School Supplies

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.

BRB.

(JK.)

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.

They won’t.

(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…

Peace.

And that’s something you can’t buy in the back-to-school aisle either.

Wishing everyone a happy, healthy, fully-supplied school year!

Wendy

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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Freshie

My dear reader,

The beginning of the end of my childrearing years has officially begun. Translation: Our youngest kid has started her freshman year. Which means…

MY BABY IS IN HIGH SCHOOL, for the love of Pythagoras.

Or not. Depending on whether you are a math person… Yours truly is NOT. Though somehow I managed to get a B+ in calculus. God bless Mr. Nelson. (May he rest in peace. With his partial derivatives. In the divine glory of heaven. Amen.)

At precisely 6:48 this morning, Chloe boarded the bus to Hamilton Southeastern High School wearing Royal blue and lugging a backpack full of fresh new notebooks. And bricks. (At least it felt like it.)

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So I guess Lorde was wrong after all. Because Chloe is officially a Royal. And she’s got the spiritwear to prove it. Just hoping she doesn’t trash any hotel rooms… or trip in the bathroom. (Unless it’s over her own two feet, which could happen. She’s kind of a klutz. No idea where she gets that from.)

On a side note, the Royal mascot looks suspiciously like a lion. A hungry, mangy one.

royals mascot

I suppose this critter could evoke a king (queen) of the jungle/royalty of the rainforest/crowned creatures of Hamilton County kind of vibe. In which case I suggest “Jungle Love” for the fight song.

“Oh whee oh whee oh!”

Or they could ditch the raggedy lion in favor of a Prince Harry doppelganger and call it a day. (And maybe add polo to the athletics program, in keeping with the theme.)

I remember my freshman year. Well, at least the really good and really bad parts. And a handful of the everyday, ordinary ones too.

I remember the sheer terror of the first day. And the sweet relief of that last bell. I remember making the gymnastics team… and missing the bus. I remember hefty textbooks and plump earthworms (split right down the middle in Mrs. Staffeldt’s biology class. Ewwww.) I remember 6-minute passing periods and endless homework.

I remember stinky locker rooms and geeky science goggles and warm, gooey chocolate chip cookies. 25-cent Kryptonite. Available every single day in the lunch room. (I swiped quarters from my Dad’s dresser for four years straight. Dad, if you’re reading this, I owe you $176.75. And an apology.)

I remember Friday night lights and Monday morning blues. Parades and projects and pep rallies. Dramas and dances and debates (mostly with Mom about my curfew). I remember testing limits and taking exams. Making friends and making mistakes. In a galaxy far, far away from Snapchat. Thanks be to God.

Decades and worlds apart: Chloe’s freshman year and mine. But the same longings of the heart.

To be noticed and heard and accepted… and liked. For the plucky, kindhearted, awkward girl that I was. And for the wide-eyed wonder I would eventually become.

Prior to the invention of social media (and before Zuckerberg was even born), I didn’t have any followers… which was a big blessing to the handful of people that might have wanted to “follow” me in high school. It’s a darn good thing they couldn’t. Because I was still trying to find my way around… the freshman wing. And the world.

But since I’ve scored a diploma, earned a degree, and circled the block (and sun) a few times, I have a couple bright ideas and a bit of advice for my freshie:

Make friends. I know this is sort of a trial-and-error thing. I encountered some frenemies, flakes and punks along the way, and you will too. Be friendly to everybody… but be friends with people who pick you up rather than wearing you out. People who are comfortable and compassionate, not critical and competitive. Friends who are high adventure, low drama, big fun. And steer clear of mean girls and bad boys. (Lord, hear our prayer.)

Adventure together. Explore your little corner of the world (or campus, in this case). High school offers vast and varied extracurricular pursuits. Pursue your passion… or try something new. Join a baking or bowling or book club. Ping pong, poetry or Pinterest club. There’s a student organization for nearly everyone and everything under the sun (and any future astronomists who want to study it). Clubs for cosmetics devotees, crafters and country music fans. Video game enthusiasts and conspiracy theorists. (Do we really need to encourage this?) Yogis, computer programmers, and snowboarders. There’s even one for Star Wars aficionados. May the Force be with them.

