At the risk of saying what people like my former colleague Kyle Roberts have already said quite well, I’m going to share a rather personal blog post today — the first day of kindergarten for our twins.
Dear Lena and Isaiah,
Today I’ll try to find ways to say these things to you, but I know that I’ll fail: you’re not quite ready to hear them, and I’m bound to start crying even before the thoughts become words. So I’m going to write them, preserving them for the day when you are ready to understand.
My friend Sam Mulberry (“Mr. Sam,” you call him now) once observed, back when we recorded a podcast together, that one of the real benefits of doing things like podcasting and blogging is that our children, if they’re so inclined, might get to know quite a bit of what we were like in our 30s (and, too soon, 40s). Perhaps this is just a version of the same narcissism that makes one blog in the first place, but I’ve written as much here as I have partly so that you might have a chance to know your father more fully than I could ever have known mine, or he his.
So, when you’re ready, I hope you read this:
When I asked you yesterday how you felt about starting school, you both said you were “excited and scared.” Well, that’s exactly how I feel right now. Excited and scared.
I’m so excited for you both. For you to learn new things and make new friends. To have experiences that we can’t provide in our home or at our church. To encounter a greater diversity of people and ideas, and to understand how to navigate those differences with love and humility. I’m excited to see you grow into the people that God means you to become: to start to hear more and more clearly his call on your lives; to recognize where your own gladness meets the needs of others.
Isaiah, yesterday afternoon you remembered something we’d told you months ago: that kindergarten comes from the German for “children’s garden.” When I asked what that meant, you said that a garden is where things grow.
May you and your sister grow, this year and all those to come. May you take root and blossom and flourish.
But now comes the “afraid” part:
This morning your mother and I take a big leap in releasing you so much from our care. There have been smaller steps leading up to it, all throughout your five and two-thirds years of life. You’ve become more independent, and you’ve benefited from the nurture of preschool teachers, Sunday School teachers, and others. But nothing compares to putting you on that bus.
I can’t begin to tell you how terrifying it is to trust that you — the people we love most in this life — are going to be safe without us there to protect you, when I know enough of the world to know its dangers. You’ll need to be parents yourselves to understand.
But this is how it works. Little of that growth I wished for you would happen otherwise. And there will be more of this to come, as you and I both get older. (At some point, to some degree, I will enter into your care. But that’s another blog post…)
So I need to do some growing, too. Your education is part of my continuing education. In particular, the ongoing formation of your father as a person of hope rather than fear.
So on top of of all the ways that I hope you grow and develop and change, I hope that, in equally important ways, you stay the same.
Lena: I hope that your imagination always overflows into art and song, that you love your new friends like you loved your old ones, and that you continue to remind me of all the strong, independent women who precede you in our family tree.
Isaiah: I hope you always smile as quickly and laugh as loudly as you do now, that you take as much delight in learning about math and literature as you have so far in learning about dolphins and baseball, and that you continue to wake up before everyone else because you simply can’t wait to see what new surprises the day will bring.
And to you both…
I hope that you continue to be each other’s best friend: to reach for each other’s hand when you’re afraid and to cry when the other cries. Even more, I hope you still make each other laugh; may you be at your silliest when you’re together, not caring that no one else gets the joke.
I hope you continue to ask as many questions of your teachers, pastors, coaches, mentors, employers, and political leaders as you’ve asked of us.
I hope that you continue to remind people of your mother. It’s the highest compliment you’ll receive.
Above all else, I hope that you know in the future what you know now: that you are children of a God who loves you, listens to you, guides you, forgives you, and protects you. I hope that you will know these things in doubt as surely as you know them now in faith. I hope that you will continue to hear God’s message in spite of the faults of his messengers (since you’ve been doing that with me for more than five years).
I hope that you will always speak the name Jesus with as little reserve and as much joy and familiarity as you do now.
With all my love, and all my hope,