Just got the automated voicemail message from our public school principal… and apparently I have 14 forms I need to fill out and 37 school supply items I need to purchase so my daughter can continue her formal education.
Debating whether to delete the message, throw on my comfies and watch a couple episodes of “The Crown.” (Queen Elizabeth doesn’t do these ignoble tasks; why should I?) The thought of filling out all those forms… and then braving the back-to-school aisle…
Please pass the Excedrin Migraine.
Every year, I endure the frenzied dash and mad grab for backpacks and their contents: pencil pouches, pocket folders, page protectors, spiral notebooks, index cards, glue sticks, scissors, rulers, graph paper, Post-It notes, and 12 types of writing utensils: No. 2 pencils, colored pencils, crayons, red/blue/black pens, highlighters, dry erase markers, fine-line and wide-tip Sharpies, gel pens, charcoal pencils, styluses… and scented markers. (Brilliant. Let’s provide both a distraction and a gateway to huffing at the same time.)
And I think… Do these kids really need all that stuff?
I’ve been buying school supplies for a quarter century now. So I consider myself a back-to-school veteran of sorts. I’ve done multiple tours: preschool, elementary, middle school, high school and college. And I’ve suffered flesh wounds in the Battle of Dollar General.
And you know what I’ve come to realize?
My daughter needs me to supply her with far more than index cards and safety scissors.
Along with a handful of highlighters, she needs me to highlight and celebrate all the ways she’s learning and growing. Not just academically and intellectually. But relationally and spiritually. In discernment, compassion, grit, grace.
Along with a ruler, she needs me to measure her against herself, not compare her to her classmates, teammates or siblings.
Along with pink erasers, she needs me to teach her to learn from her mistakes… but leave her failures where they belong: in the past.
Along with fine-line markers, she needs me to teach her the fine line between humility and insecurity… And the verrrrryyy fine line between confidence and arrogance.
Along with Post-Its, she needs me to guide and keep an eye on her social media posts… and help her avoid the pitfalls of constant comparison and FOMO. And the Insta-filtered-and-fueled onslaught of self-objectification… self-doubt… and self-pity. (#triplethreat)
Along with a PE uniform, she needs me to provide an example of physical fitness, emotional wellness and spiritual strength. (And given the escalation of gun violence across the country, I’m inclined to provide body armor too. But that’s another blog for another day.)
The supplies my daughter needs most can’t be rung up at a register at Target.
We can’t just give our kids all the “stuff” and sign them up for all the “things” (while we remain distracted/stressed/emotionally unavailable)… and think they’re gonna turn out ok.
(The latest mental health statistics prove it.)
Kids – even high school kids – need this critical trio of “supplies” from their folks:
A sense of security. Which requires a fair amount of structure… and a whole lot of comfort, counsel, and clear – reasonable – expectations.
A safety net. Something to hold onto – and help them up – when they stumble or fall. A deep faith. A close-knit family. A supportive team. A circle of real, true-blue, faithful friends… not fakers/takers/heartbreakers. A passion for art, music, theater, ____________. Or all of the above.
And (here’s the biggie)…
The gift of time.
Twenty years ago (when we were young, relatively clueless parents), our pastor bestowed this pearl of wisdom:
Kids spell love T-I-M-E.
Though many would deny this (especially 13 – 17-year-old boys, in my experience) it’s the gift they want most. Our precious time.
Face time. Yes, this does in fact mean face-to-face, phones down, no distractions. I’ve come to realize that my full and undivided attention is a gift I give far too infrequently. I… we… must do better. Our kids deserve it.
Game time. True confessions: I’m not the “fun” parent around here. I’m the taskmaster and the bad cop. But I’m learning to let loose a little more… and I’m realizing that being silly and playing games and goofing around is pretty much every kid’s love language.
Down time. Kids need a break sometimes. Often, actually. Just like us, they need to unwind/rest/breathe/be still. (And contrary to popular belief, boredom can be a blessing.)
Hang time. If they want to invite friends over, count yourself blessed… and say YES.
(Just do it.)
Crunch time. Life is tough. Kids are pretty resilient but they have to learn how to meet challenges, fight through adversity… and face consequences. Consequences are good teachers. Parents who do an end run on behalf of their kids aren’t doing them any favors. They’re only delaying the inevitable setback… or suffering. Every once in a while, we all need some hard truth and tough love – pruning – so we can grow and bloom and flourish.
Quiet time. Actual silence. No Spotify or Netflix or YouTube videos. No earbuds or airpods or wireless speakers. No noise whatsoever. Because quiet invites…
And that’s something you can’t buy in the back-to-school aisle either.
Wishing everyone a happy, healthy, fully-supplied school year!
P.S. If you – like me – find yourself feeling under-stocked and ill-equipped to supply your kiddos with everything they need, I encourage you to go straight to the Distributor:
And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.