I was filled with anxiety about my kids’ new school: Would they find new friends? But the more I asked God to protect them, the more he seemed to ask me for the one thing I didn’t want to give him: detachment.
by Becky Arganbright
We had a wonderful summer this year. We filled the time with lots of family time at our community pool, lounging around and reading books, and camping. It was heavenly.
Last year was a pretty tough year. It was so bad that after much prayer, we felt that God was directing our path to another school. Though the thought of leaving all that was familiar to my kids was scary, we all felt good about the decision.
I was concerned, though, about the fact that my kids would be the “new kids” and have no friends to support them. This worried me quite a lot, and though I tried to practice trust in the direction God had led us, I still worried.
I also worried that my kids had unrealistic expectations of their new school. They were really excited that the school was so much larger than their last one, had more variety of after-school programs and clubs to belong to, and different teachers, and so on. Just to keep their feet on the ground, I would provide “reality checks” with them every so often to help prepare them: “You understand that there still will be challenges in this school, don’t you? You know there will be teachers you may not like, or kids that aren’t nice? You know that this school won’t be perfect, even though it seems like it is?” And my kids would always nod their heads calmly and say they knew this. Yet I had a hard time believing that they truly understood—they were so calm about it all! I didn’t want to scare them with all my worries, but I didn’t want my kids to be disappointed either.
I wasn’t sure if I was the only one being realistic or if I was just lacking faith in God’s direction in all of this. So I turned all my worries to prayer. Yes, I trusted God, or I was trying to, but I wanted him to know my anxieties too. I wanted him to take my concerns seriously and provide some answers.
It all sounds very demanding, I suppose, but my relationship with God has always been very direct. No beating around the bush for me. He knows me and knows how I am. He always calms me down in some sort of reassuring way. I had no doubt that he would do the same for me here.
“Lord,” I prayed, “I thank you for taking us out of something bad and leading us to something that is better for us. I know you only desire what is best for us. Thank you for that. But now the kids will need friends. They will need someone to sit with them at lunch, and someone to play with at recess. Let them all have at least one good friend; they don’t have to have a lot. Just one to start with, and this will make me very happy. It’s not unreasonable, what I’m asking, is it, Lord? I’m only asking that they will have a friend. They will be the new ones in school, and they will be lonely. I don’t want to think of them in that way, Lord, or I will go crazy with worry. Please, Lord, hear my prayer. Amen.”
And so I would pray this way, every day, sometimes several times a day, petitioning the Lord to hear my prayer. I also added a weekly rosary in during my adoration hour.
Then one day, I realized with a start that there were only a few weeks left before school! I felt myself panic a bit. I had gone lax in my fervor during our long summer vacation and hadn’t worried about school as much as I did in the beginning. Now time was almost out and I hadn’t even offered up a rosary in weeks!
I turned off the TV show that I was watching and said a rosary right there. “For at least one friend for the kids, for someone to sit with at lunch, for a playmate at recess,” I recited. My petition was always the same and had pretty much become a litany.
I started my rosary with much fervor that I felt would be pleasing to God. He would see how much I believed in Him and would reward me for my faith. Like the saints, I wanted to confidently say that He would refuse me nothing. I was confident my request was also what God wanted. If he took us away from our old school, why would he bring us to something worse? And if he desired our happiness, why wouldn’t he want the kids to be happy?
But oddly enough, during the rosary, something began to change within me. It was as though a Voice was speaking over my words and distracting me from my petition. With this Voice, came a word that was repeated over and over.
I blocked the word out because this word was not in keeping with all my requests. It went against everything I was asking. I fought against it, tried to stay focused with what I wanted, because what I wanted was better, or so I thought. But by the end of the third decade, I couldn’t fight it anymore. The Voice had taken over my entire rosary and I couldn’t even remember what I wanted. In defeat, I dropped my head to my hands and listened.
“Lord, what you are asking is too hard. How can I detach myself from my kids? Do you just want me to not care about their happiness or about the things that hurt them? This is what happened in the other school, they were so unhappy and I suffered with them. I can’t go through that again, Lord, I just can’t.”
But the word lingered in my heart, echoing. With it, there was a peace, but I fought that, too:
“My God, I can’t do it. I can’t just let them go. I know they belong to you first, but…”
My words were running out; pretty soon I had no argument left. I knew in my heart that this is what I really needed, to detach myself from the obsessive worrying and things that were not in my control. They were in God’s control. I still protested a bit, but now, only with fear.
“Lord, help me to trust you. Help me to trust. I know you will take care of them. They are not mine. They belong to you. Help me to pray for them without the worry.”
My thoughts went further, to things that were more painful to accept. My kids would suffer. No matter what school they went to, no matter where they went in life. I couldn’t protect them from suffering. But I could help learn to turn to God when they suffered. That was my only job here as their earthly mother. That, and to be there for them when they needed me.
The peace stayed and the worry began to leave. “Detachment” lingered on, staying with me, bringing me comfort instead of pain.
I continued to pray my rosaries and offer up my adoration hour for my kids. I wanted to continue to support my kids in prayer. But I didn’t pray with panic and fear. I prayed trusting God that whatever he allowed them to go through, good or bad, would be what was best for my kids.
My heart has been at peace for the past few weeks, and we continue to look forward to our new adventure. My kids, though nervous with typical first-day jitters, are also excited. Every so often, I fall back into my worries, but now I voice them honestly to my kids, because I’m convinced their faith is stronger than mine: “I hope you guys are happy in this new school; I hope we made the right decision in switching.”
And their answer is always the same: “I think we’re going to be OK.”
And, thank God, now I know that, too.