Today is the big day. Our oldest child’s first day of kindergarten. As background, we are used to our child being in the care of others. Since she was eighteen months, she has been doing four days a week of full-day care. Though that was hard at first, we quickly saw how she thrives on the routine and the stimulation. And we have also embraced the idea of our child being raised by a village. In fact, our second child started a similar schedule at eleven weeks. So we are no strangers to the hand-off experience.
But I must admit that today was quite different. Our kindergarten program asked the parents not to deviate from how drop-off will normally occur. So instead of passing her off at the school itself, our daughter boarded a bus that then drove away. In fact, the whole transaction took all of a minute or so. As the bus turned the corner, driving out of sight, I was left standing there with a pit in my stomach. As I have thought about it since she went to school, I realized that what my daughter did today – stepping on to a bus with people she has never met, going to a school she has never attended, meeting a new teacher she has never met, and experiencing a totally new routine – takes a tremendous amount of courage. And yet she boldly stepped onto that bus, with a big grin on her face.
Though I have often talked about the village that raises our children, and in some ways have had to embrace that model out of necessity, I rarely admit how wonderful and also scary that whole concept is. The truth is that I have to trust many people with shaping and forming my child into an amazing person. Though my husband and I do a lot of that formation, her formation comes from teachers, school staff, church parishioners, friends, and family. I have seen in person how helpful that can be (like that time when we were arduously trying to teach her to use a spoon – a habit she picked up in minutes once she saw the other kids doing it at school). But today, I was aware of how vulnerable relying on the village makes one feel. There is really no getting around that sense of vulnerability – it is a necessary part of life. But that vulnerability can certainly be unsettling.
This morning, as I have been sorting through that unsettled feeling, the only thing I have been able to “do” is to give that feeling back to God through prayer. God knows how much I dislike that feeling of being out of control, and so I am sure my prayer is familiar to God. But I have also found myself praying my daughter through her day – the other kids on the bus she met, the staff who walked her to her classroom, her teacher and new classmates, the staff who works in the cafeteria, her time learning and at play, and her time in after-care. I pray that the village will be good to her, that she will feel God’s loving arms surrounding her, and that she too will be God’s light to others. That is my small contribution to the village today – my prayers and my trust. God bless our village and give us peace.