by Aaron Tiger
He was walking ahead of me, so excited about this new world, and I kept saying, “Slow down, Son, wait for me.” It was Micah’s second day of kindergarten, and he couldn’t wait to get there. It was just a five-minute walk from our door to the door of his school, but we left fifteen minutes early because he’d been walking around the house with his backpack for ten minutes. He kept walking faster and faster and I kept trying to slow him down.
I saw hundreds of first-day-of-school pictures on Facebook, but pictures don’t do the emotions justice. My wife Heather and I took Micah to his first day of school together. He was mostly excited and a little nervous. We were mostly nervous and a little excited. Micah had gone to school before, but this was different. This was a brand-new environment with people we didn’t know in a place we weren’t familiar with. We were anxious because as parents, we want everything to go just right for our kid. We don’t want him just to have a good teacher, but the best teacher. We hope he doesn’t just make a good friend, but a best friend—one who loves Jesus, is respectful, has good parents, and is fun to be around (I don’t ask for much).
Micah came back from his first day of school very excited. He had a great day. He had two best friends, whose names he could not remember. He told us all about his day. What did he like most? Recess. What did he do when he first got there? Sat at a table and colored. He was excited and proud that he was a kindergartener. He is proud, happy, and thrilled. I am a strange mix of sad, anxious, and excited.
I am excited for him to have so many opportunities to grow up. I want him to learn how to read, write, multiply, and recite the presidents. I want him to make new friends, and I can’t wait to hear him tell me how cool his new friends are and how awesome it was when they played together. I want him to be challenged to the point of frustration, and then to work hard and accomplish something that he didn’t think was possible.
I am anxious because right now, as he is in his class, making new friends, I’m sitting here praying that the other kids think he is as great as I do.
I’m sitting here praying that he is respectful, helpful, and kind to the teachers and that he lives out in the classroom what he has been taught thus far.
I’m sitting here praying that he will be just as excited to go back to school tomorrow as he was today.
I am sad because I’m not there with him. We wanted to know all about his day, and he told us a lot, for a five-year-old, but there’s lots we don’t know. Maybe this was so impactful to me because it made me realize that this is really his life. For the last five-plus years, his life has been so entangled with ours. When we moved, he moved with us. He went to school at the church I work at with teachers who worship at the church. His friends are our friends’ children. Micah going to kindergarten has been a revelation that my son’s life is his own. Even when our lives were so entangled, he still experienced emotions, fears, and excitements that were totally unique to him.
Somehow, it took dropping him off at kindergarten for me to realize this truth: I’m not going to know about the majority of my son’s life experiences. When we pick him up today from school, if we’re lucky, he might spend ten minutes telling us about his day. We might hear what happened during recess. We might hear what he learned. We might even hear some of his thoughts or feelings, but there’s so much we’ll never know, and that’s our reality as parents.
So what do we do? I’m a pastor, so you’ll see this one coming from a mile away, but I am learning it anew today: we have to trust that God is with him. God knows not only what happened to him, but what happened in him. As parents, we have to be ready to be there for him—not living vicariously through him, but living for him.
I said the wrong thing to him this morning. Instead of “Slow down, Son, wait for me,” I should have said, “Keep going, Son—I’ve always got your back.”
Life got you at the other end of the spectrum? Check out Joli’s experience dropping her oldest son off at college.
Aaron Tiger is a minister at FUMC Tulsa, a dad, a husband, and a child of God. He is the lead contributor for the918.org.