The designer pink bookbag with sparkly grey hearts arrived last week. With monogram. A matching lunch box, pencil case and water bottle (all sold separately) were there, too.
The communal supplies have been procured and put away in the empty variety mix box, labeled with her name, only needing her teacher to be revealed.
The new clothes and kicks are laid out gingerly on the guest bed so that she can decide what her first day of school outfit will be. We’ve gone back and forth several times. But there’s almost two weeks, yet, so I’m sure we can figure it out before the day of gets here.
Slowly, we are preparing for Kindergarten.
And as I begin to plan, pack, purchase for the start of school, I can’t help but think about James Holmes, sitting in a jail cell. Guilty. Or Dylan Roof. Mohammad Youssuf Abudlazeez.
I’m not scared of her going to Kindergarten. I don’t wonder if she’s ready. I’m not worried if she’ll be safe.
I’m terrified of the world that she will soon inherit.
As mothers, we are consumed with milestones and growth charts. Academic readiness and social connectedness. We hyper-focus in the moment. The sticky floors and Pinterest party bags. Potty training and afternoon activities.
I wonder how many of us ever consider: What am I preparing her for?
I’ve given this question a significant amount of consideration this summer. The answer seems to be haunting me. I push back it’s echo; try to stay focused in my Mommy world. Not think about the realities ‘out there’. I’ve tried to be attentive to the start of school and going back to my ‘real’ life in the classroom. Tried to forget that the only freedom it seems we enjoy is the freedom to judge. To hate. To point fingers.
But the Lori in me won’t let me hyper focus. There are bigger worries to have than just “crust or no crust” and counting how many days its been since she brushed her teeth. Because from the moment they were born, I had even more of a vested interest in making the world better. Kinder. Gentler.
But that is hard to do - make the world better - when I find myself living in a world where people like Matt Walsh tell us that the foundation of marriage is coming under attack because we now, in the year 2015, have finally let people of the same sex get married. I don’t know how to respond without a sarcastic eyeroll and impassioned diatribe. I’ve never understood how two people in love could be wrong. And a world that labels love so specifically scares me. As a human. As a teacher. As a Mom. Because I want my girls to know love without fear. With freedom. To know that it is okay to be who they are. To love who they want. To celebrate like everyone else. Without ridicule or government regulation. But the world around them is saying that being who they are is, well, wrong.
Last year, we couldn’t leave Target without a Ninja Turtle lunchbox. My five-year-old daughter’s obsession with these half-shelled heroes can rival any 1st grade boy on the playground. Notebooks, figurines, costumes, imaginative play consume our daily lives. Over the course of the school year, she began to hide her love for the turtles. To the point that she only plays or talks about Ninja Turtles in the privacy of our home. Because Ninja Turtles are “boy stuff” and she’s a girl. And the boys on the playground in Pre-Kmade fun of her. And the girls wouldn’t play with her. Because how could you simultaneously like the lean, mean, ninja machine and wear a dress with bows?
The world is teaching her that it’s not okay to be herself. That there is a mold she must fit into. That there are expectations and ‘norms’. And she’s listening.
I’m not sure I am even prepared for this world. This world where a young white boy walks into an African American church and with one pull of a trigger reignites the hatred and racism of our country’s past. Spitting in the face of the God that I pray to, too. Bringing violence to the tolerant teachings of a faith I adhere to, too.
How do I advocate a gentler existence for my little ladies who love Jesus? How do I explain God’s grace in a world full of rage to two little girls so full of happiness?
How can I not feel as if I’m not getting an adequate return on my investment when the world that I live in flies a flag as both a symbol of hate and free speech sparking conversations so inflamed in ignorance I don’t even have a response. Common ground feels like sinking sand. My world is one where social media explodes and exploits with hash tags and tirades pitting families against each other. Again. Where everyone is pointing the fingers at someone else and no one is taking responsibility for their actions.
Where private lives and struggles and fears are suddenly put on display. And every “real man” is flabbergasted and disgusted by the sight of the new Bruce Jenner. I can’t help but wonder by the headlines on CNN if maybe there are other things to worry about in this world besides a 65-year-old man’s desire to live life as a woman.
I mean, we can’t even go to the movies and feel safe anymore.
I hear my little girls giggling uncontrollably in their playroom. At what, I’m not sure. But there is a purity in their play. A love without boundaries. And now, there is screaming. And I have to stop, mid thought, to referee a “she took my Barbie” situation that has become all too common. Like so much in our world, it doesn’t matter who had it first. We have to share.
We have to share space. And education. Air. And proximity. We have to share history and faith. Communities and ideas.
All early life is is a preparation in sharing.
Sharing is the first lesson learned in school. Sharing is the foundation of marriage. It’s the essence of being siblings. Sharing is the heart and soul of our country. Our freedom.
Why not share an unfiltered love?
In the days after the Charleston, South Carolina shooting, Dylan Rook was arraigned. And the families of the victims were given the opportunity to speak to him. And the words they spoke were words of forgiveness. Words of hope. Words of faith. These victims chose to be gracious in the darkest of moments. They chose to shine the light of love instead of continuing to blind our nation with words of hate.
What if we all took their lead?
Instead of sharing our opinions, our outrage, our dissent, let’s share encouragement and kindness. Why not be gracious to our neighbors, friendly to our enemies, sincere in our desire to do better. To be better.
Why? Because we are preparing.
We are preparing our world for our children at the same time we are preparing our children for our world. And if we start the practice of extending grace now, we will teach our children that the only way to live in a world with gracious people is to be one.