Don’t waste mistakes. In high school, you’ll make plenty. (Just like your mom did.) But try not to waste them. Mistakes can be painful, yes. But they can also be practical – and powerful – teachers. If you listen, reflect, recalibrate. When you make mistakes, make adjustments. And when it’s painful, remember this: all will be well. Because God said so. (Romans 8:26-28)

Celebrate the good stuff. Life is hard. (See above.) Which is why we ought to celebrate every single good/glorious/joyful/wonderful thing. Yes, there’s plenty of loneliness and bitterness and darkness. But every day, there’s a little sunshine and sweetness to be found. So count your blessings and enjoy the journey. Celebrate the victories and savor the little joys. Gather your girl gang and whoop it up! Together is a wonderful place to be.

Read. Preferably pages, not screens. Read about nebulas and Namibia and diplodocuses and DIY projects. Read mysteries, biographies, news articles, and novellas. Epics and short stories: classic and contemporary. Dickens and Doyle and Dostoyevsky. Hemingway and Harper Lee. C.S. Lewis and Lewis Carroll. McCullough, Melville and Maya Angelou. Read all kinds of books… and the Good Book too.

Reach out. Somewhere in that freshman class of nearly nine hundred kids, there’s a girl who could really use a bright smile or small kindness… or someone to sit beside at lunch. You know that girl who’s standing all by herself in the cafeteria, looking for a place to eat but trying not to make eye contact with you (or anyone else, for that matter)? The one who sits alone in the back of your history class and doesn’t move a muscle or say a word. She’s probably pretty shy. And maybe really, really different from you. But she might end up being the best lab partner or PE pal or study buddy you’ve ever had… There’s even a chance she could wind up being your college roommate four years from now. So be on the lookout for her. And go introduce yourself.

Knuckle down. This is one of the best things you can learn in high school. ‘Cause you’re gonna need to do it for the rest of your live-long days. Perseverance is scarce these days. Somehow, our collective determination has diminished. We’ve become a culture of whiners and quitters (and self-proclaimed victims and entitled a-holes, too, but that’s for another blog. And please don’t swear like your potty-mouth momma.) You’re gonna face some tough stuff during the next four years: intimidating assignments, sticky situations, demanding people, perplexing problems. Don’t buckle, despair, dodge, or procrastinate. Pray hard and push through.

Lighten up. Give it your best (attitude/ability/effort) every day… but don’t take it all too seriously. I know right now, high school seems like it’s “everyone” and “everything” and “everywhere.” But it’s really just a teeny little parcel on this great big planet. And your artistic endeavors and athletic pursuits and even your grades – good or bad – will not really matter all that much in the long run. So, take a cue from Elsa and just CHILL. Learn to let. it. go.

Be brave. Step outside your comfort zone. Stand up for what’s right. (Even when nobody else is.) Soak up scripture. And speak the truth. Graciously, lovingly… fearlessly. God goes before you and He will be your rear guard. He’s with you, for you, and in you. GO, GIRL!!!

Stay sweet. Don’t get fed up, beat up, or stuck up. (You may get stood up at some point. If so, it’s ok to cry. Been there.) Keep basking in the love of your Heavenly Father and pouring it out all around. Keep being your genuine, joyful, sweet self. It’s contagious. And oh-so-beautiful to behold.

The next four years are full of promise and possibilities. This is my prayer for you:

The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. ~ Numbers 6:24-26

Keep learning and growing in grace, Chloe Louise. (You too, my dear reader.)

Happy Back-to-School!

Wendy (Recently retired homework monitor, lunch maker, and outfit selector. Currently serving as guidance counselor, fashion consultant, and personal chauffeur.)

P.S. The Too-Cool-for-School Contest begins today! Tag or share this post with your favorite high schooler or one of your own high school classmates. If (s)he signs up to follow my blog, you’ll both be entered to win a back-to-school cookie sampler!