for the World So Sweet

At Kiddie Kollege Preschool, the children learn a prayer that begins with that line. 

Before I had children, I was sentimental.  Once I had them, I began my descent into a puddle of my own tears.  I suddenly understood the “stay little” wish.  I counted my blessings that they were healthy and growing, but the growing happened at warp speed!  

When Rafe, my firstborn, went to preschool, I was the nervous, self-conscious mother.  His Kiddie Kollege experience was wonderful for him, but I couldn’t relax.  Was I doing everything right?  (Um, no!) Was I sending the right snack? Was he on track with learning? (Um, yes, thanks to director/teacher Ginger Brooks and Sonya Walls -love you!) First child syndrome, right?

Sophie, my middle child, is finishing her last year of preschool tomorrow.  Mrs. Brooks has become like family to us. We love her dearly.  The other teacher, Emily Edwards, is so precious and also has a God-given heart for nurturing and teaching them.  We’ve come to love her too, in just a year of knowing her. We had the opportunity to know and love Leigh Ann Thomas as a Kiddie Kollege teacher too.

I’m having a really tough time with this whole Sophie-being-finished-with-Kiddie-Kollege.  I didn’t have such a difficult time with Rafe.  Not because I love him less, I just didn’t GET IT.  I didn’t truly grasp the concept that when kindergarten begins,  they’re not really mine anymore.  I don’t get to snuggle on the couch and watch Sesame Street.  I don’t get to feed them lunch and tuck them into their little beds in the afternoons. Whoever said, “The days are long but the years are short,” was NOT joking.  

I’ve been blessed with a job that allows me to work from home. It makes for some wild days, because aside from two hours a week, I’ve always had at least one of the littles home with me. Bryce greets the crew at Huntsville Event Magazine on Skype every Monday morning during our production meeting. So don’t get me wrong.  It’s not all rainbows and unicorns at home with my kids all day.  It’s messy and loud and there’s yelling and tears, and that’s just me! But through the chaos (and there’s PLENTY of chaos) of, “Don’t touch that,” and, “PLEASE, PLEASE STOP WHINING!” and, “Ok, I’m gonna be on the phone for about five minutes, please don’t do anything crazy,” while someone inevitably follows me around sobbing at top volume, I’ve enjoyed being at home, watching them grow and hearing their comedic pronouncements.  

When big school starts, someone else spends the entire day with my babies: teachers who will be kind, or not – they’re human after all (we've never had this experience, for the record,) children who will say things that will hurt them, situations when they’ll feel left out and less than and homesick.  Such is the nature of life.  They can’t grow into human beings who can love, nurture and serve others without these experiences, but it still hurts – them and me!

This mama’s heart aches at sending her little blue-eyed girl with the wedge haircut and the giant hair bow to kindergarten in the fall. She's frankly not too thrilled about it either.  She's mourning her last day at Kiddie Kollege.  I KNOW I'll see her dimpled cheeks elongate and lose their baby plumpness. With Rafe it was such a surprise, the face changing, but now I KNOW.  My heart cracked a little when we dropped him off at kindergarten.  I was relieved (for him) and admittedly sad that he didn’t ask for us to stay longer, rather, he was excited to begin a new adventure.  But now I KNOW.  They lose their tiny perfect baby-teeth and the enormous replacements change their appearance, packing them up for the road to adulthood much too soon. The sorrow is different this time, because Rafe was the first one and I didn't know how drastic it would be until he was in kindergarten.  I KNOW she’s leaving that sweet, baby world of innocence.  Because I’ve already lost Rafe to the rigors of big school, I get it now.

I can’t even contemplate when Bryce, my baby bird, will fly the preschool coop, have his last Kiddie Kollege program and repeat those oh-so-final words: “In years to come, you’ll hear from us, and be amazed at our knowledge.  Just remember where it all began, was here at Kiddie Kollege.”

Y’all!  I realize I sound like a crazy person – and hey, if the shoe fits…  This is just preschool!  The puddle of tears will drown me by the time they graduate high school and I have to contemplate them MOVING AWAY!  

Thank you Ginger Brooks for making Kiddie Kollege “the world so sweet.”  I wish all their future teachers could love them as much as you have and do – and Rafe’s teachers have been precious ones who loved him,(Melissa Bartlett, Amy Beck, Amy Graves and Anna Leigh Battles) with no exceptions!  But I’m so thankful that all my babies had the treasured opportunity to spend some of their first school mornings with you, learning facts and prayers and songs, finding out how to function in a classroom, learning discipline and most of all, being loved by people who share the love of Christ in their vocation every day.  I thank God for you and for Mrs. Emily, and for the fact that Rafe, Sophie and Bryce’s journeys all began at Kiddie Kollege.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Mama's Girl

When I was a little, I was a mama’s girl. Now that I'm 41, I’m still Mama’s girl. My mother went back to work when I was four years old and I went to a wonderful preschool where I was loved and treated with kindness and care. I was miserable. I wanted nothing but my mama. The children whose parents were teachers picked them up (so I’m told now) about half an hour earlier than I was collected. Those thirty minutes were an eternity to my little-girl heart. I remember very clearly sitting by the chain-link fence on the playground waiting, waiting, waiting. And the thrill of seeing that mile-long red Buick LeSabre coming down the road, sweet relief!

