So I mentioned in my previous post that I’d been getting rather… emotional… lately. This week, that’s proven to be a bit of an understatement! I mean it really, really doesn’t take much at the best of times, but yesterday morning… Well, it was plain embarrassing.
We went for an introductory tour around what we hope will be Tinker’s first school. (And when I say hope, I mean that Husband is both curate of the attached church and on the board of governors; so if he can’t get her in on nudges and winks alone, then he is seriously in the wrong profession!) Now, I’ve already mentioned that I cried when filling out her application form; because, well… despite previously rolling my eyes at any Facebook status claiming the same kind of disbelief… in that moment, it really did feel like five minutes since we signed her birth certificate!
So, given my already-fragile emotional, mental and hormonal state, I prepared myself yesterday morning not to be ridiculous.
It’s just school.
It’s ten whole months away and, let’s be honest, with a third child in the mix, you’ll need all the help you can get by the time it comes around.
So… No need to cry today!
In we walked.
Husband greeted everyone by name as if he was the Fonz, while I selected a couple of seats behind the other parents and attempted to be inconspicuous. A slideshow of photographs played with familiar scenes of visits to our church; whilst the wall displayed an array of wholesome Christian values, and Matt Redman sang in the background. The Head Teacher smiled and greeted everyone; buzzed about how much he loved the school and the atmosphere, and explained how- (although non-subscribing families were free to opt out of RE lessons)- we should all be aware that the Christian ethos is incarnate throughout the entire life of the school and is central to all they do.
“For example,” he gestured, “we receive weekly visits from the curate… who happens to be sitting right here! Say hi!”
(So much for being inconspicuous!)
“Now… Does anyone have any questions?”
(Of course not, the ruddy Vicar’s sat behind!)
Next, we are taken through to the reception class area, where a TA sits listening to a child in The Reading Corner; Miss Honey sings educational songs in the main classroom; and one or two kids are finishing craft projects with another TA at the back. There’s a well-equipped play kitchen, dress up area and outdoor space; as well as a colourful and imaginative Prayer Corner. Next up, half of Year One are sat at individual computers in the ICT suite; while the other half play “Heads Down, Thumbs Up” with their teacher next door, (who, as it goes, swears they’re about to do Maths!) Then, as we enter the Year Two classroom, I immediately spot our next door neighbour’s daughter, who beams and waves frantically as soon as she sees us. (Out of context, for me… that feels pretty good!)
However, it’s that moment, I think, that initially sets me off.
As I take in this tiny church school, with its learning through play and familiar faces; ever-so-subtly tech-equipped, with its Matt Redman and its Prayer Spaces…
The lump forms in my throat and realise I’ve seen enough.
As he leads us towards Key Stage Two… past the prayer tree, (“we have intercessors for that!”)…and the makeshift pirate ship…
The central heating takes its toll and I realise I’ve lost my grip.
Oh God… The fear…
I’m a Curacy-Spouse…
…. Get me out of here!!!!!
I quickly call that I need some air; frantically pushing a whole host of non-buttons at the security-bound door, desperate to escape before anybody sees the tears. Husband asks if we need to go home, but I call back to go on without me. Eventually, and thankfully, the receptionist sets me free- before noticing the state I’m in and following right behind me.
“Is everything alright?” She asks.
“Oh yes, just pregnant-” I lie.
… before I full on start to cry; sobs and snot and all!
At which point, with tea and tissues, she lures me back inside.
“The thing is,” I sob in her office, dunking a soggy biscuit into my brew, (and trying not to have a further meltdown when it proceeds to melt down too!). “The school is so lovely, I can’t bear to look at Key Stage Two... Because I know by then we’ll have to pull her out and send her somewhere new!”
And … Well… don’t even get me started on her brother!
See, at the root of it; I was speaking to a friend at the other end of the curacy spectrum this week, whose son is the same age as Tinker. We were just sharing motherly concerns about the passing of time and the school application process, when she shared their situation; and I really, really felt for them. They’re due to be signed off in April, with the remit of finding a job soon after. Meaning that they not only have to carefully select a school for their son, but do so knowing that they might only find out where they’re moving to just before he starts – and a long time after the deadline for applications anywhere else- if that turns out to be necessary.
This feels hard enough already, I said to Husband later that night, imagine being them!
And then, walking around school yesterday; I realised that we will be. In exactly two years time, when it’s Toddler’s turn to go; we’ll be preparing him for primary school… but where?
I doubt we’ll know.
And as I thought about it, in that very moment… I panicked.
Because I didn’t want it.
I didn’t want this lifestyle. This role. This nomadic way of living.
I simply did not want my kids to endure this unsettled, uncomfortable life we planned on giving.
No, no, no, no, no!
Queue the great escape and the sobbing.
But then… The day wore on.
I walked, cooked, had a lie down; and I thought about it properly. And now, with a head cold, an internal furnace and a mini gymnast keeping me awake; I’m thinking about it again.
And I’m asking myself … what do I really want then, if I don’t want this?
See, I think I want what any mother wants. For my kids to be happy, safe, secure and … comfortable. But, the more I really, really reflect on it, the more I’m not so sure.
(Hang on… Just hear me out!)
The thing is, when I reflect on the things that I actually really pray most regularly for my kids, (besides immediate safety and security, I mean); the long term dreams and visions I share with God for their lives… it tends to be prayers like this…
That they would be confident, independent and creative; that they’d have joy in all circumstances; that they’d stick together and stick up for each other; that they’d be hospitable, generous, kind and compassionate; and that they’d develop real, deep, life-shaping, world-changing, personal relationships with God … Independent of us.
Now, I have to ask… How many of those things are developed through a consistently comfortable life?!
I was listening to a sermon online the other night, in which the preacher challenged our perception of comfort and conflict; pointing out how most of us accredit any gift of comfort to God, but any element of conflict to the enemy. Which is funny, he explains, because generally we are complacent when we are comfortable, but tend to grow and change more when we are challenged! Which is true, really, isn’t it? When I look back and consider the most defining moments in my life, for my character, they do tend to be the ones in which I’ve been forced out of my comfort zone.
So … I guess the conclusion I’m reaching is that, rather than cowering away from and lamenting the challenges I foresee in my children’s future- just wishing I could wrap them in cotton wool forever!– what I really need to do is seek wisdom and guidance on how to prepare them for those challenges, inevitable as they are. To attempt to develop- and model– everything they need to face an uncertain future, in step with an Everlasting God.
And hey, who knows, if I pray my cards right… Maybe they’ll just thrive like Dad!
One can only hope!
For the mother that I want to be,
Isn’t always the one they need from me.
And the traits that I want to see,
Aren’t always the ones I’m modelling.
So I just have to let myself believe,
That if we follow God…
Wherever He leads…
The challenges that our kids receive,
Will be the ones that define –
The very people they were created to be!
Can’t ask for more than that!