In about one hour, a bell will ring and our oldest daughter will walk out of her new class. It’s the school experience she and we have dreamed about and begged and pleaded and prayed for, the one that we expended all ability to petition for before we finally gave up. At which point the opportunity was unceremoniously dropped in her lap. Five days ago, at 5:13pm, I answered the phone and heard the Assistant Principal tell me that a spot had opened up in the Spanish (Partial) Immersion class. Four days after we had given up, and five days before this sensitive six-year-old soul would walk into a room where everyone who was speaking would be using a language almost entirely unfamiliar to her.
The five days between invitation and acceptance were difficult for a parent to witness. Our daughter was thrilled at the opportunity, literally bouncing up and down in her chair when she heard about it. Her mother and I were celebrating with her when she suddenly stopped short with the realization that she would be leaving her new first-grade class. The one where she had worked so hard to connect with her teacher, and make a few friends, and basically do anything beyond sitting in the corner with a stack of books. How would she say goodbye to her awesome teacher? How would she leave her new friends? Who would she play with on the playground?
I don’t have a lot of experience with parenting, but I knew we were embarking on some high-stakes territory. The bottom line for me and Mom was that we absolutely wanted our daughter to do this. It is the right kind of program, and she is the right kind of student. And– until just then– our daughter was highly motivated to do it. We wouldn’t force her, but we would apply some pressure if it came down to it.
What we wanted, of course, was for her to choose it. It will not be easy, and our ability to help her with it will be limited. So we backed off and tried to give her some space to make her own decision. We offered our help as she tried to process her emotions, and we listened carefully to her concerns, responding as well and as briefly as we could. And we celebrated with her when she finally nodded her head the next day and affirmed with some resolve that, “I will do Spanish Immersion”.
Even so, it’s not easy. Not easy to worry about how it will go, how lonely she will feel, how confusing it will be, how she will catch up on the entire week she’s already missed. Harder still is the plain realization that it is exceedingly difficult to knowingly send a loved one into a painful situation. Which fact is– especially during this week of remembrance of the death of our daughter’s twin brother– overlaid with the echos of memory of how we chose a path of surgery and intervention and challenge and pain for a tiny baby who was not even three days old. We made a choice for him that meant pain and agony for us, but even more for him.
Which has me thinking about God. Not to compare myself to God of course, or to anthropomorphize God into some human shell. But I’m feeling some empathy, I think, and seeing some insight. About the way in which God coaxes and cajoles and coaches us toward our better selves. God could command us, of course, and compel us to the right way. But how painful would that be for God to watch us struggle and push against challenges that were not our own choices? It must be hard enough to watch us struggle toward the good things we do choose– how impossible would it be for God to force our hand, then watch us struggle under the weight of God’s new decree over our life? Besides, humans have a much greater ability and resilience when the impulse toward a new way is our own. So there must be some art to the divine parenting of God, who patiently shows us the way to life in the Kingdom. It is rarely easy, but it is good.
…Now I’m going to go wait on the front step for her to come home. I’ll hug her when she gets here, and pretend that I worried not a whit, and let her know that my confidence in here is complete. To fan into flames the spark of her choosing, and to lend my strength to her efforts.