The Difference: Wishing, Praying, and Believing
There is a difference between wishing, praying and believing. For years I somehow bundled these things. Only recently have I categorized them as separate and the difference is stark.
At our house, school started this week.
And it was a hard week. The biggest difference between meet the teacher night 19 years ago and last Tuesday is, I am old. Nineteen years ago we took my now 24-year-old daughter to meet Mrs. Cox. Mrs. Cox was the epitome of Kindergarten teacher perfection.
She was young, cute, and bubbly. We wandered into her classroom to find fresh baked cookies and tiny chairs with brightly colored name tags tacked to them. My husband was loaded down with every single required school supply on Maggie’s list. Everything was pink or purple and I had used a label maker to put her name on each item. Our sons, John and Luke, the original vandals, were close on Justin’s heels. John was donning a Buzz Lightyear costume and red cowboy boots, wielding a blue lightsaber. This was the boy’s uniform from 2000-2004. Luke toddled close behind, carrying a sippy cup of “chokit nulk” and Maggie’s new backpack as if he’d been born to the job.
We “misplaced” Luke three times that evening.
I remember wishing that time would stop. All of it had gone by too fast. Maggie starting school marked the end of a season that I loved. I didn’t want her to go, I had been praying for an out, believing that society got to decide when and where my children would go.
Mrs. Cox eased my grief. She spied us in the doorway and said, “who might this pretty little girl be?” Maggie clung to Justin’s leg and said, “I’m Maggie.”
The young teacher’s face lit up and she all but squealed, “I knew it was you! I have written your name a dozen times today! But I couldn’t have imagined you’d be this wonderful in person!”
She bent to bring her face closer to Maggie’s and said, “Maggie… I am Mrs. Cox and guess what! I am going to teach you to read!” Both of their faces lit up and Mrs. Cox held out her hand, Maggie took it, and the rest went by faster than I would be able to fathom.
Flash forward to a Tuesday, in August of 2019.
Sophie, who wasn’t even conspired at our first Kindergarten meet the teacher, turned out to be a genius. She’s leaving for college in the fall, skipping an entire grade. But the biggest surprise is, we are not done. So we went to meet the teachers of two little boys we adopted as infants, Sam and Charlie, the new vandals, now 5 and 7.
A stark difference from then and now, armed policemen at meet the teacher, and fulltime policemen at every campus. Also, as I mentioned, Justin and I are old.
As we made our way to meet Charlie’s kindergarten teacher, cheerleaders waved pom-poms at us and chirped! “Welcome Back! Ready! O-K! Come on everybody join the P-T-A!”
You cannot make me join.
Yes, this is a huge difference in new moms and old moms. You won’t believe me, but you don’t have to join. They are not the boss of you.
Sam was on the verge of tears the entire evening. His new second-grade teacher is a tall glass of sunshine. And she quickly eased his worries, also, she gave him a donut. If I was wishing for a teacher for this sweet boy, well, it was granted.
Charlie, with his raspy old man voice, and his trademark campaign trail personality, blazed ahead of us in the hall. It is alarming how many people know of Charlie. We chased behind him and teachers and administrators, who remember him well from Pre-K, chirped, “Hey Charlie, welcome back!”
I was praying, “Lord… please, no trips to the office this year… please.”
In Charlie’s hand were two pictures he drew for his teacher. We found his classroom and introduced ourselves to a charming, attractive, older woman with a no-nonsense attitude that I know was chosen specifically for Charlie. Probably in a boardroom with a committee and several file folders detailing his past, and possibly, a policeman.
She introduced herself and I said, “Charlie, show her what you made for her.” His brow furrowed and he barked, “DEES AREN’T FOR DAT WOMAN! DARE FER MY UDDER TEACHER!”
Did I mention we are old? There is no point in challenging that which cannot be overruled. So, we went to Charlie’s old classroom and dropped off the pictures so he could put the past behind him and move on to kindergarten.
As we followed the line of parents young enough to be our children, we unloaded our Target bags of new schools supplies. New school supplies are the best of school. But I quickly noted we didn’t have the same things as everyone else, also, I labeled nothing. I have no idea where that label maker went, nor do I care.
