I just became a stay-at-home dad this summer, and now I already have to give up 2 of my 3 kids for school! We have had such a busy summer that it seems to have just flown by. We started the summer by moving from Kokomo, Indiana to Guntersville, AL. That move has been an ongoing process as we are still not finished setting up all the rooms or unpacking all the boxes. We enjoyed our annual beach trip to Gulf Shores, AL. We had a nice 5 day trip to visit my parents for “Camp Mimi” in Collierville, TN, and this was only possible because I am a stay-at-home dad, as I would have had to use rare vacation time for a trip like this in recent years. We also participated in a few children’s ministry events with my mother-in-law’s church, including a trip to the Chattanooga Aquarium, a week of VBS, a day at Spring Valley Beach water-park and a 2-day church camp for Will’s age group. Last week we ended the summer with a 3-day camping trip to Fall Creek Falls State Park in East Tennessee.
Leaving my children’s ministry position at Fairfield Christian Church in Kokomo, IN and relocating my family back to Northern Alabama to raise our kids near grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins made for a bittersweet crossroads and a whirlwind of emotions in June. Now 2 action-packed months later, here I am sitting in bed next to just my youngest son Sam as he watches Jake & the Neverland Pirates on Netflix. Two hours ago Will and Julie Beth both went to their new school. Will is starting 1st grade at Guntersville Elementary School, and Julie Beth is going to the brand-new Pre-K program at the same school as her brother.
As you can imagine, this is an exciting but trying time for Will. He absolutely LOVED his old school in Kokomo. It was a small Christian academy with only 14 kids in his class. His teachers and the whole staff were phenomenal, and he quickly excelled academically and socially. He made great friends there and even had a “best friend” who he hated to leave behind. Will really misses his old school, and starting over at a public school with 8 classes in his grade, no friends and no idea what to expect is understandably difficult for him. I am praying today that he makes 1 new friend at school and comes home at least willing to go back for day 2 tomorrow.
Julie Beth is much more shy than Will, and I am afraid that she will be intimidated by all the older kids and nervous to talk to the kids her own age. It will take her more time to make friends, but I am also praying that she at least plays with some of the kids in her class this week and starts planting the seeds of friendship.
MISSING MY KIDS WHILE THEY ARE AT SCHOOL
This is also an oddly emotional time for me because I was just getting used to having 3 kids by my side 24-7, and I love how my relationships with them have grown so much in just a few weeks. Last year Jennifer had to take Will to kindergarten after being a stay-at-home mom (read about her new career) with him for nearly 6 years, so I can only imagine the emotions she felt separating from Will last August. I am already used to Will being at school all day, 5 days a week, but Julie Beth only went to preschool 2 days/week for 2.5 hours at a time last year. Now she is in this new full-day Pre-K program 5 days/week! We had some miscommunication when we were registering her, and we thought it was only a half-day program. For most of the summer I thought that I would still have my girl for half the school day, and it felt like a huge blow when I found out I was losing that time with her.
Julie Beth is not quite 5 yet, and she is already going to school full-time! It feels like she is too young, and selfishly I really was looking forward to that time with her this year. However, Jennifer and I both agree that this is what she needs to be ready for kindergarten next year. She has pretty significant speech difficulties due to some bad ear problems she had a few years ago when she was learning to talk, and she will get to work with the school’s speech therapist 2-3 times/week without me having to drive her to special appointments. We also really wanted her in a true educationally focused Pre-K program, and that is definitely the case with attending the program at the elementary school. We know this will have her best prepared for kindergarten next year, but it is still a sad day for me to give up my sweet little girl all day for school!
SPENDING MY DAYS WITH SAM
I know that God is blessing me with this amazing opportunity to get very close with Sam this year, as he will only go to preschool Tuesday-Thursday for half-days. Next year he will most likely be in the full-day Pre-K program at GES, so this is a special year where Sam and I can spend most of our days together and form a stronger bond than we have ever had before. I know this year with Sam will be one I treasure for the rest of my life, so I need to take it all in and enjoy it while it lasts!
But today I will still let myself feel the sadness of sending Will and Julie Beth to school and losing my short-lived time with them during the day. I will feel eager and hopeful that they make friends and like their teachers. I will feel excited for new opportunities and new friendships that await our family. I will miss our friends in Kokomo, Indiana as they are back in school together without Will right now. Today I will treasure the time I get to spend with my kids after school. I will pray for a great school year for everyone, while (not so) secretly waiting for the 1st holiday weekend!