“But Mommy, I don’t want to go,” she said as we pulled into the parking lot.
I had heard her say this at least a hundred times before and really wasn’t quite sure how this day was going to go. I think we were both a bit terrified.
“But honey, you’re going to have so much fun! You are going to make new friends and learn all kinds of fun things. It’s going to be awesome!”
Dear Lord, please let her make new friends and learn all kinds of fun things. Please help her to not freak out. Please. Let. Her. Go. Inside.
We walked into the doors and down the hall to her preschool room, her sweet teacher was standing at the door as the other kids were running in.
“Well, hey there, Miss Nora. Are you ready to come in and learn with us today?” Her sweet smile and charming Southern accent was so friendly. But while she was talking, I could feel my girl squeezing my hand harder by the second and beginning to hide behind me. Then I heard it through her soft sobs.
“No, Mommy, I don’t want to go. I’m so scared! I want to stay with you!” She buried her face into my leg. I could feel her hot tears running down her cheeks. I knelt down and gave her a hug. I told her that even though this was something new and scary, it was also an exciting part of growing up. She was finally big enough to go to Sunday School, and that meant singing, crafts, snacks, and Bible stories; all things which she thrived at doing at home.
I finally pried her from my leg and helped her sit down at her seat. I stood outside the door to listen for a few minutes before heading into my own Sunday School class. I peeked in to see her teacher taking a seat next to her and making Nora her special helper with story time. And my sweet girl, she just sat there and cried, asking for Mommy every few minutes.
For those of us with kids who are Nervous Nellies, it’s hard for us to know when to nurture and when to push. The sight of our kids crying and asking for Mommy makes us want to run and scoop them up. But when it comes time for them to venture out on their own to school or church activities, it can be so overwhelming as a parent. Because sometimes a push away from us is exactly what they need. But pushing can hurt. Am I the only one who struggles with this? Please tell me I’m not the only one who has sat in her van and cried over my child’s fears or hid in the bathroom stall wishing it would just get easier.
So what happened to my little Nervous Nelly on her first day of Sunday School? Well, after going to my own Sunday School class and praying the entire time that she would remain calm, I came back to her room to find her still sniffling and asking for Mommy in her chair. But each week, each week it got a little bit better. There was less crying and more giggles. There was less hand squeezing and more hugs for her teacher. And I was so proud of that brave girl. But it took time.
A lot of time, a lot of praying, and a lot of tears.
And then one Sunday morning, my girl came running out of the classroom, “Mommy, I didn’t cry at all today! I asked Jesus to make me brave and HE DID!”
It was at that moment that I was the one crying. Crying because my Nervous Nelly wasn’t so nervous anymore. No, she was a Brave Bessie. Brave and bold and strong…. but it all had to happen in her own time.
So for those of you sending your little Nervous Nelly off to school this year like I am, you aren’t alone. When you start to feel them hold your hand a little tighter as you walk through the parking lot, when you feel them sinking back behind your legs, when the tears are rolling down their cheeks… Remember that it will get better in time. Because with time comes trust. And that’s the best thing you can teach them.
“When I am afraid, I put my trust in You.” Psalm 56:3