Last night I laid down next to my five year old just as I do every night. Together we said The Lord’s Prayer, her racing ahead of me to prove she knew it better. I put my hand on her chest and blessed her, “The Lord bless you and keep you…”
As I said the words, my mind fast forwarded to Monday and there I was standing in front of her elementary school, my hand on her chest. I heard my voice: “The Lord make His face to shine upon you…”
Lying in the dark, I blinked quickly as tears erupted like oil.
As I raised myself up to go, London rolled toward me, wrapped her arms around my arms and said, “I don’t want you to leave me.” And then, eyes locked with mine, “I don’t want to leave you.”
I’ve been waiting for the first day of kindergarten for five long years.
I’ve always pictured it (and believe me, I’ve pictured it often) going something like this:
-Me pulling up to the school with Kool & The Gang’s “Celebration” blaring from the speakers
-Me stopping the car just long enough for London to hop out
-Me waving goodbye as I tear out of the parking lot on two squealing tires, yelling “suckaaaahs” to all the crying moms holding their kids’ hands
Then, I planned to go to Starbucks and read Anna Karenina over unlimited chai tea lattes.
But things aren’t playing out the way I always expected…
I’m getting weepy and clingy. I’m spending too much money on puppy folders and monster pencil pouches because my precious, perfect daughter wants puppy folders and maybe she’ll be happier and safer and a better student who loves her mommy more if she has puppy folders.
I’ve taken her to lunch every day this week, letting her order sprite and ice cream for dessert. Today we had mango snow cones after a morning reading books at the library and an afternoon playing at the splash pad. I kept running into the fountains, grabbing her, both of us soaking wet, and hugging her for embarrassingly long periods of time.
I. Am. Putty.
And I am not feeling up to “Celebration” in the speakers.
Last spring, while the on-the-ball moms were signing their kids up for charter schools and magnet programs and whatnot, I sat with my friend Janine at Chick-fil-a with my hands in my hair.
I said, “So, I’m just supposed to hand over my kid?”
I love the story of Hannah in the book of Judges—Hannah who wants a child so desperately, Hannah who promises so much if only God would hear her, Hannah who willingly marches her only son, the son she’d have given anything to have, Hannah who marches that gift of a son to the house of the Lord and leaves him there, Hannah full of faith.
I’ve always marveled at Hannah’s being able to walk away from her three year old boy. I picture a tear streaked goodbye and so many second thoughts as she looked back one more time to see her child in someone else’s arms.
I was surprised recently to discover that under the Law of Moses all of God’s people were required to formally consecrate their first born sons to God. God told them, “The first offspring of every womb among the Israelites belongs to me.” For most people this looked like taking their newborns to the temple, as Mary and Joseph would take their son Jesus, and offering an animal sacrifice to redeem (or buy back) their child. For select others, this may have looked like Hannah’s offering of Samuel in a willing indentured servitude.
The practice dates back to the first Passover when God saved all the first born boys of Israel from the tsunami of death that drowned Egypt’s sons.
In days to come, when your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ say to him, ‘With a mighty hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. When Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the Lord killed the firstborn of both people and animals in Egypt. This is why I sacrifice to the Lord the first male offspring of every womb and redeem each of my firstborn sons.’ And it will be like a sign on your hand and a symbol on your forehead that the Lord brought us out of Egypt with his mighty hand.”
You may ask what this has to do with sending a kid off to kindergarten, and I’d say, I don’t know, maybe everything.
As I look ahead to this first year of school, I am terrified of leaving my child. I’m afraid she’ll be mistreated. I’m afraid she’ll be embarrassed. I’m afraid she won’t know where to put her lunchbox or where to find the bathroom or who to ask when she really needs help. I’m afraid, because I’m not going to be there.
But when I read about Hannah and about the Israelites, when I read God’s words about Passover, I’m reminded that my kid, my precious first born, is God’s kid—more His than mine. I’m reminded that God’s mighty hand protects His people, that even though I’m not with her, God is.
Hannah gave Samuel to God, because God gave Samuel to Hannah.
The Israelites gave their sons’ lives to God because God saved their sons’ lives.
And in my small act of Hannah-like bravery, I will send my daughter to kindergarten with no fear, handing her over not to a teacher or school system, but to an ever present Father God, the God Who made her, the God Who’s working all things together for her good, the God Who gave her to me.
This is a picture of London being blessed by her small group; nine pairs of hands cover the limited real estate of her body:
We prayed for God to give her courage. We asked Him to love her and to grow her. To bless her and to shape her.
We prayed He’d be with her, His daughter, our London.