An Open Thankyou to the Gentle Grandmamma

School has started here in Colorado Springs, and my baby boy is in kindergarten. I’m that overeager mama who has signed up for everything I can, who has joined the school Facebook page, who walks my baby into the school every day, and who is embarrassingly desperate to please the teachers and staff; I’m just glad Von doesn’t notice yet…

We are a few weeks in, and I admit that I still shed tears regularly. I miss my little boy—kindergarten is all day in our district, and while he loves it and is clearly thriving, his mama spends her days counting the minutes until she can head over to the school to pick him up. Now that Ann has started preschool, it’s even worse! For those 9 hours a week that I’m alone, my mind dreams about my babies, what they’re doing, whom they’re doing it with, what we’ll do when they get home. I love to hear every last detail of their days. Or at least what they’ll tell me. Four and five-year olds are funny with what they share, I’ve learned; I’ve hardly heard any names; it’s all “blue-shirt boy” or “pink-dress girl.” And a lot of what they tell me is the relational, not about what they’re learning or actually doing in school.

The relational stuff is the heart-breaking stuff, right? Aack. It kills me. The second day of preschool on the way to school Ann said, Mama, I didn’t make any friends yesterday. A boy asked me to be his friend and I said yes, but then another kid asked him to be their friend and he left me. I was totally caught off guard. My first thought was, HOW DARE THAT KID TREAT MY DAUGHTER LIKE THAT!!! and then I quickly moved to Why is she just telling me this now when we have no time to talk? I choked back my tears to express compassion and encourage her to keep trying to make friends—that it will take time. I encouraged her, as I do both children every day, to look for kids who need a friend. I reminded her of the boy who has just been adopted from another country and doesn’t speak English—what are ways she could be a friend to him? How can she reach out to him if he seems to be feeling scared or lonely or confused?

Because Von is that much older and in school that much longer, his relational challenges seem so much bigger. Every day he is faced with something new: someone he thought was a friend was unkind; someone he was enjoying playing with doesn’t want to play with him anymore; he decided he didn’t like someone he thought he liked; someone else is really annoying; he hurt someone’s feelings and had to apologize. The list goes on and on. Being 5 and having 5-year-old friends is tough! And navigating all this as his mama feels impossible. Every morning when we pray, we pray that God will give Von the courage to be kind, that he will stand up for others, and that he will speak out for the voiceless. Then I remind him to look for kids who need a friend. And once or twice, I’ve had to remind him of the hardest part—that as he’s figuring out who to be friends with, not everyone will like him, and that is absolutely okay.

This morning at drop off, he ran to play on the playground and Ann found a little toy on the ground. An older lady next to us smiled, reached for it, and signed, Thank you! She was with a boy I recognized from yesterday whom Von has spoken of fondly several times. I asked if he belonged to her, and she signed yes. I told her that Von really likes her grandson and is glad to be his friend. She nodded and showed me the sign for friend and gave me the kindest smile, and as she smiled, I realized, This is the first kindness I have experienced at school like this! This is the first time I have been noticed, and it’s the first time anyone other than teachers have acknowledged my boy! I could have cried.

The bell rang then, and we went inside. Not many adults go inside at this point to settle their kindergartners, so there is lots of opportunity to observe. I helped Von open his milk for breakfast and noticed the little girl next to him crying. I tried to comfort her: You have library today! It’s going to be a great day! But she wouldn’t hear of it. So I whispered to Von, Here is someone who needs a friend today! He gave me a thumbs up. I helped a few other kids with milk and then stepped back, watching these sweet kiddos engage each other over their meal. Oh, my word—kindergarteners are funny little creatures! Irresistible, in fact!

And then I saw the grandmamma from the playground. She kissed her grandson and signed goodbye, and then she placed her hand on Von’s head so gently, so affirmingly and rested it there, giving him a kind, warm smile. He looked up, smiling back, recognizing kind tenderness. She left, and I was left with the imprint of her silent act of affirmation on my boy. Her gentle hand, communicating that she saw him, she was glad for him, she wished him well. Simplicity, yet the depth of being seen—a precious gift to give a child.

Sending my beautiful boy into the big world of kindergarten is a big scary step of faith, and this grandmamma’s simple gesture of kindness toward him was a lovely gift of grace. Thank you, Jesus, and thank you, gentle grandmamma, for noticing my boy. You made a difference to our hearts today and gave us courage to keep reaching out to others tomorrow.