On Having FEELINGS the First Week of School and Finding Light in the Dark

The sun is setting outside, we’re headed into another first week of school tomorrow, and, no matter how many times we’ve done this as a family — no matter how many times I’ve maneuvered it as a mama — I’m nervous. The darker it gets outside, in fact, the more nervous I feel because the darkness always exposes my fears and whispers “what if” and weaves convincing tales of doom.

The darkness is eloquent, after all.

The darkness is loquacious.

And the darkness is always confident and sure that I am senselessly sending my children into harm’s way.

“Think of all the ways they could get hurt,” the darkness tells me, “like socially and emotionally, mentally and physically, intellectually and spiritually, and THEY WILL PROBABLY BE SCARRED FOR LIFE because…” and then the darkness fills in the blanks for each child, pointing out the one with the New School, and the five with New Teachers, and the one with a Complex Schedule Who Doesn’t Know His Way Around; the darkness points to my Kid With No Friends in His Class, and the One Who Doesn’t Know How to Make Any, and the Kid Who’s Shy and Who Sometimes Needs Extra Hugs From His Mom. The darkness makes charts of the New Challenges, and the Special Needs, and the High Stakes and then graphs them against the likelihood my kids’ mother screwed something up and didn’t advocate well or didn’t prepare her children or didn’t get the right supplies or, or, or, OR… and the darkness goes on.

The darkness is, in other words, a dick.

Which I know.

know the darkness is a dick, having spent some time mired in it, but sometimes I listen anyway because it’s hard to hear the Light when we’re smack dab in the darkness, you know?

 

Earlier this week, though, my sister-in-law, Kim, who’s a middle school teacher, got her class lists.

Seems kind of mundane, yes?

Class lists. Lists of kids. Maybe a few names the teachers know, but mostly just… names. Names to eventually put to faces, yes, and kids to eventually get to know and champion and love, but in what I imagine is the hustle and bustle of finishing the first week’s lesson plans and making sure the space is ready and attending teacher in-service meeting, they’re still just… lists. Just lists for now.

KimNoteExcept that when Kim got her lists, she added this note to Facebook:

Looking at class lists tonight feels a bit like Christmas! So exciting to see the names and faces of the young people who will change my life this year. This feels like sacred ground — holding space for them, and anticipating the joy and energy and craziness we’ll all bring to the table. Middle school parents, thank you for sharing your precious littles with me. I am honored. 

Kim didn’t write about exhaustion, and she didn’t write about fear, both of which I bet she experiences, because she is a wife and a teacher and a mother of four, and she’s sending her medically fragile kid to elementary school for the first time.

Kim didn’t write about the darkness or about how arduous it is to move classrooms, which she did this summer, or to begin a new curriculum, or to get her own littles ready every day and then have to head out to teach ours.

Kim didn’t write about heading back to the grindstone or grump about middle schoolers who are an easy target. (I may have offered to sell one of mine this year. *ahem*)

No. Kim wrote instead about excitement and joy and energy and craziness. She wrote about standing on sacred ground. She wrote about the precious people those lists represent. And she wrote about feeling honored.

I sit here in the darkness tonight, and, I’m not going to lie; the voice of the dark is both loud and compelling. WHAT IF, WHAT IF, WHAT IF? But I can’t get rid of the nagging light Kim shed or the knowledge that she’s one of thousands of teachers who feel the same way. One of thousands of Light-bearers headed into our schools tomorrow. One of thousands of Love bringers armed with joy. One of thousands of teachers who are ready to teach, yes, and also eager to be taught by our kids who have so much to offer.

And so I head to bed, knowing the darkness is vast and deep right now, but believing as always, that dawn is coming. Relentlessly on its way. And also holding the little candle Kim lit, which makes the darkness not quite so deep, after all.

Waving in the dark, friends. And praying for Light for us all.

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And P.S. thank you for being my community. My ComeUnity. I prayed for you yesterday, held you in the Light — specifically and by name — and then you showed up for each other, too. It didn’t surprise me, because I know you, and I know your hearts, and you are SO my people, but it made me proud and grateful just the same. Just incredibly proud and grateful to be your friend. You really are the best people on the internets. xoxo

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ABOUT BETH WOOLSEY I'm a writer. And a mess. And mouthy, brave, and strong. I believe we all belong to each other. I believe in the long way 'round. And I believe, always, in grace in the grime and wonder in the wild of a life lived off course from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
9 comments
  1. There is a particular page in a kids’ book that I read to my bigger kiddos almost every day as part of our tuck-in-for-nap (and/or -bedtime) ritual. Every time, I take a deep breath and *try* to take it to heart. It says,

    “If you ever feel scared in the darkness of night, remember: the shadows are no match for GOD’S light!”

    I’m in the dark right now, and it’s so very very pitch black. But I’m waving. Thanks for being a Light-bearer to me with your words and shared experiences.

