Your children are not your children.
“I’ve been in early childhood education for a long time, and kindergarten isn’t what it was twenty years ago,” the preschool director tells us. She’s preparing us for the kindergarten application process. I’m tense. The whole ordeal weighs on our minds. But, fortunately, not on Liam’s. He is more than happy to spend all day in a galaxy far, far away, with Legos and John Williams. Unknown to him, we are deciding his future even as he’s still mastering how to put his shoes on.
They are sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
While it may be reasonable to assume that after almost five years as a parent I’ve got a handle on raising a child, the truth is I’m winging it most days.
They come through you but not from you.
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
So much of staying on track, hitting the marks, and keeping our checklist comes down to the overheard in passing conversations. We pick up hints of other parents in playgroups discussing kindergarten. Two months ago already. The preschool year has barely even started.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
We’re told he has some catch-up to do by next fall. “He still likes to play,” we hear, as if that’s a bad thing. Tentative diagnoses and doctor referrals let us get on the waiting list for occupational therapy, pediatric neuropsychiatry, speech pathology. “The earlier we catch things, the better.”
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, even in your dreams.
A recent resignation letter from a teacher recently went viral. She cites the increase of tests and data, of normalizing and quantifying children, for her resignation. Such concerns loom large for us, and I’m terrified of a world that could chew him up and spit him out if his “performance” doesn’t gel with the projected growths.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
“Daddy, when you and Mommy go to heaven, who will be our new Mommy and Daddy?”
Just another dinner conversation. I stop mid-bite and look up to see him watching me curiously, expectantly, with a half-eaten grilled cheese in his hand.
“Buddy, you don’t have to worry about that for a long, long time. We are here to take care of you, and whatever happens God will always take care of you too.” It’s not a very satisfactory answer. Rarely can it be when responding to a burgeoning sense of death and theology, so closely and unabashedly intertwined in the mind of a child.
“But you’re always getting older, Daddy.”
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
What is on the table? Personality and learning style are variables here. Option 1: Give traditional kindergarten a go, complete with all-but-mandatory desks to sit in for hours, rigid expectations, classmates who have been deemed “better prepared.”
The archer sees the make upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Option 2: Another year of preschool, with more days per week, mornings when class is more structured than the afternoons, and risk him realizing that he is the oldest one in class and the rest of his friends from the year before have suddenly moved on without him.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness.
Option 3: Montessori schools encouraging flexible learning styles and accommodating teaching philosophies. And yet, should he start down that path, what potential adjustments would he have to make or not make should he eventually attend a “standard” school? We discover that, contrary to first impressions, we are in a different school district, avoiding the pricy private Montessoris and qualifying for the free public school. No guarantees our application will make it through, though. We will take a tour of the school next week. We play it by ear and try to stay strong. We string ourselves into space, another unknown.
For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He also loves the bow that is stable.
 All lines from Kahlil Gibran (1883-1931).
Jacob Schepers (Calvin ’12) is the author of A Bundle of Careful Compromises (2014), a winner of the 2013 Outriders Poetry Project competition. His poetry has appeared in Verse, The Common, PANK, The Destroyer, and others. He lives in South Bend, IN, with his wife, Charis, and two sons, Liam and Oliver. He is both an MFA student and doctoral candidate in English at the University of Notre Dame.