DANG IT! I tried. I mean, I really, really tried! Dug my heels in. Deep. Dangerously so, for a “home-schooler.” Until barely 3 weeks ago, I had put off ordering any curriculum and not a single lesson plan was written. Last year’s school work sat in the girls’ school bins, untouched since the first week of June, not filed in the lateral file cabinet that holds almost every scrap of paper they have ever scribbled upon. I refused to look at schedules. I didn’t watch the clock. I wanted to prevent this school year from starting, to hold on to the summer that had slipped away, to play a bit longer without the demands of schedules or homework or 4-H projects. I felt short-changed this summer. The panic of a lost job and a child half-a-world away had robbed me of watermelon-seed-spitting, s’more-making, star-gazing, adventure-hiking family memories, and I wanted more. More time. More laughter. More memories. More of what we finally had this long, last weekend of summer. If I had the magic of Merlin I would have frozen time, because I know that this school year marks the beginning of an end.
C is a senior this year. Her last year of high school. The last year I will plan her lessons, or grade her papers, or order her curriculum materials. She could have graduated early last year. I’m glad she didn’t. She could have opted for college coursework during her senior year. I’m glad she didn’t. We had always planned her senior year to be her “fun year”; the year she focuses on the subjects that have “grabbed” her most over the years, but never had the time to “go deeper.” She’s chosen world history and world religions, world literature, mythology and psychology, art, painting, and French. (Can you tell which side of the brain she operates from? 🙂 ) She will be responsible for getting her work done with little direction from me. It is her “springboard year,” the year where it all (hopefully) comes together as she prepares to “dive into life.” In many ways, she has already proven she’s ready; in even more ways, she’s already made the leap, despite the prescribed timeline.
L is a freshman this year. Already so much her own “woman”, and yet just venturing into her “formative years.” She will study the core basics, and, in a “swan song” of their studies together, she will share world history with her sister. Following in her sister’s foot steps, there will be 3 rigorous years so that her senior year will be a year of exploration. I already know how fast her high school years will pass. I need only look at her sister. L was nervous to begin her freshman year. She questioned her readiness, her willingness, her fast approaching future. Mentally, she sought to grab my hem, just as she had when she was little. And, as I had when she was small, I pushed a little as I launched her into her high school journey with a kiss and a hug and a reminder that I am still right here, walking along side her.
This year, more than ever before, my stomach knots, tears gather in my eyes, and I force my smiles. I didn’t realize that I would be the one so unprepared for this year, despite the freshly emptied bins, new books, and carefully planned lessons. Somehow, I always thought we would have more time; there is still so much I want to teach, to share, to explore. The clock ticks, and I fear our year will pass too fast.
Yesterday, on our first day of school, I thought of the many times my mom prepared a fledgling for flight, how she must have felt with each new school year. I miss my mom. I miss her voice. I miss her laugh. I miss her wisdom. And in her absence, I read her words in the second book she and my father authored together, Love Is All: Conversations of a Husband and Wife with God. I was (and am) grateful to feel her walking along side me, once again. She wrote (typeset slightly altered):
“The children are returning to school.
another vacation so soon ended,
and Lord, I’m going to miss them,
especially this time.
It isn’t always this way;
my feelings aren’t always this good,
Knowing me, You know that,
don’t You, Lord?
Sometimes I’m quietly relieved
to see them go.
Sometimes I welcome the peace
and order of an unfilled house,
the quietness of babies napping,
the freedom of space unoccupied.
But this time it was different.
This time I tried,
really tried, Lord.
This time I prepared for the vacation
and made ready for my family.
I prepared our house,
anticipated our shopping,
even planned our meals
in readiness for a vacation of joy.
But most of all, Lord,
I prepared myself.
It was my windows that needed cleaning,
the windows of my soul
that needed the dust washed off
to let in their sunshine.
My rooms were in need of their fresh air,
the clean breeze of their laughter,
and, yes, even their quarrels.
And it was my housecleaning,
the preparation of me,
that made it so different.
They know You, Lord,
and they love You.
Even when they joke about You,
and love You.
But then, You know that too.
For a brief time, dear Lord,
with no homework,
and no outside “musts,”
they were able to share You with me.
How alive and real You then became.
Something wonderful happens at these times.
It’s as if You walk in the door
and all the lights go on.
Faces shine laughter
and words become raindrops of sunshine.
And dear Lord, the world of a home turns to fun,
world of fun.
We’re a family!
And, dear Jesus, there’s nothing can touch us
when we’re a family.
It’s everything of joy,
everything of love,
and, so much, everything of You.
The wonderful happened.
We were closed in,
but not by an exclusiveness,
and a time without pressures.
Our love grew,
love for You
and for one another.
And with it,
our family grew
and expanded into the world.
How can I say “thank you”
for such a vacation?
Now it’s over
and I have to watch them return to school,
watch the pressures again build,
the hands of a clock.
The clocks are here again, Lord.
And I’m going to be forced to watch them.
There’s a danger in it.
I’ve seen it before.
I’ve fallen into the trap before.
Too often, I’ve watched a clock
and missed seeing you
But today, Lord
after a vacation of fun
and a family of love,
I know it doesn’t have to return
to a world of clocks.
It can be vacation joy
and next month,
and this morning.
And a clock can be a “thank you”
for one more minute
one more moment of love.”
Thank you, Mom, for walking along side me when I needed you, and for sharing your wisdom so that I may prepare my children for their futures, just as you did me.
I resisted beginning this school year. I wanted time stopped. But this year, this very last year of schooling my first-born, I will look at the clocks and say, “Thank you, for one more minute of opportunity, one more moment of love.”
Won’t you join me?
To my girls–Thank you, for giving me the best job ever!
Photo credit: Maren Miller http://www.marenmillerphotography.com/