When my mama picked me up, I was the hook to her loop. Velcro city.
I’m told that this state of unbearable misery was quite short-lived, that I adapted quickly and stopped being so sad all day. Again, I’m suspicious.

As a child, I recall occasions where I awoke afraid of something: the dark; a noise; my own vivid imaginings of monsters in the closet. I would call out in the softest voice, thinking I’d surely have to call again. But no, before I could finish the thought, she’d be there by my bedside, her soothing voice calming me.

In college at Auburn, even though it was exciting and fun and oh yeah, an education I was blessed to get, I still missed her. One awful night when I had strep, I called home at midnight and my mother literally hung up the phone, got up, got dressed and drove three hours to get to me. To crawl in bed next to me with the comfort only she could provide.

Fast forward to me, bringing my own child home from the hospital. Our first one. My hormones turned on me and dumped me deep into postpartum depression. My mama was still working full-time then, but even so, was nearby. There were a few days that I called and said, “Can you please come over here now?” and she dropped whatever she was doing and came. Velcro again. I physically sat on her lap one day when I felt so afraid and anxious. I was hanging by a thread. She spoke not only words of comfort and encouragement, but tough-love words. She said, “Go to the doctor. Tell the truth. Don’t sugarcoat how bad this is. You have to get better for that sweet baby.” My kind, generous, and admittedly bewildered husband must have been so relieved!

I did go, I did tell the truth. I did get better. I did start to feel a bond with that sweet baby that I was terrified I would never feel. Though it lasted only a few weeks, that illness was the scariest, most insidious thing that ever happened to me. My mother’s encouragement and our “little talk” spurred me to get the help I needed. It took a whole team of people plus medication to pull me out of the depths of that depression: including my precious mother-in-law who would come and sit beside me for hours because I was afraid to be alone; and my sisters-in-law Jamie and Angie who heartened me by telling me I wasn’t crazy; and most notably, Jason, who went out of his way to handle me with care, and I’m so thankful for them.

My mother amazes me. I’ve never seen her waver in her faith. Even when Daddy died, she grieved, but it didn’t take over her life. She has a peace that comes from that deep faith. I envy it and pray that someday I can achieve that kind of relationship with God. And especially that kind of peace.

She has seemingly unlimited energy – she can work circles around us, and does. Her outlook is most always sunny and her generosity of spirit has put her at the center of our jokes because she had kind words about everyone, even if she had to dig deep to find them!

She likes the dates on her snapshots, and if her camera gets turned off that setting, why, she’ll just write in the date on the front of the picture with a Sharpie (also the subject of our terrible teasing.)

My mother told me when I was a child and as I grew, that only God loved me more than she. Even when God feels far away, the fact that my mother loves us as she does shows by example how God loves his children. It was only after I had children of my own that I could understand what she meant.

I know now how hard it is to get up on Sunday morning and get everyone ready to go to church. That’s with two adults (thank you Jason Boatfield for being such a good daddy and husband!) working like maniacs to do it. My mother did it by herself when my dad had a job that prevented him from going with us. And she made a hot breakfast to boot – not just on Sundays.

Now she gets up every Sunday and makes lunch for all of us before church because it’s a labor of love for her. (It’s a battle of denominations, with the Baptists trying to starve out us Presbyterians by having such long church services. Their pastor is apparently long-winded.) Most Sundays it’s like an insane asylum, with kids running around playing with the loudest toys on earth and adults running around putting ice into glasses and clanking silverware and asking, “Sage do you want peas?” or “Will Bryce eat green beans?” or often, “Mom, did you set a timer for the bread?” But it’s an insane asylum propagated by the calmest woman imaginable, burned rolls notwithstanding.

To quote my Aunt Mona, I don’t have enough words in my vocabulary to say how much my mother means to me. She has given me life many times over: physically, spiritually, and emotionally. I wish I could be the calm, unflappable mother to my children that she always has been to us. She is the rock of our family, the glue that holds us together. 

Thank you Mama, for not only being my cheerleader and my advocate, but for giving me the worst punishment I could imagine when I did wrong, telling me that you were disappointed. I never wanted to disappoint you. I still don’t. 

On this Mother’s Day, I wish you all the joy you’ve given away to others, though I’m not sure your arms or your heart could hold it all. And most of all, I wish to wish you Happy Mother’s day a thousand more times. I love you.