Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Safely Sent

We have less than a week before school starts, and like clockwork, that little twinge of sadness/panic settled in last night as I was going to bed. It feels a little ridiculous that I go through this every year because I know better, but every year that twinge is a little bigger. A little harder to ignore. 
We had the most incredible summer. Quite possibly my favorite. We (and by we, that could mean one of us, a few of us, or all 5, so don't overthink that) snorkeled, ziplined, floated down a river, slept in, visited our KC family, watched and played a lot of baseball, fished, and searched for sand dollars. We stood under the arch in St. Louis. 

We experienced crab legs for the first time. We fed seagulls and struck up conversations with complete strangers in hopes of encouraging them. We toured London (that was just Hud with Nana, but we all lived vicariously through their trip;). 

We wasted entire days watching tv and playing video games. We spent time with friends. We chased butterflies and Pokemon. We worked in the yard, took care of chickens (and subsequently, figured out that chicken farming is NOT for us) and threw water balloons at each other. We played a lot of card games and watched a lot of movies.

Thinking back on this summer, I should be exhausted, right? But I'm not. I'm completely energized. These days with being just the 5 of us, they're fleeting. And while I believed the wise women who have gone before me when they said each year goes faster than the one before, I guess I didn't realize just how fast those years would go.

And here we are at the end, and completely okay with doing absolutely nothing until school starts, and I can't shake that nagging feeling that inevitably comes. This morning I figured out what exactly was bothering me. It's mostly the normal realization that the time for schedules and practices and alarms needing to be set and waking up before the sun rises has come. And while I like structure, I think the world would be a happier place if the day didn't start until 9:00. It's not all that different from other years, but this year I've been able to pinpoint something a little deeper. 

Last week we shopped for school supplies and new shoes and first day of school outfits, and it got me thinking about how much we do to get our outsides prepared for the school year...but what about our insides? What are we doing to make sure they are ready to take on a new year from the inside out?

We all deal with mean, unreasonable people. Not everyone is going to like us. We're going to be teased, misunderstood, looked over, and ignored. That is just part of living in the world. And honestly, it's those things that make sending the boys back to school an anxiety-filled event for me (the boys are typically fine-ha!). We live in a sweet community with wonderful schools, and they all have good friends. But I know how hard the world can be, and my desire to shield them from that overrides all logic sometimes. 

Since I can't go with them (I'd be weird and they'd be mortified)... what can I do? What can we do as parents to make sure they are prepared to handle the world out there without us?

1. Make your house a safe home base.

As a kid I loved "clean sheets day" because my mom would sprinkle baby powder on my bed each time she changed my sheets...there was just something magical about it, and I promise my bed was even cozier on those nights. My Momo did it too... I'm not sure if that tradition goes any further back, but I now do the same thing, and we all look forward to "powder bed night" (as the boys call it).  I spend way more time than I'd prefer cleaning, doing laundry, and taking care of our house. With 3 boys and a big hairy dog it all seems futile... it really does. But I can't help but think that all the effort that goes into making our home clean and inviting, that by sprinkling baby powder on our sheets each week when the beds get changed, that baking cookies once in awhile, and making sure the pantry stays well-stocked... my hope is that it provides a sense of balance and calm when the outside world is busy and chaotic. I can assure you that our house is never totally clean, and the ironing basket stays full, snack bowls get left everywhere, and there's always something that needs to be picked up, (so please don't read this as "I need to keep my house spotless!") but you get the idea.

2. Encourage them to be themselves. 

Along with your home being a safe place physically, we need to make sure to create an environment where they feel safe mentally and spiritually. 

There are things we have gotten wrong when it comes to raising our boys, but one thing Brian and I set out to do from the start was to make sure the boys knew they could tell us anything. Anything. Some days those conversations have come easily, and others it's been like pulling teeth, but the boys have learned over time that when they tell us what's really going on with them, it helps. And when they've had to tell us something hard, when they've messed up big, they've learned that we're not going freak out and scream, and they trust us. There are consequences, yes, but they know we're going to help get them through it, and it's going to be okay.  Those conversations, though really hard sometimes, have made us closer. 

All 3 of them have very different personalities. They have different interests. They're all social, but are homebodies too. As parents, we want our kids to fit in, right? We want to know that when they're at school they have friends excited to see them, someone to sit with at lunch, that they're not getting picked last in P.E. But we also know that there are going to be times when they feel they don't fit in, when someone might make fun of them, when they don't get picked for a team or a play. It stinks. So what do we do? 

We remind them that they are exactly who God created them to be, that the treasure that lies within them might sometimes be overlooked by people, but never is by the Lord. Or by us. We make them laugh, we hug them, we tell them that being a kid (or teenager) is hard, but it doesn't last forever. We listen to their hurts, and take them out for ice cream. We talk about past times when something similar happened, and remind them that this too shall pass. We tell them stories from our childhood, so they know it's normal... or at the very least, hereditary. ;) And then we trust that the safe place we've created for them at home will be a comfort for them, giving the security they need to get up and face the next day with a different perspective.

3. Pray with and for them. 

This seems obvious, maybe. Maybe not. But there is nothing sweeter than praying with your kids. Seeing the weight of the world literally lift off their shoulders is incredible. Watching them learn to trust God with the big things and the little things is beautiful. It builds their confidence as they learn that because Jesus goes before them and is with them wherever they go, they really have nothing to worry about. And if someone doesn't like what they say or do, they can smile and walk away, realizing that it really doesn't matter that much anyway.

Be the safe place for your kids. Point them to the One who will fill them up with more love and faith and wisdom than they'll know what to do with. And then send them off into the world with a smile, knowing He's got them. He's got you. It's going to be a great year.