As I walked him to the school bus, I gave him a little pep talk: “There’s nothing to be afraid of. Your teacher will help you. The other kids want to be your friends.” But it was of no use; as the school bus pulled up, my five-year-old son kicked and yelled and cried, writhing out of my grasp and sprinting towards home. So I manhandled him into our car, drove him to school and left him struggling against the firm arms of his teacher. But by the time I reached home again, I was crying too; we had played out this scene every morning for two weeks, and it was wearing me down.
While I’m sure that an initial fear of school is normal for many kindergarteners, our situation had the added challenge of a language barrier: everyone at Jacob’s school spoke French.
We tried pep talks and positive incentives for “practicing our new words” as well as firm words and warnings of negative consequences for misbehavior such as refusing to get on the bus. I plundered my parental toolbox until it was empty, but nothing worked this time.
So day after day, I drove him to school and left him there, screaming. What else could I do? He couldn’t stay home; I still had my own French classes to attend, details for our upcoming move to another overseas location to work out, and a toddler who needed my attention too!
I shared my struggle with some other moms here at our language school in Quebec. While I appreciated their advice, their tips didn’t seem to work on my child. But we did pray together. And pray again. And then we prayed some more. And I slowly felt my burden lighten, as my sisters in Christ shared it with me, and we handed it over together to Jesus, time and again.
Turns out, there was no quick fix for Jacob’s fears. He struggled with going to school for months. But now? I don’t even try to walk him to the bus stop––he’s way too fast for me, as he runs to meet his friends! And I thank the Lord for teaching me a thing or two about sisterhood, and asking for help, and the value of regular times of prayer with our fellow students. Those tools are now sitting pretty at the top of my toolbox, ready to be quickly grasped when my next mothering challenge comes along!