Middle school.

Two words that unleash a whirlwind of emotions, unlock a pile of memories and bring back the rush of new experiences.

First dance. First kiss. First heartbreak. First public humiliation.

New friends. New choices. New opportunities. New temptations.

A glimpse of how we will handle the uncensored side of people, the often-confusing multi-dimensions of ourselves, the possibilities for our future and the pain of our failure.

So when my only daughter, Maddy, and I had a real discussion about changing things up and going the public school path, the words middle school came with a daunting punch. 

Maddy has been homeschooled since Kindergarten. We’d taken our boys out of private school because of health and learning disability issues, and Maddy just sort of hopped on the Freeland Academy Train.

I’m not a particularly sheltering parent, but I’d like to spare my kids heartbreak they don’t need. I don’t subscribe to the toughen-them-up-with-emotional-scars theory.

Most of what I learned in middle school shaped me in a negative way and I believe that as kids get older, they have more of an ability to deal with the hardships of life and the meanness of other people. I want to give my kids swimming lessons before I throw them in a shark tank and expect them to survive.

Maddy wants to go to school for the opportunities school offers. She’s an artsy, musician-type of girl who loves choir, piano, drama, art and track. She wants to be part of a group more often than once a week when we go to homeschool co-op. She wants her own friends and her own space and her own chance to go after her dreams.

I want her to be happy. I want her to find her future. I want her to pursue it.

What I don’t want is for some unadjusted, hurting girl desperate for her own sense of self-worth and identity to lash out at Maddy and leave her with internal scars she’ll carry into high school, college and marriage.

Middle School. You get it, right? Most of us have been there. Most of us have the wounds to prove it.

So why am I considering sending my fragile little girl out into the wild, especially after I’d kept my big, strong boys home?

And why would I choose this for her now? Was it a selfish decision because I was exhausted, burned out and pursuing a new direction of my own? Or was it a gift to Maddy in disguise?

The questions rambled, endless and exhausting.

And I began to pray. “What is the right thing to do? What’s best for Maddy and for me? What’s best for our family?”

And God was silent, the way He sometimes is with me. Because He’s waiting for me to climb out of the box and get to the heart of the issue.

It has taken me weeks to scale the slippery walls and throw one leg over the edge of the box that is my expectation of God. Weeks spent begging the Lord, “Just show me the right thing to do. Make it clear. Please. You choose for Maddy. You choose for me.”

“This decision isn’t about choosing homeschool or middle school,” He spoke to my heart.

Not about that? Was He kidding?

“You’re asking the wrong question. Again,” He said.

Yes, I was sure I was asking the wrong question. I always asked the wrong question. But what was the right question?

And then, He breathed His own question across my heart. “Do you trust Me?”

“Of course I trust You, Lord. So tell me what to do about Maddy.”

“Do you trust Me to take care of Maddy no matter where she is? Homeschool, middle school, high school, college … life? Do you trust me to hold her heart in my hands?”

Wow. Talk about out of the box.

I spent another few days wrestling with the right question, the question God had given me. And today I answered Him yes. Yes, I trust You to take care of Maddy no matter where she is. Yes, I trust You with her heart. And yes, I trust You with mine.

This morning, Maddy and I are going to middle school and checking out the place she’ll be spending a lot of time come fall.

A place where she’ll have the opportunity for her first dance, first kiss and first heart heartbreak. A place where she will meet new friends, have new choices and be given new opportunities.

A place where God will keep her safe. Because He’s so much wiser than me. 

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