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The joy and pain of the 1st Day of School

September 8, 2021

Today was a BIG day.

For many students across the country, today they embarked on new learning adventures with the advent of a new school year. Mommas beamed and maybe shed a few tears.  Some maybe even celebrated. Photos were taken on the front steps or in front of the school to record this annual rite of passage.  Our family participated in this ritual along with everyone else.  Although some of us started earlier with post-secondary studies, we have four members of Team Stevens currently attending or teaching school, and today, we celebrated the mess of out of our high schooler and our first-year teacher!  As a veteran educator, today can often feel like Christmas morning waiting to unwrap the possibilities of all the learning and teaching that will happen. 

Front porch picture of author's high school daughter surrounded by a deer sculpture, wicker rocker and flower pots.
First day of school
Image of text that says '222 1ST GRADE CLASSROOM Ms. Stevens'
Classroom sign for our first-year teacher

But different than what I am seeing in social media lately, the emotions associated with today’s first day of school were not completely one-sided.  So much of what I have seen in recent days, weeks, and months is so slanted that the message almost reads, If you don’t live, think, worship, believe, speak, or vote the way I do, then you are wrong. Plain wrong. Definitely wrong.

Earlier this summer, I spoke at a women’s event were I sharing about two things that I believe are slowly destroying women in this country.  One of those things was the fear of the other.  Whether we subscribe to the sentiments or not, we are bombarded with messages that those who are different from us are to be feared.  Moreover, those messages often suggest that there are no areas of gray when it comes to daily living especially when it appears everything can only exist as polarized opposites.  

To anyone who has received those messages, just don’t believe them. I stand as the antithesis to that faulty logic.  I celebrated my daughters today, my own teaching and continued learning, and my son in medical school.  I praise God for the opportunities we have to learn and all the ways we will use our learning to help others, including ourselves.  But at the same time – literally, physically, emotionally, spiritually – my heart ached for what I didn’t have today.

But I have learned that not everything in life is as simple as black or white, because I deeply understand joy and sadness can co-mingle.  One of the babies we lost, whom our son Sawyer lovingly named, Tim, would be a senior in high school this day.  Even through my cheers and happy well wishes for all that was, my heart ached for what wasn’t.

And, that is okay. I, like every other human, is allowed to live a diversely complex and complicated existence.  I wouldn’t say I am comforted knowing that this day full of hope and anticipation is also met with sadness by other grieving families for whom this day is emotionally challenging. But being equipped with that knowledge reminds me to reach out to those in my care whom I can just simply say – Your baby mattered too.

My heart will make it through, but today I needed to say his name.  My soul needed to be reminded that while I never held Tim in my arms, my body once cradled his tiny form, and my heart loved him from two tiny pink lines.  That same heart has loved him every day since and always will.

One Comment
  1. nancyholte permalink

    Beautifully said!

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