five ways to bless your child’s school this year

Hello, long-deserted blog (that’s what the title’s about, right?). Each year I make a resolution that August won’t be a dry month for blog posts – and each year it passes so quickly, with a non-stop cycle of holidays, road trips, catch-ups, holiday clubs, and a vague feeling I ought to get organised for two special birthdays in September. So, readers, I’m sorry.

And now, of course, it’s September (only just!) – which means back-to-school for lots of us, and first-time-at-school for some of us. Whether your child is just starting, or returning after many years, here are some ways that your school will be blessed for counting you amongst its families this year:

Be actively grateful. Hopefully, you’re already grateful for what your teachers do. But – it sounds so obvious, I barely want to say it – they won’t know unless you tell them. Be someone who writes emails or cards, someone who makes a point of thanking teachers at the end of the day – whatever comes easiest. Last year, besides sending cards to Mister’s fabulous teachers at the end of term , I also wrote to them at the end of the first half term, after Parents’ Evening, Sports Day, and one of the school trips. It doesn’t take a minute, but it encourages them to keep going in the important vocation they’ve chosen. More about this here.

When you pay for a trip (or anything, really), consider paying double. However affluent your school, if it is a school which serves a particular geographical community, then it will be a school where some of the families are struggling to get by. If you can afford to, why not pay twice the amount next time your child goes on a school trip, or the next time funds are needed for an extra-curricular activity. Note, I’m not talking paying double the cost of some elaborate ski trip or safari trek – more that if £5 is required for a trip, why not consider paying £10? The school will immediately know who needs that money, and it will bless that family enormously, as well as the school’s finances. (NB I know that with the increasing use of online payment this gets a bit tricky, but there are ways and means – perhaps hand some cash into the office, or make a one-off donation once a year?)

Hand stuff in on time. It’s a small thing, but so very helpful to teachers when forms and reply slips are handed in on time. Teachers aren’t supposed to spend their working hours dealing with admin, but, realistically, it’s usually quicker for the teacher to badger parents rather than let the office staff deal with it. And this means that your taxes are paying a teacher to waste time hounding you, rather than planning the next lesson, or making the classroom an amazing learning environment.

Get involved. When an opportunity comes up to get involved in the school, do it. It doesn’t have to be a weekly commitment, something onerous or time-consuming. Perhaps it’ll mean coming in for a one-off baking session, reading a story to the class at the end of the day, or helping with the school disco. Perhaps it means contributing items for the school fair, running a stall, or buying some prizes.

Meet and pray with other Christians. I say this because we’ve been at this school a year, and I have met zero other Christians. If you know of even one other Christian amongst the parents or the staff, see if you can get together to pray for the school. Even if just once a half term, this will motivate you and encourage you to pray consistently for the school through the intervening weeks. And if, like me, you don’t know of any other Christians in the school, ask God to reveal any who exist, or to bring some to join you!

I’d love to hear your stories of how you’re blessing your school – in these or any other ways!

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she turned 4: on working out what it means to mother a daughter

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It’s become a tradition on this blog to write a little tribute post to my children around the time of their birthdays. It feels such a big deal, somehow, when they’re growing so fast, to celebrate each year with gratitude and amazement at the people they’re becoming. Perhaps, when they’re 18, I’ll give them a little book of all their blog posts, so they can see what they were like, or how I perceived them, at each age.

(It’s also becoming tradition that these birthday blogs mark the return of blogging after an inevitably silent summer. I’m sorry. What can I say? I tried to write, I drafted a few bits and pieces, but in all honesty we were having non-stop summer fun and loveliness, and there was barely enough time to get to the computer, let alone publish something I was proud of. Sorry.)

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Anyway, the girl TURNED FOUR. You read that right. In the blink of an eye – or so it seems – the scrunched-up, dark-haired, screaming newborn has become a confident, intelligent, creative individual. She’s brilliant company, and she drives me up the wall. She’s eccentric and quirky (and sometimes just WEIRD), yet also sensible, thoughtful and kind. She’s all of these things. And in this last year, when her older brother has been at school, and she and I have spent an awful lot more time together, there have been two big questions on my mind. What kind of mother-daughter relationship do I want to build? And how do I raise her to be a strong, secure, content and self-assured woman of God?

The best mother-daughter relationships I know stem from a genuine interest in each other, and hence a delight in spending time together, which is sustained into adulthood. And it doesn’t start at a particular age – in fact, the older a child gets, the harder it is to ‘begin’ this closeness. So, in my relationship with Missy (not her real name, for blog newcomers!) I need to be genuinely interested in all the things that matter to her. At the moment, playing shops or dolls or dressing up as Elsa may seem pretty superficial, but I know that if I ignore her attempts at building a relationship with me now, she’ll stop sharing her life so openly in the future, and I’ll regret it forever. Recently, I’ve tried to make a conscious effort to be more active in our time together – to put my phone in a different room so I’m free from distractions; to save the housework for later; to follow her ideas for how we spend our days. In short: to send the message, loud and clear, that I am here for her, rooting for her, delighted in her.

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And I’ve noticed so much about her: her attention to the teeniest detail (in particular when it comes to buggies – she’s obsessed with all things doll-related, but especially double buggies!); her contentment to just mooch around the house, have a read, help with (her choice of) jobs; the extent of her fascination with babies; the closeness of her relationship with her brother; her fearlessness; her love of singing and music; her growing independence when it comes to being creative, and making things for others. I love spending time with this crazy girl – and since we only have another year before she abandons me for school, I intend to spend it wisely.

The second question I have no easy answers to. All around me I see women struck down with various forms of low self-esteem and confidence. It manifests itself in all sorts of ways: depression, anxiety, panic attacks, eating disorders, alcoholism, workaholism, consumerism/materialism, unhealthy body image and/or over-dependence on beauty products/regimes. What is it about us girls that we struggle to accept who God made us to be? If I’m honest, it makes me fearful for Missy’s future – how will she cope with growing up female, with womanhood, with resisting the unhelpful pressures all around her?

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The simple answer is that I can’t do much about this. My own parenting, much as it’s usually well-considered and thoughtful, is deeply flawed. My own insecurities peep through regularly, as do the parts of my character I would rather my children never saw. Missy will grow up as much wounded by my sin as by her own. There is no way out.

But there is prayer and there is a God who made her and loves her and wants her to blossom into the person He created her to be, fully rooted in Christ, and able to use her unique giftings for his purposes. So, as we celebrate four years of having our beautiful Missy in our lives, I re-dedicate her to her loving Father, trusting that He will hold her tight, and praying for her relationship with Him to flourish as our mother-daughter relationship has done this year.