My kids go back to school next week. HALLELUJAH, Y’ALL, WE MADE IT THROUGH THE SUMMER!! I have one child entering 7th grade, one in preschool through her daycare, and THREE kindergartners this year, as my 5 year old son just missed the deadline for starting kindergarten last year and my 4 year old twins just make the cut off this year.
Anyway, as you can imagine, this week is a time of preparation as we gather school supplies, back packs, and school clothes, and review appropriate school behavior:
No, Ovaka, yelling is not ok…it’s time to use our INDOOR voice!
Yes, Kalea, we must ALWAYS put our pants back on after we go potty!
No, Kamila, it is NOT funny when you stick a pencil in your sister’s ear…if both people aren’t laughing, that’s called bullying, not playing!
And preparing for the new school year always leads to a bit of reminiscing on my part as we say goodbye to summer and begin another season of learning and growth. A few things that have happened in school years past that I hope do not occur this year:
1. I hope my child with sensory issues does not decide that he can only wear pants that “don’t touch the backs of [his] legs.” (Finding these kinds of pants, as you may guess, is basically impossible. This makes our morning routine especially exciting!)
2. I hope my kindergarteners do not follow in their older brother’s footsteps and, whilst trying to please their teacher by adding “details” to their family portrait, include handcuffs and shackles on the stick figure of their father (who is currently incarcerated.)
3. I hope my 3 year old feral child does not put a 5 year old little boy in a head lock and punch him repeatedly in the face, telling her daycare teacher, “You can go ahead and tell my momma. She said if someone hits me, I can hit them back!” (Mother of the Year, amirite?! Oops.)
The beginning of school is especially challenging for single moms like me – and for kids whose fathers are not in the picture. Because my ex-husband is incarcerated, he is obviously not here to share the burden of back to school preparation, and that is hard on all of us. (I mean, sure, there are financial and physical struggles that come with supporting 5 children, but, to be honest, one of the things I’m most pissed about is that he gets to skip the mounds and mounds of back to school paperwork. Hours of my life are spent each August writing my contact info and the kids’ doctors’ info and an emergency contact and…you get the idea. In quintuplicate. It’s pretty horrific. No, seriously…it’s the worst.)
But, in the midst of all of the struggle, sometimes really, really beautiful things happen. Sometimes people step up and step in and remind you that you’re not alone and that God always intended for us to work together and lift each other. One of my most cherished back to school memories happened a couple of years ago, and although I’ve told this story many times, it bears repeating because it truly exemplifies the Christ-like love and concern that clergy members should have for their flock. My bishop was aware of our unique family circumstances, and that my kids’ daddy (and my then-husband) had recently gone to prison. Knowing that “father’s blessings” before school starts is a tradition in many Mormon households, my bishop realized that my school-aged son would, obviously, not be a recipient of such a blessing. This weighed heavily on my heart at the time, and I felt sad about the fact that, due to our unusual family situation, my son appeared to be missing out on so many experiences that are “normal” for most LDS kids.
The children’s movie “Robots” has a quote that perfectly describes my bishop’s actions: See a need, fill a need. Although he was a father to many children of his own, our bishop took time out of his extremely busy schedule on the night before school started to come and give my school-aged son a father’s blessing. As the father of our ward, he saw our need and went out of his way to let our little family know that we were remembered. His act of kindness will remain with me forever as an example of what it looks like to bear one another’s burdens, to leave the ninety and nine and seek the one, and to love one another. And although Mormonism and I are currently involved in a “complicated” relationship, I will always be grateful that my Mormon experience includes this example of what it looks like to be a true follower of Christ.