|Mikayla Everette, daughter of Joe and Amber|
Today, a little piece of you separated from the edge of the puzzle. You cried, and at various moments emotion will overtake your day at work and at home. You embarked on a new journey and signed your child up to begin elementary school, officially.
For the last four to five years, your home has been filled with the daily sounds and routines of toys bouncing across the floor, and a sudden stain which has no explanation, only an innocent look and lovable denial. Daytime naps, conversations filled with pre-school words you do not understand but yet make you smile echoed through the air of a porch swing gliding through the breeze. The greenway knows your secret laughter by listening to the giggles from a stroller. A pile of clothes, stuffed animals and shoes which no longer fit tease you back into a past you will never recapture.
This is why you cry.
Far be it from me to lecture you as a parent on how to handle this day. I'm a man, a pastor, a father of children heading into the sixth grade and the fourth grade, and just a year removed from conquering my own emotional demon by sending my little girl to middle school. But I recognized as I opened my news feed this morning that there is a common thread in our communities and our homes today, and staring through a window over a cup of coffee, you hear your child playing in the background knowing that days like this are about to be over.
And it's ok. It really is ok.
So this is an open letter to the Kindergarten registration parent. Please give me one moment of your time.
1. Dear mom, your child will be a world changer because of you.
The values instilled into your child since birth will be reflected in how God reveals their character and charisma. The stories they will tell to a teacher, who is not taking your place but rather becoming a partner with you in this role to raise a child, will mirror the values you have placed in them. Daily, backpacks will be filled with notes and pictures to mom. You will have pink hair, big eyes and a crayon-colored head so big that you swear your child thinks you are a teenage mutant ninja turtle. And you will love every moment of it, even the house with a front door and two windows and a picket fence and smoke billowing out a fake chimney when you live in a suburban condo on the second floor.
But their imagination knows no bounds, and you have taught them. Think of what those teachers will hear. My mommy is awesome. My mommy has a dog and he is really hairy. I miss my mommy. My mommy goes to Yoga class because she tells my daddy he is fat and she is not going to look like him when she is 34. My mommy is old, she turned 28 today. My grandma said that when my mommy was growing up she wet the bed but I never wet the bed unless I drink Kool-aid past 8 o'clock.
I love my mommy more than anything in the world. And your teacher will cry, not in front of the child but when she returns to her desk, because she dreams of one day having a child just like yours that thinks you are the greatest thing on planet earth.
Once, while watching the Price is Right and updating your Facebook status, your child interrupted you and crawled up into your lap and took a nap and while silence navigated the room with just a tick of the clock in the distance, you were teaching. You were nurturing a child which one day will become just like you.
And the first parent-teacher conference, you will see it. Right there on the chalkboard or in the hallway will be what your child never brought home but revealed for the scholastic world. A hand-drawn picture of you and your family and your world. And you'll get it. You are raising a world changer, and your influence carried past your own home even though letting go ripped your heart out of your chest.
It's because of you, so never quit investing.
2. Dear dad, the fish really was this long, and you can beat up everybody.
Now for dads, less of you will be reading this blog because it's just not your thing. But on the slight chance that you got off the mower or stepped away from the loading dock (how's that for stereotypical role designation, but I digress) and checked this out, let me help you pose like Hulk Hogan for a moment.
At the very time your child was registered for kindergarten, they were already building stories of your fame, and most of them aren't lies, it's just that you really love it when they stretch the truth. To your child's teacher, you are 6-foot-7, 245 pounds of solid Man of Steel frame, reel in 18-inch catfish and have a black Labrador retriever who can read the newspaper and weed eat the lawn for you. You can throw a baseball 900 feet, on one leg, and your John Deere zero-turn riding lawn tractor looks like a farmer's combine when they ride it back into the garage on the foot pedestal.
You'll look rather strange and down right ugly in purple marker compared to your spouse in the picture, and God-forbid you are balding on top or have glasses because suddenly your portrait will take the shape of a minion from Despicable Me (which, for the record, your child thinks are incredibly epic).
Letting go isn't as hard for you because the nurturing role for the working man is already filled with long periods of separation. But then again, there's the stay-at-home dad who will miss those mornings playing with the cat on the front porch as your child pulled its ear and then screamed like a crime scene upon getting clawed across the right knee.
But your kisses have sealed up wounds and put broken bones back into place. Your hands are so big the world rotates in them. And you can beat up your child's friend's dad, even though next September you are going to see him in the car-rider line and realize he's the one who fights in UFC on the weekend.
But your child doesn't know that. Because you are a hero. And you, too, have done your job. It's time for your kindergartener to release their own cape.
3. Dear parent, the road gets hard, but it's worth it.
My kindergarten experience with our second child was so rewarding, even though you might not think so because my son Noah spent the majority of the year in a wheelchair. Picking him up from school every day, we had to go through the center of the hallway where every child and teacher would reach out and give him a high five.
As much time as I have invested in the raising of my children, releasing them into a new world comes with tremendous challenges. They will poop in their pants while you are in a meeting two hours away. A grandparent will forget to pick them up because they are working in the garden, likely at the same time you have taken a business trip to Missouri.
Vomit happens, about two times a year, as does strep throat, the local allergy of the month, and the hypochondriac parent who freaks out every time you get near them with dirt, snot, or a bodily fluid which cannot be easily identified.
The chances are high you will encounter times of learning struggles, special needs, attention to details which your child cannot grasp, and an overly-extroverted child who gets marks on the chalkboard for all the wrong reasons (INSERT NAME was disruptive today). Perhaps your sweet angel will cry with separation anxiety, or refuse to talk to others, or make your heart melt when you punish them (you're a sucker and you know it).
During these moments you will encounter an opportunity to teach your children about the values of life that are bigger than words can explain. Your child will light up, learning to love others in spite of their differences, and melting your prejudices about social class and skin color and culture of origination, or even whether or not their parents taught them to speak proper English. The world will come alive as a new generation is reminded that those with special needs and disabilities are champions, and realizing that no one yet has taught your child to look at them any differently and how pure their heart loves all kids.
And they'll cuss, because the clown of the class taught them how to say the a-word. And they don't even know what it means, but Johnny's momma told him it was in the Bible so get his "blank" in there and clean his room.
And then there's the first report card. It won't have As and Bs, but satisfactory and excellent and needs improvement, and you will find what an incredible joy you feel that your child's writing on a 3-year-old level is actually NOT that big of a deal in this point of development.
Someone will break an arm, get a black eye, and you might be the one called in because your child ripped Woody's arm off by refusing to share.
And it's ok.
Whatever you felt reading this, today is the beginning of a new journey.
I'm on this road with you and I felt like you needed this today.
So cry it out, share it up, and let your child embark on a new adventure. Just wait until you get the first supply list (surprise!!!)
Now pardon me, I've written so long that it stirred up an emotion. Noah's friend said he was a Cubs fan and tried to get Noah to come to his side.
Looks I'm gonna have to go beat up his dad.
Peace out, and be blessed. Go Cards.
Kris Freeman is the lead pastor of Revolution Church in White House, TN, and he and his wife Jennifer have been married 16 years and have two kids, Madison and Noah. Jennifer is awesome, and Kris left his socks on the floor this morning and is in trouble when he gets home.