Monday, August 18, 2014

How the lazy river taught me about kindergarten

Here in Hays we have an aquatic park. When we realized it was here I was both pleased and surprised - for a town this size it is a really nice park. Two water slides, a lazy river, a full size swimming pool with diving boards and a separate, large area for younger kids to play in complete with a slide and a few other water attractions. And, it is no more than three feet deep in the deepest area.

For us, when we discovered the reasonably priced season passes, it was a no-brainer to purchase them. We made our money back with our visits and I didn't have to feel bad if some days we went and only ended up spending an hour there.

The week before school started we met one of Addie's school friends, her mom, and little brother at the aquatic park to swim. At one point during our visit the girls expressed interest in riding through the lazy river. They wanted to ride together in one of the double inner tubes. Up until that day, Addie had only ridden on mine or Sabian's laps in a single inner tube. The lazy river is only three feet deep but at five years old, Addie has yet to master swimming and I feel pretty cautious around the water.

When the girls first asked to ride together I wasn't quite sure what to say, but when the other mom seemed comfortable with it, I reconciled in my mind that they would be fine. Both girls were wearing body and arm floats and there were lifeguards stationed every so often around the ride and we would be as near as our inner tubes would allow. I took a deep breath and they climbed in to their tubes.

They had a blast. I was proud of Addie as I watched she and her friend smile and laugh and responsibly hold on to the handles on their inner tube. The other mom and I, with the younger siblings, floated along near them and had some good conversation. I mentally patted myself on the back and considered this a little stepping stone toward Addie gaining more independence and her knowing I could trust her.

The very next day we were back at the aquatic park, this time with Sabian. Addie's elementary school had rented the park that evening for the school families. Once again, we found ourselves on the lazy river. This time, Addie wanted an inner tube all to herself. I went through the same feelings as before - my breath caught in my throat and at first I wanted to say, "No way!" but I realized she would be able to handle it. Again, armed with her floaties, she climbed in to an inner tube, this time on her own, and I floated as close to her as possible. Sabian and Olive followed right behind us.

At one point I was holding on to her inner tube so we wouldn't get separated and she said to me, "I can do it mom!" I reluctantly let go of her tube.

Not far after the beginning of the ride there is a fork in the lazy river - a short cut to the other side, or the long way around. The short cut and the long route meet on the other side, but in between is an "island" covered with grass and bushes, blocking the view of the long route until breaking out onto the other side where the two routes meet.

Addie and I met this fork in the river and as hard as I tried, I couldn't stay with her - the current took me through the short cut and carried her the long way. I yelled after her, "Hang on, Addie!" As I floated to where the two routes met, I was unable to see her, but I held on so I wouldn't float away until she reached me.

I can't even say how long it took for her to get around that bend - maybe a minute, maybe two, but that's probably stretching it. It wasn't long at all, but it was long enough for me to think about all of the bad things that could happen to her as she was out of my view - she could tip over, someone could be over there and snatch her so quickly out of that tube - irrational thoughts, but I'm fairly certain if you are reading this and are a mom or babysitter, you may understand what I mean!

It was also long enough for me to shove those thoughts out of my mind and think about how I trusted her to be smart, how I really knew she would be fine, and how I just needed to let her go. And then I made the connection between the lazy river and kindergarten - she would be okay.

When she rounded the bend, all smiles and wet hair, we laughed and floated on our way.

I recently read an article that dealt with something similar regarding letting our children go. We teach them, train them, and then send them out to put the things they've learned in to practice. If we never let them go to do that, they'd never have the opportunity to exercise those skills, succeed, fail, learn, try again.

Even so, I cried the night before kindergarten. Not because I thought Addie couldn't do it, but because of the transition it signified in our lives. In her little life. She was so excited and I was pleased she was looking forward to it so much. As we stepped into her classroom she visibly tensed and was reluctant to inch much further without help from us. No tears, and when she finally sat down in her seat, she smiled at the treats her teacher had left for her. A few more pictures, a kiss and goodbye. I shed a few tears in the car and around the house that morning and was so glad to see her little face at 11:27, just a few hours later. It was "awesome," she said.

When I dropped her off the next day, it was to be her first full day. She marched confidently to stand in line with her classmates, we said goodbye, and I sat in my car and watched until they walked inside...and I shed a few more tears. Happy that she was looking forward to her day, but also knowing I would miss her at home.

