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MOTHER’S DAY: Mothers also graduate

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–My son Derek, the youngest of our crew, is graduating from kindergarten. It’s an exciting time for him, and a contemplative time for me. I asked Derek, “What does your kindergarten graduation mean?”

“It means I’m finished with kindergarten,” he replied.

“And so,” I prodded, “what’s next?”

“First grade,” he said matter-of-factly, “which I always wanted to do!”

I don’t remember being as excited as Derek is about the thought of “doing” first grade. I loved kindergarten. I loved my teacher, my classroom and my routine. Besides all that, as a kindergartener, I knew that my mother was nearby, teaching a group of preschoolers down the hall in the church school I attended.

When my mother dropped me off on my first day of first grade, an awkward feeling of shyness and insecurity swept over me as I entered the room. This school was across town from where my mom would spend her day. The teachers were friendly, but they weren’t familiar. Long rows of desks were nothing like the welcoming round tables of my kindergarten days. I didn’t know any of the other children. I felt completely alone. But even as I was blinking away the tears that threatened to fall, I saw something I will never forget.

Through the square window of the first grade door, I saw the beautiful face of my sweet mother. She hadn’t dropped me off and left me there alone! She was still there, watching me, making sure I was going to be OK. Instantly peace filled my heart, and I smiled and waved at her. She smiled and waved back, and I think we both knew in that moment that we would be OK.

Mothering is a series of graduations. Babies roll over … in order to sit up … in order to crawl … in order to cruise … in order to walk … in order to run. The pomp and circumstance of motherhood is a triumphal procession of castoffs. We wave to the crowd from a convertible filled with pacifiers, training pants, black patent leather shoes, hair bows, superhero capes, cowboy boots and tricycles. Do you mourn these fleeting days? It’s hard for a mother to steel herself against the tide of emotions that roll in with each wave-breaking development. New treasures are always left on the beach, but part of the shoreline must flow back out to sea.

Children are constantly changing, as are the circumstances of every family. As I train my kids, I find that I’m in basic training myself. Am I producing the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control? Daily, God uses mothering to pull and stretch me spiritually in much the same fashion that He used pregnancy to pull and stretch me physically.

Before each new birth, before we may graduate, there is a time of labor that is neither comfortable nor convenient. Still, the stages of labor are necessary in order for a new life to graduate and establish its identity apart from its mother’s womb. There are cries and tears, and in the end there is celebration. The celebration is not one of finality, but it is one of a new beginning.

I’m still never quite ready for changes in my life. When I sense the Lord taking me to a new level — a new grade — I ask a lot of questions. I’m not sure if I want to graduate. Even today, all grown up, I tend to want to stay in my old classroom. I’ve mastered the material there, I know everybody, and I feel comfortable with the routine. As I take faltering steps into the new classroom, however, I find He is there by my side, watching me, ever-present, to be sure that I am OK.
Rebecca Ingram Powell, on the Web at www.rebeccapowell.com, is a wife and homeschooling mother of three in Nashville, Tenn.

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  • Rebecca Ingram Powell