Mothering with Open Hands

8.26.2018

[daycare dropoff April 17, 2018]

The following post is something I wrote and submitted to an online site that was accepting blog submissions on the topic of the Gospel and motherhood. This post idea came to me easily, since we had just studied 1 Samuel at church the previous week, and I was really excited to submit this. We were told to wait a certain amount of time, and if we didn't hear back, our submission had been rejected and we could publish or submit it elsewhere. I admit that this was the sixth time I've submitted a blog post to another website (not all the same one) and gotten rejected. It's embarrassing to tell you that, but there it is. At least I'll never reject myself from my own blog ;)

I tell you that not to fish for compliments that I really am a great writer (I know I am. It's fine. I'm fine.). I say it only as a disclaimer that the post below is slightly different from my typical Lady Okie Blog writing style. But I do think the message here is important, especially as summer ends and so many moms start their kids in some form of school away from home. 

I will also be completely honest with you about something, though, and I do have a point, so hear me out if you will. This time of year, social media is filled with moms posting tearful goodbyes as they send their children off to preschool for a few hours a few days a week. As someone who has been away from their kids nine hours a day for five days a week since they were just a few months old, it's hard for me to sympathize with stories of difficult preschool or parent's day out dropoffs. I'm more like "yes! see what I have to do every day! get on my level!" than I am feeling bad for them. 

But (and here's my point) I do know that leaving your child, no matter how long or how often you do it, is hard. And I'm sure it's probably harder for people who don't do it as often as I do. Or maybe it's the same hard, but my heart has just become a calloused block of stone ha. 

Before I submitted this, I sent it to a friend of mine who is a stay-at-home mom and asked her if she could relate to what I wrote, because I don't always want to write just as a working mom but as a mom. I hope this is encouraging to anyone who has to leave their child somewhere. We can't avoid the fact that terrible, tragic things happen all the time; but at least for me, I can rest in the peace of knowing that God's plan for my child's life is better than the one I would plan for them (even if it doesn't seem to quite make sense at the time). I might not be there with them all the time, but they aren't alone.

***

I took my daughter to daycare for the first time when she was three months old. I had always known that for various reasons it would be necessary for our family that I continue to work full time after maternity leave. We had toured the daycares and weighed our childcare options, and we were confident in the place we had chosen—a faith-based traditional daycare center operating out of a local church—but as the day of my return to work approached, I could barely even think about it without crying.

That first morning, I carried her into the infant room, and they handed me a “Baby’s First Day” worksheet to fill out. “It helps the teachers get to know her,” they told me. It included questions like “How does she best fall asleep?” and “How often does she eat?” and then at the bottom, there were five blank lines and this: Is there anything else you want her teachers to know?

My eyes filled with tears, and my hand holding the pen shook a little as I looked over at my sweet girl, sitting calmly in a bouncy seat chewing on a rattle. She looked up at me, her dark brown eyes full of complete trust.

Is there anything else you want her teachers to know?

I remember feeling frozen. There’s not enough space here, I wanted to say. There aren’t enough lines.

I want to tell them about everything, about how silly and smart she is, about how much she makes me laugh. How she loves to cuddle in the morning, what her favorite toy is, and how she likes to be held. How to tell the difference between her hunger and tired cries, and that she favors her right side and we are trying to watch it and avoid a flat spot.

Tears streamed down my face as everything I’d learned about my daughter in her first three months of life flashed by as though I were flipping through a deck of cards.

****

The first chapter of 1 Samuel tells the story of Hannah, a woman who was barren until the Lord “remembered her” and she gave birth to a son, Samuel. (1 Samuel 1:19-20)

A few verses later, Hannah says what has become a much-beloved and often-quoted verse about the blessing of a child: “I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him.” (1 Samuel 1:27)

Chosen for baby dedications, printed on the back of birth announcements, and quoted as part of pregnancy reveals, this verse is beloved as a symbol of blessing and the joy of answered prayer. But what can be easy to forget about Hannah’s story is verse 28: “So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord.”

Hannah prayed “year after year” (v.7) for a child, and then she took him to be dedicated at the house of the Lord “after he was weaned” (v. 24), which we can estimate at that time was about three years. Just as I learned so much about my daughter her first three months, I suspect Hannah had a hundred times the memories and moments with her son before she left him with Eli the priest at three years old.

I can only imagine how her eyes filled with tears and her hand trembled a bit as she kissed her firstborn son and prepared to leave the house of God. And maybe just before she turned away, Eli asked her, “Is there anything else you want me to know?”

As mothers, we want to believe we know our children the best, that we love them the most. But Hannah knew better, and her story is both a reminder and an encouragement of God’s sovereign control and righteous ownership over everything we have, including and perhaps especially over our children. We can pray for our children, love our children, provide for our children, but ultimately we need to remember whose they were first—and then give them back to God with open hands.

Having open hands as mothers is something God requires of all of us, no matter where you spend your days. Just as Hannah physically left her son with Eli the priest, so too do we leave our children at daycare or with the babysitter or in the church nursery or with their preschool teacher. It’s scary. It’s hard.

