Here's the thing about being a parent- it will RIP your heart out.
And chances are, your babies will recover faster than you. Their hearts bounce back, springy like tiny balls from quarter machines. My heart bounces back like putty. Slow and sticky and defiant.
You watch them pray all summer for a certain teacher. Then, they enlist others to pray, and this is how you know it is serious: they have involved the grandparents in this elusive thing called prayer that they don't quite understand yet but are willing to attempt under the circumstances. And the day comes to find out the teacher and the friends from last years class, or from the playground, that might hopefully be in the new class. And she wakes up giddy. She spends an hour- AN HOUR- putting on fake Lisa Frank press-on nails. Scouring jewelry buckets for the perfect bracelets. Brushing her hair and putting on her prettiest dress because soon she will go to the school and find her name on the list next to her friends and that one teacher she prayed she would get all summer. And you warn her: God doesn't always answer prayers the way we hope he answers them. And some things in life aren't answers to prayers at all. Some things are just life and God is with us in the midst of it all, but not every single thing bears the mark of God's divine intervention, even when we pray for it to. Weighty matters for little girls and for momma's and for all people who pray. And no matter what happens, it's going to be good. It's going to be ok, you tell her. And she brushes you off, confidant that the list taped to the red school door bears the things her heart has longed for.
And for an hour she has gotten ready. So beautiful. So giddy. So much older than first grade. And this parent thing will rip your heart out. Because you walk to that school door and scour the list for your baby's name. And then you look up. It's not the right teacher. And there is not a name you recognize, except that one boy who hits and tells her she is stupid. And all the friends? They are together in a different class. All of them. And this class? This class she didn't hope for at all... you have to tell her about it and watch her little spirit crumple right there in front of the school door. And you would just about rather die than have to bear up under your baby's crumpling of heart. And she is strong, fighting back tears until we get into the car and they begin to slip down her face but even still she holds back until the house, where she quietly says she needs alone time, runs to her room, throws the fake nails off and sobs for nearly thirty minutes uninterrupted.
And this is what the beginning of first grade will feel like. Sadness and bravery and broken dreams and promises of new ones instead. And I hold her two tiny fingers that she slides underneath the door for me. And we sit there, on either side of the door, holding fingers, both crying. Because this parent business will rip your heart out. And she marches into class the first day, willing to try. Brave and without bitterness. And I fight the desire to schedule a meeting with the principle to tell her that my daughter *might* be allergic to her new teacher and the new classroom and the new classmates. Terribly allergic. I fight it and bounce back, slow, like putty.
She doesn't secretly need me to alter the course of her life because I am afraid for her or believe she deserves special privileges. She doesn't need me to make excuses for why her prayer wasn't answered the way she so desperately wanted it to. She just needs me to stand by her side while she faces reality and needs me to whisper to her that she can do hard things and she will never do them alone. But she already knows this. She said when she walked into her classroom for the first time she felt like someone was really close to her and hugging her. It was God, she says matter-of-factly, hugging me in my new class. And she knows Tessa now. She has decided they will be best friends and her teacher seems nice. Her birthday is next week and she is thinking she probably likes Target because "what teacher doesn't love Target gift cards mom?"
She bounces back springy and beautiful and strong and teaches me how to let go and move forward and be brave. Oh, this parent thing. It will rip your heart out. But when the heart mends back together it is rich and sturdy and lined with the spirit of our children who surprise us time and time again with their beautiful becoming.