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O Me of Little Faith

Yesterday was the first day back to school for my kids, both of whom are in elementary school.

As a parent, this time of year is always a struggle for me. On one hand, I like returning to the more rigid schedule that the school year brings. Bedtimes are earlier, for one thing — which means more time for me to exercise and work on books. (Which sounds kind of selfish, I guess, but I try to only do those things — work out and write books — when it doesn’t take time away from my kids. After all, the books are my side job.)

But on the other hand, we always have such a fun summer, and I love summer nights with the kids. I love vacations. I love taking lunch breaks at the swimming pool.

And on the other other hand (apparently I now have three hands), I hated returning to school as a kid. Not because I was such a fiend for summer, but because I was very shy and introverted. A new school year meant new situations, new classes, new teachers, new students, and new places for me to feel uncomfortable. I loved the idea of going to school — I always enjoyed learning stuff — but the public-school environment stressed me out.

I worried about what other kids were wearing.

I worried whether I had the right supplies.

I worried about getting to school on time, and finding my classes on time, and about knowing where to go and what to do.

I worried about standing out too much, and then I worried about not standing out enough. Why? Because I also worried about my Christian witness, because it was always so important — according to my Sunday School teachers and youth group — that I not hide my faith. If I didn’t claim Jesus, why should he claim me? So I HAD to make sure my friends knew that I was a Christian. Which means every first day of my four years of high school I wore a Christian t-shirt on my first day of school, usually a shirt from my church’s youth camp that summer.

christiantshirt.jpgI wasn’t the kind of kid to walk around talking much about Jesus (it SO wasn’t my personality, to my constant chagrin and guilt), but if Jesus could die on the cross for my sins, I could wear a t-shirt that said “Our God is an awesome God!” for one day. And so I forced myself to, even though it made me entirely self-conscious and I felt totally conspicuous the whole day. Even though it made me feel like a total dork. And even though i felt guilty for feeling like a dork, because if I loved Jesus shouldn’t I be willing to feel like a dork for his sake?

Sheesh. I hated my first days, but I was totally neurotic. Anyway, I want my kids’ first days to be as great and stress-free as possible. Because I get it. I understand the worry. I lived it for a decade, and I’m working hard to make sure my kids don’t experience Christian t-shirt stress.

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What about you? What do you remember about your first days of school each year? Did you freak out about it like me (for religious reasons or otherwise)? Or do you live all summer for the return of school?

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