We had a parent/teacher conference last night for Ava and got a great report. "Ava is caring and friendly." "She is very bright and an excellent reader." "Ava is energetic!" (Ummm....yes. Energetic is a kind understatement. I once tried to count all of the cartwheels she did in one day...then wisely decided it was a massive waste of my time. But, let's just say, there were a lot in that first 10 minutes of counting!) Even as we were getting this good report about Ava from her teacher, though, I sat there fighting back tears most of the time. And even now, I am still processing why. And I am still teary.
Ava's teacher is wonderful, by the way. If I was going to hand pick a teacher that had qualities I felt Ava needed to be successful in school, this is the teacher I would pick. She is firm and holds the students to high standards. She teaches using a lot of rhythms and rhymes and repeating and movements...so perfect for my musical, energetic girl. She is kind and compassionate and authentically loves teaching. (And 1st graders are HARD, ya'll!) She communicates well with parents. And maybe best of all for me, she genuinely enjoys my daughter. I don't think Ava could have a better teacher. I am so, so grateful that God has placed her in this class.
But, every year since preschool, when it comes time to talk with teachers about my littlest girl, I am teary. Right or wrong, the thoughts I have during those meetings are, "Please, love my child." I am overcome with such a strong desire for her to be really known and loved and enjoyed by those God has placed in her life. I think it's because I know the struggles she has, the hurt she has already had to contend with in her little life. And I know how she deals with it, too. How she has already learned to put up walls when she feels rejected in some way. I want people to see beneath the exterior...beneath the strong-willed, tough, sassy little girl, to the vulnerable parts of her that sometimes get unexpectedly exposed and send her reeling. I want people to see that she has big feelings about hard things in her life and that she doesn't always know how to process them. That her fear of rejection is strong and causes her to react quickly and harshly sometimes. That sometimes she quits because she is afraid of looking like she doesn't know something...afraid of what that might mean about her.
I want people to see all the great qualities I see. Her wit and sense of humor, her compassion, her determination. I think I am teary because I want to shield her from anyone that might misinterpret her behavior, her words. Because I know her. I see her. I get what is behind the hard parts. And I see the beautiful ways that God has made her a unique reflection of Him.
But, the reality is, that's just not always going to be possible. In fact, when it happens in a classroom that is full of kids, it is probably just because she has an incredible teacher, like she does right now. But I don't know what will happen next year, or the next, or in all of the years that come after.
What I do know is that God has uniquely equipped me to raise this child. I may not always feel like I am doing it all right, and I may not always (or almost never) feel like she is getting it. But, I know that my heart is inexplicably tied to hers. That I can, so often, see what is happening just below the surface. That God has given me a gift, a reflection of his own heart, of being able to look at her when things are crazy and feel almost nothing else but love. (Almost...I'm not Jesus, after all.) And so, maybe everyone doesn't have to "get" her. Because I do. And her dad does. And Jesus certainly does.
We can bravely send her out into the world because, at home, her heart is safe. And maybe she can bravely go out into the world because, at home, her heart is safe. And I can rest because, in Jesus, both of us have all that we will ever need.
Loving someone so much that it hurts is part of parenting, I think. But if someone could kindly tell my tear ducts they can have the afternoon off, it would be much appreciated.