The first day of school – 2nd and 1st grades

Our school district starts late — after nine — so we never have to wake them up and we don’t have to rush. The kids have plenty of time to play, eat breakfast, get dressed, and hold down a part-time job.

As he does every  morning, David curled up on the couch with a book. Meanwhile, Mary went into the bathroom and put on lip gloss. When I finally called them into the kitchen to eat, Mary looked at me in a wide-eyed panic.

“I should have waited to put on lip gloss! Breakfast will mess it up!” she held up her dress. “Should I eat before I get dressed? Or after?”

I told her she could reapply between bites as long as she promised to leave the tube at home.

After breakfast we tried three different hairstyles, then Mary decided to leave her hair down. I combed some water and moisturizer through her hair, piecing together the curls, and then put on her new favorite necklace. She swiped on a bit more lip gloss, and she was ready.

I poked my head out of the bathroom and asked David if he could put his book down long enough to put on clothes, please.

I slicked David’s hair into a mohawk (he’s been asking for a mohawk for two years, poor kid) and he was ready. I have a suspicion that he’s nervous about school, but he’d never tell me.

He crammed his biggest book into his book bag “I want people in my class to know that I love reading,” he explained.

“You can’t hide who you are, buddy,” I said. “Even if you tried.”

This year our school system is organizing the bus routes by bus number instead of route number like they have in the past. This is one of the many, many administrative changes this year, and it means that my kids have one more number to memorize. But their bus number, 538, comes with an easy mnemonic device: 5+3=8.

At the bus stop I asked the kids if they knew the bus number, and since none of them did I said, “That’s no problem because your bus is easy to remember! What’s 5 + 3?” I asked.

Everyone stared and me blankly until Thomas piped up, “45!”

Yeah, I guess it’s time for these kids to get back in school after all.

No surprise here, but I’ve felt a little emotional about the first day of school. It’s not that I’m not ready or they’re not ready, but I’m just sentimental about markers of time like this. One more year; they are growing up.

This morning Mary told me a story I hadn’t heard before. She said that she had a great first day of school last year because on the short bus ride to school, she had started to cry. A friend (who we didn’t know very well at the time) saw her, and switched seats to sit with her.

Mary told me that she hoped she could do that for someone this year — be a friend to someone who needs one; to help someone who seems sad.

This was such a remarkable indicator of how much she’s grown — more powerful than any report card or reading level. Last year I put her on the bus and I was choking back tears because I’d never been away from her for so long and I wasn’t sure how she’d handle the social rigors of school.

Today I put her on the bus knowing that she already knew everything she needed — that kindness matters. And lip gloss.

I’m so thankful for these kids and am amazed at the people God is growing them to be.

And also, I can’t wait for them to come home. Mama made cookies.



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