“All is grace”…and Ms. Grace

Remember how August’s first day of school was Tuesday? It was also his last. I know that sounds dramatic and I probably deserve that criticism. But his teacher had rubbed me the wrong way the week before at the Meet and Greet. We don’t have to go into details here. I just didn’t have a good feeling. The P in my personality type is “Perceptive”…I’ve been learning to trust it.

August’s stubborn nature, especially regarding when and how he goes potty, resulted in a cry-fest on his part when he was forced to go potty, which brought on chastisement and disappointment from his teacher, who told me he was distracting for the other kids. (On his first day? After moving across the country and struggling with this major life transition? As a 3-year-old?) I felt no kindness or compassion in that room when I picked him up. And after taking home a sad boy who kept repeating: “My teacher was scary” and “it was a sad day,” I haven’t been able to recover.

That little boy loved school in San Francisco. He was and is imperfect. And I get it: He can be a real pill. But his teachers in SF were kind and compassionate and full of grace.

So I spent yesterday struggling through whether it was worth it to take him back to a room of strangers and leave him there when I felt genuine unease about what made him so sad the day before. I decided to pull him out. There’s nothing he needs to learn right now more than the reality that I trust him and I’ve got his back. Enough tears have been shed over peeing in the potty. Let those tears be mine and not his. And let no one of authority in his life make him feel like a failure for what he can and can’t do.

And do you know what I considered yesterday as I made the decision and crafted a “we quit preschool” letter for the director of the program? I thought of Ann Voskamp’s words: “All is grace.” Even this. Even as the woman-stranger forces your kid to drop his drawers in front of the potty on the first day of school in a strange bathroom with strangers while he screams, “no!”, then tells him his cries are hurting the ears of the other children. All is grace. My non-combative nature, standing beside the woman who is disappointed in my boy. My attempts to piece together his story while I nursed his brother in his bed, smoothing his hair before nap time.

All is grace: Those moments when we realize that being a mother has lit a fire in our bellies: we the passive, the sweetly natured, the peacemakers, who suddenly can see nothing but the glaring flash of our mistreated child.

Do you know what I thought of as I cried in the living room, my boy (who had smiled so big for his first day of school picture only hours before and now begged me not to make him go back) sleeping in his bed? I thought of the mom of the boy whose heart I’d twisted and wrung Sophomore year of college. How much she must have ached because of me.

All is grace. Do you know that was this teacher’s name? Ms Grace.

How good it is to be grateful. Even as I pressed send on my carefully constructed quitters email, even as I spent two (fruitless?) hours searching Austin webpages for one opening for my boy at some sort of 3-year-old program. Even as I cried for the teachers who loved him and knew him and understood him in San Francisco. I felt a sense of peace. How good that he doesn’t have to be anywhere where he is mistreated. How good that he knows how to communicate his unease with me. How full of grace that I can trust him when he tells me he is afraid.

All is grace. Even the achey parts. Even the first day of school picture and the new backpack and the big smile for the camera.

We love a God who is in all of our messes, even the ones that bring out our most angry Mama-fires. We love a God who burns in his belly for us, who longs for us to know our value is not based on our performance, our stiff upper lip, our ability to please. It is based on belonging. We belong to our creator. That is enough, I thought, as I pressed his sweaty hair behind his ear. That is enough.


Filed under Motherhood

31 Responses to “All is grace”…and Ms. Grace

  1. What a bold, and right, mama move. Good for you for trusting, listening, and acting. All is grace.

  2. I read everything you write, dear friend, and I always think it’s beautiful, but this is one of my new favorites. How I longed as a child (and even still) to know that my mom “had my back” that I was heard and that my feelings were valid. I have spent far too many years overcoming the times my mom didn’t follow those God-given instincts on my behalf. Also, I don’t know what part of Austin you’re in, but I have two cousins that teach at a great MDO on the southside. Love you.

  3. You should feel no guilt for this decision. It’s the hardest part of being a Momma, knowing what’s best and how to nurture and care for those in our charge. There is no rush for your three yr old or for you. There is enough grace to cover you, August, and even Ms. Grace. Just wondering, but does Ms, Grace have kids? I’m just guessing she doesn’t.
    Blessings, Kelli Bragdon

  4. Sam

    I want to stand up and applaud. You are listening to your intuition and being the mama bear you are supposed to be on August’s behalf. I really hate that he had a rotten experience and SERIOUSLY? I just can’t believe that teacher couldn’t cut him a break on the first freaking day of school. I guess she was expecting to teach little robots?

    I just so resonate with you here. Y’all will find the right place for August (if that’s what you choose to do) where he will be loved and encouraged and understood. There is no greater lesson for him to know that you trust him and will listen to his needs. That doesn’t mean he gets to call the shots, but that his feelings matter. It’s such a fine line and one that I struggle with, especially since Thomas can’t tell me how he feels quite yet.

    I love that you aren’t beating yourself up here, but trusting that grace is enough. I cried and cried when Thomas was asked to leave preschool last year. Talk about dramatic. But it all worked out and this year I couldn’t BE happier with where he is and how much he’s learning and growing. August is completely AWESOME and I bet a thousand preschool teachers would love to have him in their classrooms. SO THERE! :)

  5. Oh, dear beloved and belonging one, God is blessed by your fire and trust. SO am I. Thanks for being teachable. Love and miss you.

  6. I read this just as I came home from dropping off my oldest at his very first day of preschool this morning, so I have to admit that it added to my anxiety, but I do find your response admirable. I suspect I’m entering a new season of grace, as in I need to see and give more. Your blog always brings me good perspective, thanks.

