Kindergarten has been a long time coming for a boy with a late December birthday.
Still, the plastic smile that never breaks into the easy grin his family all knows and loves literally shouts of fear hiding behind the pride and anticipation. A mother can tell these things. Those puffy bags under his eyes will remain for several weeks until he grows comfortable with the new early-to-bed, early-to-rise routine so alien to his childhood thus far.
Khaki shorts as stiff as his smile hang long past the knees, only inches above silver and red tennis shoes with that new plastic smell. Even the polo shirt buttoned high to the top (at his insistence) demonstrates just how far into his shell he's hiding.
Around his neck hangs a promise of security--if he somehow gets lost, all he has to do is show someone--anyone--the name tag with his bus number and his teacher's name, and all will be well. In his book sack is his contact information, in case he forgets, more promises of safety.
Overall, it is an image of a little boy who has spent five years secure and protected with his family, a boy whose faith has not yet met with any opposition, whose body hasn't quite caught up with large ears that stick out too far, whose rounded cheeks still show more little boy than young man.
Hands that once were invisible now hold something important--a love letter written all by himself for his teacher to express his love and appreciation for her one more time before breaking for the summer.
Now several inches shorter, the wrinkled, khaki shorts reveal bruised, scuffed, and battered knees atop well-muscled calves, quite strong from two months of riding his bicycle without training wheels up and down the quarter mile gravel drive each afternoon. The shoes are his second pair this year, and even they are already looking at early retirement, their backs permanently broken down by his unconscious slipping them off and on as he tries to sit and stand still. The polo is still buttoned to the top, a "fashion don't" I haven't been able to break.
Long gone are any tangible promises of security--the name tag round his neck, the bus number attached to his book sack. The consistency of routines, themselves, offer their own comfort and security.
His head reaches higher on the door, indicating how much taller he has grow, but his face shows the most difference. Unlike nine months before, this boy no longer has ears too big for his body. Even the chubby cheeks of childhood are slowly turning into the slim contours of maturity.
Here is no longer a little boy but a young man who never dreamed of all the wondrous fun he would have over the past nine months. He is a young man who has developed confidence in himself and who has seen how faith in God is a daily difficult choice that few practice; who has made friends and lost loves; who has been confused by the rules of childhood relationships; and who has kept picking himself up and trying again even when it wasn't easy.
I know some mothers cry at this rite of passage, and I'm sure I will shed my fair share of tears at some point. But for now, I simply feel gratitude. From Wyatt's first day of Kindergarten to his last, our family has seen the hand of God, blessing us as we obediently sent our son out into the world after homeschooling him through K4.
Thank you God for sending Wyatt a Christian teacher to lovingly work alongside us to educate him.