And as I scrolled through my phone I realized, once again I had confused the school websites.
In my defense, in the next town over, there is a school with nearly the exact same name as our boys’ school. They know me there, I accidentally call there on the regular and they redirect me.
I found Charlie’s teacher and apologized and explained, and she said, “No big deal, I don’t care. We won’t use half that nonsense.”
This woman is my spirit animal.
Before we left Charlie, barked, “WelP I hate dis place alweady! And I need a nap! Dares no naps in kimPergarpen. I fink dat is stupid!”
I am praying for everyone involved.
Also, we don’t say stupid. Until we do.
19 years ago we took Maggie to breakfast on the first day of school. We hired a babysitter to watch the others so we could cherish the morning. Thursday morning, Justin got up and made a huge breakfast. We showered the two little boys, their first shower since mid-June. And I trimmed their fingernails, I had to wear a hazmat suit and safety goggles.
Sam’s classroom is a peanut-free zone. Trying to explain a peanut-free classroom to a child that eats 20-40 peanut butter sandwich a week, should be a college-level course.
Charlie doesn’t eat. I am not wishing for a full-time chef, but I am praying that at some point I can hire someone to pack lunches. Also, when I handed Sophie her lunch, she asked if it was keto-friendly.
No slim, it is a turkey sandwich on wonder bread and a bag of Doritos. You can be health-conscious next year… in your dorm.
Good luck with that.
By 9 am Justin and I were back home alone, asleep in our recliners, like grandparents. And it was there I thought about what I wish, what I pray for, and what I believe.
I used to believe that my life as a mother was defined by a scholastic calendar. Perhaps this is why I would eventually pull everyone out and homeschool them through high school. And I used to pray that I would be a better mom. And I always believed, I was missing the mark.
I used to wish my kids would behave perfectly. I would pray they would be blameless and that they would never stumble or fail. And when they did, because humans always do, I believed that was a reflection of me and my motherhood.
There is a difference between then and now. And it isn’t just the label maker, and it is not just because I am old and tired. I actually haven’t lowered my standards, I just know the standards aren’t the definition of me or my children.
Having done this a long time, I know my children will fail. There will be trips to the office, concepts that are not comprehended, and mishaps that I cannot control. Time blows on, there is no point in wishing for it to stop. Praying doesn’t work either. But I believe in the calling of motherhood as ordained.
What I know, what I hold as my most cherished belief is that I have big hopes and wishes for my children this year. I can pray for them and their teachers, and yes, I do. Fervently. But what I believe separates me from the freshman class.
I believe God.
The difference is not just the belief He exists, it is the belief that He is who He says he is. That He has plans, hope and a future for me and my children. We will face adversity, but instead of wishing we wouldn’t, I pray that we do it faithfully.
Life moves fast. Innocence disappears in an instant. Children will say and do things that feel impossibly awful. But they and I are not defined by our actions, but rather are wholly defined in our belief.
There are lots of words to be said. The difference is,I most flippantly profess what I wish or pray. But I am defined by belief. I could dissect all the negatives and organize them into wishes and prayers, but at the end of the day, my belief balances the nonsense from the common sense and guides me to cease striving and enjoy the ride.
Perhaps I was better at meeting with the “Good mom” criteria of 2001, but I believe I am a more peaceful mom by the criteria of Grace. I actually am not a fan of the rants and raves of upper-crust white mommas who think it is funny to berate the vocation of motherhood. But I can identify with the freedom that comes from letting children be children, and not thinking my parenting is defined by the appropriate school supply list and a label maker.
So, here is to another year of firsts and lasts, wishes and prayers, hopes and hurts, and believing in a good God who knows us each. You can find me wrapped in an afghan, in a recliner, watching 20/20, talking myself in and out of homeschooling again.
I kind of wish I could.
And I pray, if I am supposed to, I can.
But most importantly, I believe He will be with me either way. The difference is delightful.
Jesus be all over you and this school year. Love, J