My mom adventures in Fort Collins

Giving the gift of forgiveness

I have so many spiritual struggles. Don’t we all? My prayer life is practically non-existent, I have failed to find a meaningful way to connect with the service-oriented side of me for years, and lately “charity” has meant giving a teenager $5 when he comes to my door trying to sell coupons for the football team. I haven’t been the prayerful, loving, charitable person that I want to be in a long time. Or at least it feels like it. I need a soul-nourishing overhaul.

But that is not what this post is about. (Well, it is a little bit.)

What this post is really about is love. The love of a sweet, spiritual girl, and the gifts she gives me all the time.

This week, my oldest had her first day of kindergarten. I have been struggling with what to write about this momentous occasion. As far as I can tell, I’m supposed to think this is a bittersweet moment: my baby is all grown up and ready to set the world on fire. Me, as momma, I’m supposed to feel happy for her and proud of her, but also feel a bit of my heart break because there is no more denying that her babyhood is a thing of the past. This girl is growing up.

Insert obligatory smiley-faced photo here

Insert obligatory smiley-faced photo here

What can I say? I have to be different. That’s not the way it went down for me.

I do agree that it was bittersweet, but not for the reasons that you might think. Let’s start with sweet, because that’s easy. I felt sweet because I know that she’ll do well. She’s grown into such a kind and capable girl, with an amazing creative side and a truly grand ability to simply observe and soak it all in. I felt sweet because I personally love new adventures, and I’ve been hearing so many amazing things about our neighborhood school since we moved into our house three years ago. I felt sweet because my mornings can become purposeful again, and I will actually have some time to myself. But mostly I’m overcome with the bitter.

I’m bitter because this is the official end of our summer, and this is the beginning of a new schedule for us.  Where some families appear to feel rejuvenated by the beginning of a new school year and the routine that it provides, I feel the dark, suffocating choke-hold of this time of transition. Hmm, what’s a polite way to say this? “My sweet kindergartener finds adapting to a new routine rather challenging. ” She was a bucket of nerves before school started, and she told me more than a dozen times that she didn’t want to go. Though by all accounts she’s liking school now that the first-day jitters are behind her, she is not exactly a lovely person to be around. School is wearing her out, and she is constantly exhausted and hungry. She complained that school doesn’t offer nap-time, and she has not willingly taken a nap since infancy. Yesterday, she ate a hot-dog… for her third afternoon snack. Our house has become a roller-coaster of emotion, ranging from excitement to nerves to aggression to apologies.

There can be no amount of “The Kissing Hand” to diminish these struggles. As the saying goes, “You can’t go over it. You can’t go under it. You can’t go around it. You gotta go through it.” And excuse me if I just don’t like going through it.

I’m not delusional. I know that the world has bigger problems than adapting to a kindergarten routine, and I realize that I’m not the first mom to have this struggle. The logical piece of me is aware that we’ll get through it, but it’s just such a difficult time for me. My heart is breaking, but it has nothing to do with her babyhood ending. My heart is breaking because my child has such strong emotions and she’s still learning how to process them. Though by her own admissions she’s “tired,” or she want to “lie down,” she balks at the suggestion that we take some quiet time. She is awash in the feeling of what my friend calls “hangry”–hungry and angry. She acts difficult and aggressive, and then realizing she has hurt me or her sister, she quickly backpedals and apologizes.

“Momma, I’m so sorry.”

“What are you sorry for, honey?”

“Well, I’m sorry that I was acting so mean and being so crabby. I’m a bad kid.”

After the third exchange like this yesterday, I had to do something. My heart was so achy and breaky, that even Billy Ray wouldn’t be able to shake his mullet enough to do away with that kind of heartache.

I explained that she is not a bad kid. She is NEVER EVER a bad kid in my mind, because I KNOW that she is really truly a kind, loving kid. I explained that this was a hard time, and that her body is adjusting to this new schedule. I explained that her mind was working so hard to take in all of the new friends and experiences that it made her extra-tired. I explained that sometimes when we start something new, we don’t always sleep right and that makes us super-tired, too. And when we’re extra-super-tired, it’s so difficult to act our best.

But I had good news! The good news is: You can forgive yourself and start all over! You can do better next time. Isn’t that fantastic?

We talked a lot about forgiveness, and how God always forgives us. I told her that with God, you have a second chance, a third chance, a fourth chance… even forever chances!

Forever chances. I love that. (I learned that from my I-wish-I-knew-you-in-real-life soul sister, Glennon Doyle Melton, because I’m reading her book Carry On, Warrior right now.) And I told my sweet girl again that I know that she’s kind, and she is NEVER EVER a bad kid. And God knows that, too. God knows that better than even I do. And my sweet girl, who found prayer to be so soothing last year in moments of anxiety, remembered that she could talk to Jesus and ask him for help.

And after this whole conversation, I was thinking, “You are brilliant, my dear!” Does this ever happen to you? My child reminded me that the advice that I was giving her is truly the advice that I need to be following myself. You know who wants to help me become a more patient mother? Jesus does. And all I have to do is ask. Maybe tomorrow, I will do better than today. Maybe the next day, I will do better than tomorrow. But each day, if I get angry or I get crabby (which I always do), and if I am hard on the people I love the most (which I always am), I can pray. I can ask for help. I just have to stop and forgive myself, and try again because I have forever chances.

So, here’s to love and prayer and forgiveness. And here’s to the bittersweet, because often the most worthwhile experiences do have a fair amount of growing pains. We’ll get there… I’ll keep praying.


4 Comments so far
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Amen…& Amen… & More AMENS!!!

Comment by Virginia

Thanks, Virginia!

Comment by jaymers

Jaymers, while I’m not able to say that I can relate to your bittersweet kindergarten feelings, I related to some other things in your post.

One thing is routines. I hate them. Hate hate hate them.

Secondly, my spiritual life was like yours for awhile. I wanted to be more prayerful, but just wasn’t. Now I’ve turned a corner and don’t even want that anymore. It’s been such a big piece of my identity for so long, that I feel kind of naked without it. And I have not yet fully come out of the closet with my lack of religious belief. I guess I am somewhere in the range of a secular humanist these days. Maybe it will come back another day, I don’t know. I miss the feeling of comfort that it gave me, to be sure. And I think I was a much more loving person when I had faith than I am now. Well, life is a journey, eh?

I’m glad you found a church you like, and that you’ve got some good spiritual reading under your belt.

Comment by indiaindiana

Oh, Indiana, life is a journey. Amen to that. I am married to a secular humanist, though he would probably not coin himself as such. And he is one of the most kind, value-oriented and generous people that I know. It is interesting though, because I know that he doesn’t find comfort in some of the things that give me great comfort–like prayer and church–and that can make certain aspects of our relationship (and our family) challenging for both of us. But I am glad to hear that I’m not the only one who dreads the shift in routines. I will add that in addition to life being a journey, it’s also a hard knock life. Can’t remember where I heard that one. Love you!

Comment by jaymers

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