Every parent, at some point in the life of their child, usually sooner rather than later, will wish for two things. 1. An instruction manual and 2. An off switch. There are moments when my children do really dumb things, and as I go to discipline them, I am also frantically asking myself, What am I supposed to do? What do good parents do in a situation like this? Therein lies the need for a manual of some sort to point me in the right direction. Chapter 5, for instance, might be What to Do When Your Child Starts a Food Fight in the School Cafeteria with the Plastic Spoons and Mashed Potatoes and Peas.
And then there are moments when your children say or do things in public, such as, “Wow, Mom! These apples weigh four pounds. The scale only goes up to ten. Good thing you don’t get on it because I saw you get on the scales the other day, and you weigh…” In times such as this, you wish for an immediate off switch. No amount of scrunchy eyebrows or shushing will stop the offender quick enough.
Here is where I introduce my son Colin. He is the reason, God bless him, there are signs in public places that say, “Please don’t allow children to climb on walls.” He is constantly testing the laws of nature. And with this pushing-it-to-the-limit attitude, Colin often finds himself in trouble at school.
Last year, Colin had it rough. He continued to push the boundaries, and his teacher wasn’t amused. This teacher did not “click” with my son and tended to focus on the negative. I’ve been a teacher and I do know how frustrating a behavior problem can be. But I also know the importance of positive. When talking with parents, you should always sandwich a negative between two positives. This teacher never learned that bit of wisdom.
As the year progressed, my usually happy-go-lucky son stressed. He began the nervous habit of twisting his hair and pulled two bald spots. He hated school and began having break-downs, in which he would berate himself for being a bad child. No amount of my hugs or warm words of encouragement could counter what he faced for six hours at school each day.
Colin was broken apart piece-by-piece, day after day. And piece-by-piece, day after day, my shattered heart fell.
Summer came and with it, renewal. I began to pray for the teacher Colin would have the following school year. I knew fourth grade was hard, and we’d need someone strong. God, I’d pray, You know what Colin needs. Please send us a teacher that will see Colin through Your eyes. One that will love him for who he is.
This week, we received a call from Colin’s new teacher. Since Colin is my oldest, I knew nothing about any of the fourth grade teachers. But I have a church friend who teaches in Colin’s school. I just so happened to sit by her this morning. We chatted about school, and I asked, somewhat apprehensively, what she knew about my son’s teacher. She assured me that his teacher was kind and experienced. “I would like her for my own child,” she said.
Then, as we sang the offertory, she leaned over again. “She’s a clean slate kind of teacher,” my friend said with a smile.
I never expected to get so emotional. I guess I didn’t realized how much I had riding on it. But what she said washed over me, and I couldn’t stop the tears. A clean slate kind of teacher. With those words, God let me know that He was in charge. This year would be a fresh start. Relief made streams down my cheeks. I turned towards my husband to hide my face, when God spoke to my heart. If you are that relieved over a clean slate for your son’s new school year, think about how relieved you should be over the clean slate I provide for you.
I am just like Colin. I make bad choices sometimes and get caught up in me. But Christ wipes all that clean. He gives me a clean slate. The thought of a fresh start for both of us had me drawing slow steady breaths to inhale His goodness.
God, thank you today for a clean slate. Please be with my children as they start a new year of school. Give Alan and I the wisdom to best parent them. But most of all, help us point them to You. Amen.
P.S. And if you are reading this, sweet friend, thank you today for your words. God used you to put my fears at rest. You’ll never know how much that meant to me.