  2. […] a little ridiculous, to be honest, for not having All the Things Together these past two days. My feelings. My dogs. My ability to put clothes on my body. The kids’ schedules. God knows, […]

  3. Nothing silhouettes til the lights come on! Let Him light up the dark roads!

  4. A lovely friend at my church learned and shared that when the WHAT IFs are taking over to change them to EVEN IFs. When we take the same statement and change it to EVEN IF, then add what we know to be true, we can envision that things will be okay, even if… because of God’s grace and goodness, our love for our children, our faith, the kindness of others. We can see that we can make it. This has given me much peace and relief to find a way through the WHAT IFs.

  5. A great piece!! One that speaks volumes to me. I have experienced this same feeling many times over. First when my oldest started school for the first time, then when we moved out of town and had to start a new school, first day of middle school, first day of high school and then first day at college half way across the country. I am now experiencing these same feelings with my youngest ones…first day of first grade, and first day at a new school for my 3rd grader. It’s hard not to remember your own fears as a kid and feeling that deep dark feeling in the pit of your stomach, but somehow they survive it and in many cases better than us parents do.

  6. Oh I sure do love you Beth! Today I realized I was holding my breath (to the point of giving myself a headache) as my first born went to middle school for the first time. Trying to hold back the panic that comes from my own middle school experience where kids were extremely cruel and I found myself in the deep deep darkness with no one to hold the light. Except, there were people holding the light. As I look back, there were many teachers who saw me and showed me the path. Could they change the cruelty of the kids, no, but they patted me on the shoulder, let me go to the nurse to escape, or even just let me make up for failing something they knew I could do. So I’ll be there for him when life is cruel and rejoice when it isn’t as bad for him as it was for me and I’ll hold the light for him so that he can learn that there are many looking out for him. Theses lights might not shine as bright as mine (being his momma and all) but I’ll be sure to point them out so he can see what was so hard for me to see. There are so many adults who want children to succeed. I can’t say I won’t still hold my breath though! That darkness is always trying to show me where I’m failing. Thanks for shining the light Beth – I really needed it!

  7. Kim’s lovely note has me crying real tears of gratitude.

  8. My first born started kindergarten three weeks ago. There were tears, LOTS OF TEARS, and they were all MYE tears. He was excited! He was ready. And my tears weren’t typical “my baby’s going to kindergarten” tears, like most kindergarten mommas. Before being a SAHM, I was an elementary teacher. He’s been in preschool for two years for speech. He’s taken the bus four half days a week for two years, so it wasn’t the bus or the sudden onset of all day everyday. I looked those the eye and brushed them off, I knew all of these things were small hiccups not worth my worries because they would be dealt with and fine after a few days, if at all. It was all of the things you listed here. A new building. A new teacher. Every friend we have was in another class. “We” don’t do well with new…”we” don’t do well with different (or really any) authority. My boy is quirky. He’s been taken off his speech IEP (prematurely in my opinion). He’s got a first year teacher who hasn’t admit this about herself… She doesn’t have to- I have worn those shoes before- the excited, terrified, anxious new teacher who is a bit overwhelmed with all of the new herself, and staring at the faces of all the expectant parents silently measuring them up to see if you are good enough to mold their littles’ minds and hearts. It’s a huge responsibility.

    Like I said, I was a teacher. I knew “those” parents. The kind that wouldn’t be satisfied if I were a super ninja. The kind that were so overjoyed that their child was blessed to be in my room. The kind who panic because their child got a 98% instead of 101%. Before I had kids, I was a teacher. I was the first year who thought “GEEZ parents! Simmer down! We’ve got this! God’s got this! We are all good here!”

    Now I am “that” parent. The worst of them all…. The actual teacher parent. We are the parents who have seen the “inside” we know the good, we know the bad. We know the expectations and standards. We know the pain both good and bad that the other teachers go through. We know the overwhelmed. I prayed for God to hold my hand and prevent me from being too much of “that” parent. And yet I felt obligated to let the teacher in on my quirky, strong willed little boy. His challenges, his sensory issues, his fears, because it’s all important to me that she knows. And it is important!

    … But that first week of school that poor first year teacher got a three page letter from me. With clinched teeth, I sent it to her. I knew it was a “that” parent kind of thing to do, but it had to be done and nothing, even myself, couldn’t stop it!

    This week I’ve seen him do things he has NEVER IN HIS LIFE done. Things that “normal” 5 year olds do, but not MY 5 year old. I’ve been mind blown! It’s hard as a parent to hear that light in the dark that’s saying “God’s got this”! But oh does he! He has their minds, He has their hearts, and though it’s hard to imagine- He loves them even more than we do.

    I know you know this, but God’s got this girl! Hugs to you from another momma who is still feeling the feels even though I know He’s got this! Have a great school year to all of you and your lot of kids!!

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