Beyond Backpacks and School Shoes
Usually this time of year, I am peppering my kids with questions, asking them if their backpacks are still good from last year? Do they need new shoes? When are they going back to their college campuses? What is their new schedule?
This year just feels different.
2020 has given us many gifts, but principally it has cut the fluff – who cares about backpack conditions and whether you have a study hall? What matters is: What do we believe? How will we act? More than what will we do in this next school year, it’s who will we be? With this in mind, my August routine and questions sound a little bit more like this:
1. Where are you getting your information?
When they come home or get off their phones and start with “Did you hear?” my first discipleship opportunity is asking where they learned what they are passing along. Is the source reliable? Do they have an agenda? It’s a skill I want them to carry with them the rest of their lives; discernment of truth seems like a precious gift God can cultivate in us all during this season if we are open to it.
2. Are you thinking about others above yourselves?
We all have preferences and opinions about masking and distancing, but at the end of the day, our guide, the Word of God, teaches us to die to self and to live with the interests of others in mind. When I am tempted to complain, I remind them and myself: this is a season of “we” over “me.” Whatever might be perceived as inconvenient is a chance to put on display the supernatural nature of unselfishness.
3. In who do we trust?
When bad news comes (the season is canceled, a beloved friend is sick, another expectation is dashed) we get the privilege of asking God to reframe our thinking. He asks us to trust if He’s written a story, there’s something in it for us. Things will not always be as they are now. How can we use this season as a spiritual workout to cultivate muscles we can benefit from in future seasons?
4. How are you feeling about that?
Empathy is a critical skill in interpersonal relationships, and I want my kids to learn to say how they are feeling and ask others to do the same. When someone shares a fear or hard news, I want them to ask a little more, and lean into their friends and family. The resulting gift is more meaningful connections.
5. Do you know I love you? Am proud of you?
There is a temptation at the start of the school year to ask questions about behavior and performance – questions about grades or athletics, a reminder of did you do your homework? Why are you going out again? Are you going to wear that? What if my questions were a reflection that I see each day as a gift and they the best parts of it? What if I didn’t know what tomorrow held (COVID-19 has certainly taught us that) and my question reflected what was most important for them to know?
- If they have what they need?
- If they have questions about what’s going on?
- If there is anything we can do to help them feel known and loved? Safe and secure?
School is critical for unlocking a new future for them, but I’ll admit: we are focusing a little less on homework and a little more on the connection. We are following up on nudges to reach out and answer questions coming from birth families who are afraid. We are asking each other how to deliver messages and lessons in creative new ways. We desire to cultivate more than ever before a sense of belonging and attachment.
This season for all its disruption has clarified a few things:
- People matter.
- Children are worth the sacrifice.
- God is in control.
- Today is all we are promised. Use it, and all its gifts, for His glory.