My First Day of School | Ninja Turtles and Strawberry Shakes

Michael Bouchard

Michael Bouchard

Student Ministries Director, Kensington Church, Orion Campus

We missed orientation, so I didn’t know what was on the other side of the giant brown metal door to the modular kindergarten room. The muffled shouts and laughter diffusing through it seemed to support Mom’s claim that there were other children behind it, and not a horde of monsters. Still, if it weren’t for the Ninja Turtle Velcro shoes I had gotten out of the deal, I’d have turned and run back to the comfort of our Astro van.

But as a five-year-old man of my word, I’d promised Mom that I’d give it a shot. She admitted that it might be scary, yet she also had a feeling that I’d love it. If I made it through the day without calling home, she promised we’d get a strawberry shake from McDonald’s– a treat reserved for the most special of occasions. And yes, that woman was fluent in bribery.

Mom twisted the door handle long before I was ready, and gently nudged me in. I was immediately greeted by a tall, blonde, kindly woman with a mushroom-esque haircut, “You must be Michael! I’m your teacher, Mrs. Lund. Welcome to Kindergarten. You’re going to love it here.” I’d tell you that I didn’t cry, but then I’d be lying. #mamasboy4lyfe

Decades later, I discovered I wasn’t the only one with soggy eyeballs that day after asking Mom what it was like to drop me off for the first time. I was her 6th child, so I just figured it was routine for her by then.

“I was a nervous wreck,” she said. “I drove home, cried, and walked ten miles. Maybe more.”

I assumed aloud that she had cried because she missed my loud presence.

Her eye roll informed me that I assumed incorrectly.

“I realized that we were no longer the only input in your life. When that door shut behind you, there’d be other voices trying to tell you who you are. You’d have to choose which voice to listen to. It was hard watching you grow up.

“I prayed while I cried,” she added. “I didn’t really know what else to do. Then I felt like God whispered, ‘It’s ok, Leonia. He’s not yours anyway. He’s always been mine, and I’m still watching even when you can’t.’ So, I let go. It got a little easier every year, but I’ll never forget that walk. It was the longest walk of my life.” #imnotcryingyourecrying

The two of them were right, by the way. I loved every minute of my first day. Mom greeted me at the dismissal bell (with dry eyes) to take me on our date. I was all smiles. A new pair of shoes, a nice teacher, AND a strawberry shake? Who could ask for more?

Whether you’re sending your kids off to school for the first time or the last time, the starting day of school is a veritable emotional gauntlet: excitement, fear, stress, relief, guilt (from feeling relief), sadness, joy, pride– the gang’s all here.

It’s kind of a mess, as it should be; you’re watching your heart step out of your chest, onto the bus, and off to school, all while hoping the world will treat it well.

Not sure they’re ready? It’s ok.

Not sure you’re ready? Also ok.

Perhaps you’re feeling a little behind, or not sure you’ve done enough to prepare your little (or not-so-little) one? If so, don’t fret. You’re not alone. By the way, it’s easy to catch up.

King Solomon said it this way: “Teach a child the way they should go, and when they’re old, they won’t leave it.”

Prepping your child for the future happens a day at a time. And it can start today.

Here are a couple of tips:

* Take a moment at the end of the day to recap and help them see (a) how God worked through others, or (b) opportunities they had to shine God’s light.

* Try praying together before the bus comes. Could be something simple as: “God, what do you want me to know today?” and then take a moment to listen to what He might say.

In doing so, you’ll teach them to listen for God’s voice, one a day at a time. There’s no wrong way to do it. Just don’t be afraid. They don’t belong to you anyway, they belong to God; they’re just on loan to you. It’s freeing, because he’s with them whenever you can’t be, and he’s the greatest caretaker there is.

And above all, take a page out of Mom’s book and take heart. He’s with them and he’s with you. Pray FOR them and WITH them, and enjoy the moment.

Parents, our prayers are with you on this unique day. Trust in Him and you’ll do fine. Just don’t forget to take ‘em out for milkshakes afterward.

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