  7. Donna Boyett

    Our “children” are all grown, and they have wonderful children of their own, all of whom are grown or almost grown, still I wept as I read your words. I cannot tell you how many times I have told our daughters that I was sorry for the mistakes I made as they grew up. When I yelled or in some way made them feel like they were less than I had expected and less than God had intended. Your precious son knows that you love him “best” because you took him away from what made him feel “sad”.
    It is by God’s grace that we are saved, it is by His grace that we learn to
    love and it is by His grace that we do our best to love and nurture our children in His loving grace.

  8. Bravo! - as a mamma here, and also bravo as a writer! Well-lived, and well-crafted.

  9. What a wonderful piece. I especially love the end, about where we get our value. I am going to use this piece with my teachers (I am principal of a school). Great writing and great provocation of important thoughts on everything from how we treat children to working with parents. Thank you for another powerful slice of real life.

  10. Jen

    Good choice! Just want to say, I had a similar experience with my second. I pulled her out and the following year she was ready. Also, when my oldest was in 2nd grade I held her back against the teachers recommendation. Ten years later I’m still convinced that it was the right move. You have to trust your gut. You clearly trust yours and your son’s too :) lucky boys!

  11. I’m so moved and encouraged by all of your comments. Thank you for your support and confirmation that this is the right thing for us.

    I love this sweet community! Thanks for being part of it, friends…

  12. Karen H

    A three year old needs his/her MOM. Not some preschool regime. You are God’s best for your precious unique child. Yaay Mom.

  13. I saw the title of your post and HAD to take a peek. I too, have read the book and struggle with the grace word. Mostly for myself. I have Grace(with a big G) in my life now, our struggles to adopt her, and now parent her, are teaching me about grace(with a little g) I am smiling that you too are learning lessons on grace with Grace. I am struggling to be the mom you mention in this post and will print it to read and re-read before our audiologist appointment this week. (insert huge sigh here) You did the right thing.

  14. Patricia Satterfield

    I worked in a preschool for five years, without a doubt follow your intuition in this matters, and take comfort in the fact that your son shares his experiences with you and fully trusts his momma. As I read your words, as you acknowledged that a boys mother you had hurt so much as a sophomore had grieved her son’s pain as well….I began to cry. This was me, my son’s world fell apart for awhile when he was a junior in college and a 5 year relationship with a girl he loved so much ended when she found someone else. She walked away and never looked back, so many loose ends, but also she never knew the depth of pain she caused our entire family. She sent and small letter and stated how happy she was in her knew relationship. I honestly think she just didn’t get how those words were salt in a fresh wound. If only once, she had expressed sorrow and acknowledged the pain we all suffered it would have been so much easier to forgive. It was like a death in the family, we loved her. But when you hurt someone, and you never turn around again to see the real damage, how can you ever make amends? You have a tender heart. You will forever be a wonderful loving mother. Thank you for that particular comment, in some strange way I found it comforting to know that maybe one day, maybe when she has a son of her own, she will think of how it hurt to see my son in so much pain…and how my heart broke as well. It has been along time since all of this happened, I don’t mean to be so emotional, it just tugged at a place in my heart I have hidden. By Gods sweet grace we have all moved on, including my son……I take comfort in knowing all works for His good.

  15. Oh sweet Micha - such a good, wise and lion-hearted choice! You done good, girl. And I’m with Donna up there - I’ve cried tears over the too-many times I did NOT trust my gut enough with my own kids. I did sometimes - and I’m so grateful for those times - not one proved to be a mistake. An early commenter was right on target - our kids need to know we’ve got their backs. Thanks for being strong and standing tall in the midst of it.

  16. “we the passive, the sweetly natured, the peacemakers, who suddenly can see nothing but the glaring flash of our mistreated child.”

    You know me well, sister. And I am so proud of you for leaning into that P in our temperament. It can be a real bugaboo, that P, but you know what? It is part of us for a reason, and the world NEEDS perceivers. Thank you for encouraging me in this.

    And thank you for the gentle reminder of all of the times I have been on the other side of grace, the one who needed grace extended to her so badly. My eyes well up just thinking about it.

    You wrote this beautifully and I’ll be thinking of it long after.

  17. Three years old is very, very young. He may not remember anything of this except the security of constant love from his mom. The real learning is for mommy. I promise you that you will have other opportunities to stand for your kids and choose to parent with intention and strength and truth and grace. Practicing during these young years will strengthen your muscles for when the real testing begins. I love this post.

  18. I cried when I read this. and then I cried again when I read Kristin’s comment about longing to know her mother “had her back” as I’ve longed for that too. Good for you in listening to your mama intuition! Continue to trust that instinct, as well as trusting our God who “burns in his belly for us.” My kids are 19, 16 and 13 and I can tell you this will not be the last time you will rely on those two things. Thanks for sharing!

  19. This is worship…when you See this Truth…indeed, All. Is. Grace. Even *This*. Bless you…

  20. april l.

    My husband and I took our four year old son out of preschool this past week. A friend sent your blog, and I cried. I cried to read someone else’s heart and hurt in this exact situation. Thank you for the honesty and the psalm-like ending where trust and grace in Him soothes the pain away…

  21. Renej

    I stumbled on this site through Ann’s blog…and as a Montessori teacher working with 2 year olds…I was wondering if you have tried any of the Montessori schools in the area. They are very good.

    • Thanks for letting me know, Renej. I actually was in contact with some of them. (I love the idea of Montessori!) It’s just we moved only a month ago and there don’t seem to be many openings. I appreciate your thoughtfulness…

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