Adopting the Ache

I fished this blog post out of my archives from a blog I no longer tend to. I wrote it in 2013 about six weeks into the school year when my kids started full-day school. I have lightly edited it for brevity. Some years have gone by and circumstances have changed, but sharing the aches of our kids I’m pretty sure never does. Happy reading.

My kids are in full-day Kindergarten this year. They are old for their grade, having turned six during the summer. Last year, for a while, we planned to put them in Kindergarten as five year olds, but with the counsel of preschool teachers we decided to wait another year. And so, this fall, I sent my little ducklings off to school. I believe they are ready. I believe they are prepared socially, emotionally, and academically. I believe they are in good hands with experienced, passionate, and nurturing teachers.


But now I am also at a loss. Because one of my girls, my precious perky little sunshine, is struggling. Oh she likes her teacher--that's not the issue. She doesn't seem to mind being in a class separate from her siblings, as we decided would be best for all of them this year. She is well behaved and obedient in class, completing assignments and practicing phonics and mathematics activities as directed. She loves going to the library and music and PE and art. She begs me to read to her the books she brings home and she shows off her writing worksheets and artwork with relish. She shares stories about new friends she is making. She's a model student.


But she's sad.


She's the one who holds my hand every morning as we walk to school and every afternoon as we walk home. Even when the sun beats down and our fingers get itchy or slippery with sweat, she holds my hand.


At bedtime and in the morning she tells me she doesn't want to go back to school.


She assures me she likes her teacher. But Kindergarten is hard, even for the best of students, and her brain muscles are being stretched and strained in countless ways. It doesn't matter how familiar she was with the alphabet before Kindergarten, learning to sit and practice writing with the proper pencil grip can be taxing. Remembering which way the letters are supposed to face--does a "J" curl left or right?--can be taxing. Using a capital letter for the initial letter of your name but lowercase letters for the rest, and remembering that a capital "E" only has three horizontal lines can be taxing. Standing in lines and listening to instructions and remembering rules and talking--all day long--to people you've only known for a matter of weeks when what you really want to do is go home and snuggle with mommy can be taxing.


And to do it all day after day after day, from nine in the morning to three-thirty in the afternoon? Downright exhausting. Not impossible, but exhausting nonetheless, and each child comes with their own individual reserve of stamina. My little girl has reached the fumes at the bottom of her tank.


My heart aches for her. There's nothing so helpless feeling as wanting to help my child navigate a struggle and knowing that, apart from encouragement and prayer, my hands are tied. I personally believe encouragement and prayer to be incredibly powerful, but neither takes away the sting of pulling away from my little one when she gives me a hug at the school entrance and doesn't want to let go. She's doing well and holding it together in all the socially appropriate ways, but I know she is deeply sad. She misses being home. She is overwhelmed with the long days. This is my little girl who would turn down a playdate with friends in favor of sitting at home coloring because sometimes we all just need some quiet time by ourselves. Quiet alone time, and time with mommy, is at a premium these days. And it's taking its toll.


I don't exactly know what to do. I've tried little remedies like putting notes and pictures in her lunchbox to brighten her day, and making up stories about shrinking myself to pea-size so I can sit in her ear each day and whisper sweet nothings to her all day long. She giggles and reminds me to "put the pea in her ear" many mornings on her way into school, but her sadness still clouds her eyes and I know she is struggling no matter how many things I do or say to make her smile or encourage resilience. The fact is some things are hard. And it's not my job to tell her that this is a small thing--you're doing fine little one, it'll get easier. Everyone goes through this at some time or another. What do I know? Do I know it'll get easier? I sure hope so, and expect so, but I've no guarantees. Who wants to hear that their mountain is someone else's molehill? No matter what the size of the struggle, if it's hard it's hard. For both little girls and their mommies.


So I sit here today aching for my baby, my little girl growing up so fast and yet crying for mommy to hold her hand and snuggle her and keep her home one more day so she can get just a little one-on-one time to replenish. This aching--this beautiful, awful aching--is one of the profound things of motherhood. Ultimately I know it is not my job to fix my daughter's problem, but to walk with her through it. To provide strength and guidance for the journey, not solutions or short cuts to bring the destination nearer. Isn't it ironic that we see ourselves, parents, as leading our children and showing them the way? But the truth so often is as much as my little girl has her challenge to overcome, I have my own as well. Watching her struggle is far harder than I remember any of my own childhood struggles being, though of course I could not know that at the time. We never outgrow adversity, large or small. It just comes in different forms, and hopefully, allows us to shine with fuller grace as we learn to make our way through them as we age. Today I nurse an ache on behalf of my child, though the ache I nurse is really mostly mine, adopted into my heart because she is a part of me.


Oh how it smarts. But I wouldn't have it any other way.