For the past five months our four-year old son has attended a preschool that we like and he greatly enjoys… but yesterday was his last day. It’s been a tough month for my husband and me as we’ve waded through how to respond to challenges stemming from our son’s attending this sweet school. After a great fall, significant behavior issues abruptly emerged in December, and he started acting and displaying attitudes that were contrary to our household norms and his prior behavior. A sudden onslaught of defiance, meanness, rudeness, and other issues took over and quickly met us with alarming regularity. We met with the lovely teacher; we analyzed every angle; we assessed the situation for weeks; we attempted a variety of responses to his numerous misbehaviors (occurring only at home) to try mitigating them. We loved the preschool and his experiences there and wanted to make it work out. And we hated the idea of disrupting things by stopping the experience for our son before year-end.
Ultimately though, it became clear that this couldn’t go on. Classroom influences and dynamics, in combination with his tendency toward overstimulation and his difficulty reconciling school vs home dynamics, were creating a situation that was hindering his character development. We’d worked hard to train him in godliness, and his involvement in preschool was causing serious regression. Meanwhile he was unpleasant to be around; he and I were directly at odds most of the time; and I was beating my head against the wall. Riding out four more months would damage his growth in godliness and his relationship with me. And those two things, we realized, must come first. We had to pull him out.
Coming to this decision and walking through the process were agonizing, and I shed more tears over it than any other parenting situation I’ve faced. Why? Many reasons, but a few biggies were these: it was hard to face the fact that preschool was providing more temptations to misbehave than our son could handle- that keeping him there was leading him into temptation. It was difficult to admit that a situation that offered so many positives was actually, in our case, clearly yielding more negatives than positives. I struggled over the reality that the good can often be the enemy of the best and that, when this is the case, the good must be dismissed. I cried over how much my son loved this experience and how painful it was to take it away from him. And I wrestled with God over my son’s disappointment… that I wanted to protect my son from sadness and a sense of loss, but God doesn’t always want to protect His children in the ways that I do. His goal for my children, like His goal for me, is long-term holiness over short-term happiness. The preschool decision was part of the equation, but the big-picutre issues of surrender and trust contributed more to my agonizing.
Also there was this: it would have taken so little for the situation to have worked out positively. A variation in classroom management, perhaps; slightly different class dynamics, maybe; a bit less impressionability and/or more developmental maturity in our son. Many children of Christ-following fellow moms attend this school (and others like it) with excellent results and with positive rather than negative contributions to their character development. I love and respect these moms (and kids). Why couldn’t our situation have gone off like theirs? We sure wanted it to. But God spoke to me quite clearly about my impulse to compare our situation with others’ through John 21:22, in which Jesus rebukes Peter for asking about John’ death when Jesus had just told Peter about his own: “What is that to you? You follow me.” And that’s why this post is less about schooling and more about the need for a parent to obey God’s specific call to her… It’s about my need to faithfully play the hand we’re dealt as I love and raise and nurture my family.
Because that’s the essence of it, isn’t it? The circumstances that relate to other kids inother families are irrelevant. Our job as parents is to follow God, entrust our kids to Him, and obey Him at any cost as we raise them to become godly adults. Christ must come first. Yes, we’ll sometimes face grey areas about what this looks like that we’ll have to work through with God… But in situations where God makes Himself crystal clear, as in this experience, we are to simply trust and obey. God works in our daily circumstances to direct our families and our children, and we must follow him. We must play the hand He deals us, however it may interfere with our own plans or wishes, surrendering our children to Him and continually reminding ourselves that He knows what He’s doing with our family (even when we don’t). And to walk with His joy into the ways that He directs.