Hannah’s story is a reminder that while we may physically leave them for a period of time, God never does. And when we do, there is no first-day worksheet. There are no questions to answer or blank lines to fill in. After all, it was he who “knit us together” in the womb (Psalm 139:13). He knows our children more intimately and completely than we will ever know them in three months or three years or three decades.

We are finite human beings, unable to see beyond what we are facing today. Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:34 not to worry about tomorrow, and while that is a nice saying for Sunday school, it is hard for us mothers to put into practice when there’s so much to worry about for our children. We need to daily remind ourselves that they are God’s first, and we need to have open hands with the gift he gave us.

In 1 Samuel 2:19, the Bible tells us that each year Hannah made Samuel a robe and brought it to him when she went to offer her annual sacrifice. I wonder if she cried while carefully sewing that robe together for her child. I wonder how long she was able to see him and if they were able to talk at all.

It’s been two and a half years of daycare drop-offs, and recently we added a baby boy to our family and I now have a second bag to pack every morning. On that very first day, they handed me the same worksheet, and once again I was frozen by the last question: Is there anything else you want his teachers to know?

Everything, I thought. There’s just not enough space.

I left him there that morning with tears in my eyes but peace in my heart. It is comforting to know that God fills in all the blanks, and he is right there with my children even when I’m not. He loves them more than I could and knows them better than I ever will.

Hannah honored God by returning her blessing back to him, and the last we hear of her is in 1 Samuel 2:21: “And the Lord was gracious to Hannah; she gave birth to three sons and two daughters. Meanwhile, the boy Samuel grew up in the presence of the Lord.”

It’s hard to let them go, but they are his first. An answer to prayer, and an opportunity to give our treasured gift back to Christ. For what better, more holy place for our children to be than in the presence of the most holy Lord. 

14 comments:

  1. Sitting here sobbing. Thank you for this. It’s exactly what I needed as I get ready to send both my boys back to daycare after my maternity leave. God loves our children even more than we could imagine and in trusting Him to care for them, we are ultimately teaching them to do the same.

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    1. Good luck to you, Katie. I'm in the same boat as well. I have three more weeks with my second daughter, and it feels so so short.

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  2. I won't tell you what a good writer you are, since you said you didn't want us to. :D

    But this is exactly what I needed to hear. Baby girl number two is starting school in three weeks (and currently won't take a bottle), and I'm over hear really starting to let it weigh on me. I appreciate this article and the knowledge that God knows what will happen and will watch out for my babies when I am away from them.

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  3. I'm not crying, you are.

    I am facing full-time working mom status for the first time and even though my oldest is 10, it still hurts just as bad I think. Our SAHM years haven't been a breeze and i wonder often if things would be better if i had been working all this time. And letting a 5th-grade pre-teen out of my sight most of the waking hours of my day is terrifying. How will she learn to be kind and stand up for kids and say no to peer pressure and maintain her innocence? It haunts me because i know the world she's growing up in. And you better believe her teachers got a looooong email (more than 5 lines for sure) about my girl and my expectations for her and for her teachers. It's all the same. God has them whether they are sweet infants or diabolical tweens. (Haha jk, shes an angel. :) He has them and he loves them more than we do, which is impossible to grasp. Thank you for that reminder. I love you and I think you are an amazing mother and a brave soul. And also a damn good writer. :)

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    1. Thank you so, so much for reading and for the comment, Jess :)

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  4. i love this!! leaving your baby(ies) is hard, no matter what. i've been trying to have compassion for other mamas instead of being judgy over their "hardness" with mothers day out or preschool or whatnot. such a good reminder (that i need everyday!) that God is still there, always.

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  5. Deep breaths, Laura!
    Man. You know I love this. You’ve opened my eyes about working moms so much, and my heart has always hurt watching you struggle to leave your kids. Knowing that you’ve done it this long, and starting when they were babies, gives me a lot of encouragement for sending A to school. So thanks for being understanding and not blowing off my melodrama. ☺️ And thanks for the biblical truth.

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  6. I know you know you are a good writer, but I still wanted to let you know that I think you are so brave to share your heart so openly every time you write on this topic. So thank you for sharing. I am feeling all the feels as far as desperately wanting to keep your children safe (always, but especially after Friday) so this post is a good reminder to me.

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  7. I think the site you submitted this to really missed out. This is beautiful and beautifully written. It's a wonderful point of view for anyone who struggles to let go of things (or fully trust that God has their back). I'm sure it's really tough to trust anyone with your babies- even God. This is a gorgeous reminder of His love and safe keeping.

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  8. What you submitted is beautifully written and such a great lesson. <3

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  9. Well, I don't know what publications you submitted this to because this piece is beautiful. Maybe it was the quoting scripture - maybe a lot of Christian sites like scriptural concepts but their readers get turned off by too much citation? Regardless, I loved it. Have you ever tried submitting to Her View From Home?

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