The First First Day of School

And there he goes. Joshua is off for his very first first day of school. And I’m trying to hold it together.

Both Jana and I though we wouldn’t be “those” parents. But guess what? We are them. Big time. Those parents that cry when their kid steps into the classroom. Those parents who sit by the phone during the morning in case they get a call from the administration. Those parents who can’t believe that six years has already come and gone.

Along with the first day of school, there come alot of questions at least in my mind:

Is he prepared for the challenges of being in the world, but not being of the world?

How will he handle the fact that not everybody he meets is going to be nice to him?

Did we make the right choice in choosing public school over home or private school?

How is this experience going to change him and our family?

How long is it going to be before he is simply too cool for all the things he used to do?

So as I reflect on his little room in our home, still filled with stuffed animals and pictures and toys that he might soon decide he’s too old for, I’m trying to sort through, with a spirit of wisdom, all the emotions. And for me, I think it comes down to this:

I suddenly feel very out of control. And that’s hard for me, especially with Joshua.

It was almost four years ago that my son was diagnosed with leukemia. Close to a year ago that he went off of chemotherapy. But throughout those four years, the control thing has been a constant battle for me. Today I’m feeling the same thing I have felt many times over the course of these past few years whenever Joshua has entered something new.

His first baseball practice.

His first overnight sleepover.

Even the times when I’ve taken him to play on the playground. I’ve had to make a conscious effort to let him go and play with the other kids instead of hovering over him to make sure he is protected. Maybe that’s the fear of losing him that comes from cancer coming out in me. Maybe not. Regardless, it seems to be about control.

This, I choose to believe, is where the gospel is brought to bear on the first first day of school. We’ve tried our best to prepare Joshua. To teach him about Jesus. To raise him in love and faith. But have we done enough?

Unquestioningly, no. We have not. I have not.

I have not been the perfect father.

I have not been the perfect teacher.

I have not been the perfect example.

But the gospel? Well, the gospel is God making up for what we lack. And in parenting, as in all cases, we lack very, very much. The gospel doesn’t excuse our lack; it assumes our lack. Because of Jesus, in this situation where I can’t do much else, the only avenue left for me is to believe.

Which ironically, is where I should have started to begin with.

In your grace, Father, take care of our son this morning.

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12 Comments

  • Jim johnston says:

    He’s ready. He has great parents who have prepared him well for this day.
    I have a 19-year-old who still holds my hands when we pray together.
    He still has stuffed animals on his bed, including an elephant I bought for him when he was 3.
    He’s 6-3 and he has cut off my oxygen supply when we’re wrestling in the floor.
    And I will have the same feelings you had this morning when I send him off to Knoxville this weekend for his sophomore year of college.
    Joshua and Spenser are both in the hands of the Great I AM and He is worthy to hold them.

  • andy p says:

    great post. I love the honesty and it encourges me to hear that other parents have the same trepidations that I do.

  • Amy Wright says:

    Our pastor said something the other day that really hit me. “Sometimes when we want to just protect something, we end up controlling it.” I applied this to my life in the way that I overprotect my kids. (I’m not saying that you OVERprotect…I do.) It’s hard to give up control and trust. You’d think that it would be simple since it is their Creator that we are trusting, right? 🙂
    School starts on Monday for my two boys and it will be a first first day for both of them. Deep breath.

  • Thanks, Michael, for the reminder that in our parenting (as in every other part of life) we don’t have to be perfect. We need only to trust in the One who is.

  • Becky Dietz says:

    You’ll ask it again in about 12 years…”Did we do enough?” And the answer will be “yes.” You’ve done your part, now it’s God’s turn.

  • Tammy says:

    Great reminder. Thank you.

  • Lauren says:

    It’s understandable. I’m not even a mother, and I worry about my not-so-little brother. In two years, he will be going to college, and I fear that he’ll have a nasty culture shock like I did.

    But then again, I know that he is a strong Christian…stronger than I was at his age, and stronger than I am now. And I know that he’ll be able to meet the challenges of college head-on. 🙂

  • Kelly says:

    Thanks for the honesty and perspective! Our Abigail just turned one, but I’m already getting a little taste of some of those emotions. Last week she started walking, and I had to force myself not to follow on her heels everywhere she went!

    As a mom, I think my sense of deficiency is intensified by the fact that I work full-time at this point and can’t be with my sweet girl for much of the day. Thanks for pointing me back to the gospel!

  • Catherine says:

    Michael,
    I think you and your wife have a lot of faith. I think it takes more faith to delegate the responsibility of your precious son over to teachers, administrators and a system then it is to keep him at home. May you continue to seek the LORD in your decisions in parenting.
    Catherine
    mother of three, ages 21, 19 and 17

  • Scott says:

    I know for me as a father of 4 children I think much of what we fear as parents is not just concern about their physical well being, but rather the spiritual impact their time in the public school system that is often hostile to God will have on them.

  • Thanks for the post Bless You

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