My expectations turned out to be wholly wrong. Turns out that I'm emotionally unmoored (maybe all of us are) because I'm suddenly remembering all the difficulties of MY school experience. Not deadlines and tests so much (I mean, I write an 1800+ word paper every week), as the cruel jungle of interpersonal relationships that school ends up being. My poor husband has been on the receiving end of a litany of my grade-school (and middle-school and high-school) griefs, the stories of bullying that still stay with me.
I was never physically assaulted, so my memories are light in comparison to others (especially to the LGBTQIA people I know). But still, those lunches when I sat alone (or in the bathroom), those times when I inexplicably got excluded from my circles of friends? That time when I got glasses and people treated me differently? That time a much older male bully harassed me on the school bus for weeks on end? My son's milestone has become a trigger to me, a reason to obsessively worry for his sake. It's not a question of IF he will be bullied. It's a question of WHEN he will be bullied.
Is this the reason why parents cry when they drop their kids off for their first day of school? Because we know they're running down a road that leads to grief and anger and inexplicable cruelty just as often as it leads to joy and laughter and life-long friendships? Maybe some of us traveled through school with ease, life a privileged set of circumstances that kept us from experiencing the unkindness of others. But my hunch is that many of the parents I will stand next in these coming days bear the same invisible burdens. We remember how badly it can go and we know there is little to be done to spare our children. So we grieve, because this is what it means to live in the world.
In all of my jumbled feelings (yay! no more paying for daycare! oh no! homework!), I need to keep the words of Frederick Buechner in mind: "Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid.” I have a tendency towards the maudlin, toward the melancholy, so I am more likely to walk through the halls of a school and see the monsters and shadows of possible pain. But there was beauty in my school experience as well: teachers who encouraged my writing, theatre experiences which taught me that passion was a gift, group projects which showed me my predilection toward leadership. "Here is the world."
I should know this lesson already, shouldn't I? My son's birth was beautiful and terrible. My time in Waco was beautiful and terrible. My time in Galveston was beautiful and terrible. Loving others has been beautiful and terrible. All of life is a jumbled mess of breathtaking beauty and terror so deep it blacks out the sun. All of life is this brutiful mess, so why would it be any different for my son? It was even this way for Jesus, the man who gave sight to the blind and then had every one of his friends abandon him at the lowest point in his life. "Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen."
I think I must relearn the ending of this lesson, the lesson that Jesus repeated over and over, the lesson that Angels always began with when they brought a word from God: "Do not be afraid." I find the abandonment of fear the most difficult part of my parenting, of my relationships, of my faith. Sometimes, the fear of what will come grips me so hard I feel as if I cannot breathe. I only gasp the air with any regularity when I remember that fear cannot stand in the presence of trust. I do not mean that I trust in the world to mind it's manners to me. No, no, the universe is unconcerned with my desires for wholeness or fairness. No, I've learned to trust that God will be with me no matter if the moment is beautiful or terrible. That when bullies rear up, I am still loved. That when I am a bully in need of punishment, I am still loved. That in dawn or twilight or midday or blackest night, I am still loved. That neither heights nor depths nor anything in all of creation will keep me from the love of God. "Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don;t be afraid."
Despite my painful memories, I will take my son to kindergarten. Every day I will take him and I will release him to his life, his beautiful and terrible life and I will pray to God that God will take away my fear. The bullies will come. The pain will come. The friends will appear. The joy will shimmer bright like starlight. He will grow and become more himself and less of me and it will be wonderful and awful and we will lean together. We will learn to face life with courage.
Here is the world. Beautiful and Terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid.
|- Flickr: Nik Wallenda Trains for June 23, 2013 Grand Canyon Walk at Nathan Benderson Park, Sarasota, Fla., June 7, 2013|