Change is a process, and sometimes a long one for me. In this case, I am thrilled for Addie, but it is still change, and it will still take some getting used to our new routine. Especially, this morning, when I dropped her off again and twice she sweetly told me she would miss me today. No tears, but I am wondering how this, her second full day, has gone, and I look forward to seeing her in about thirty minutes.

Some say this is "just" kindergarten, and to wait until we encounter the really big changes. I know that there are many major changes in our future, but for now, I prefer to take each one as it comes, and this is enough change for now. I'm thankful for a good school, a good teacher, I'm praying for good relationships, for Addie's protection, and that she might be a positive influence on those around her.

I am so thankful for Addie, my big (little!) girl.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Pencils. markers, glue...humility

Kindergarten is upon us. This Thursday we will drop Addie off at school, into the hands of her very capable teacher.

We are excited for her, she is excited to go...but I'm okay with the first day being a half day.

Preparing for school means tackling one of my favorite things - school supplies. This time of year isn't back to school season. For me, it is school supply season. I've always loved shopping for school supplies, whether I was in school or out of school. And now, after not having a "legitimate" need to buy school supplies (who are we kidding, there's always a need!) for several years, Addie gives me a reason to grab a list and breathe in the aroma of new crayons, crack open a new notebook, and hunt down the elusive brands that teachers are requesting (Prang watercolors, anyone?).

While Addie attended preschool at age three for two days a week and then pre-K programs in Ilinois and Kansas, we are encountering new territory with a different level of school registration, paperwork, the possibility of buying lunch, and...fees.

I knew that this year the district here in Kansas was, for the first time, charging a fee for registering kindergartners. As I went through the registration process and neared the end, there was another fee I was unaware of, for supplies and other things I can't remember. It would have been nice to have been aware of that fee beforehand (and maybe it was in some paperwork I didn't fully read), but what was I going to do? Not register Addie? I wasn't upset, just a little surprised. I paid the fees and registration was complete.

Tonight I was out taking care of some errands. We had already bought Addie's school supplies, but on my agenda was to pick up a couple of extra boxes of crayons and markers. At this stage of the school game it appears that a lot of teachers pool the classroom supplies. Each child has some items that are exclusively theirs, but other supplies are used by the classroom as a whole. In a letter we received from Addie's teacher, she suggested buying extras of a few items, as they are on sale now and they will go through quite a few crayons and other specific items throughout the year. I was up for that and had added a few things to my list.

While I was standing in the checkout lane I was behind a woman and two kids, probably a middle schooler and maybe a high schooler. To be honest, I wasn't paying a lot of attention, until they started removing items from the checkout conveyor belt. Even then, I didn't pay too much attention, other than to notice they were picking and choosing what to purchase and what to put back. They left, I moved up, checked out, and left.

I was a little annoyed because I was headed to find two more boxes of Crayola classic broad tip (Oh, the specificity!) markers that the previous store was sold out of, sending me to hunt them down elsewhere. I found them, even on sale, and got in my car to drive home, when the realization came over me, right there in the parking lot.

I was able to buy what I needed for my kid to go to school. I didn't pick and choose, I just got what she needed.

That thought was followed by a reminder. Earlier in the week, I had complained a little to a friend about the kindergarten registration fee and the additional fee that I didn't know about until I had to pay it. But, I paid it and went on my way.

And then I was thankful. Humbled, and thankful. While we may not have an overabundance of cash at our disposal, we are taken care of and are able to take care of our needs and those of our girls. We are able to give a little and spend a little. 

Tonight, I didn't have to put things back. In fact, I was at the store to buy more.

I am thankful for this reminder, especially as we are headed into this school year. I am consistently reminded of how we are provided for, and although that provision may not always look like I think it should, our needs are met. I am reminded that others may not be able to do all they want to do, and may have to pick and choose, which could come down to some really hard choices, I'm sure. I am reminded that at times we have been, are, and will be in need ourselves.

I pray that this year our family will be givers. Not to be known as givers, but that God would open our eyes and that we would have a willingness to step out and give where we can. I say willingness because giving isn't always easy. It requires time, patience, resources - things that can be uncomfortable to sacrifice. 

Again, I am thankful for tonight's reminder, and challenged as we start this school year.