“How was school?” I ask my children while they devour an afternoon snack. The girls’ words tumble over each other as they excitedly share every detail from the first day.
The oldest hardly takes a breath as the memories of the day pour out. “I have a Christian teacher. I made a new friend. She’s really nice, and we talked during recess. We have spelling homework every night on the computer. Mom, I have to use the computer. We change classes. We did a great science experiment today with an egg and bottle.”
Finding a tiny opening, my youngest one jumps in. “My teacher is really nice. I can’t really say her name. There aren’t any girls from my class last year, but I’ll make new friends. We had a huge math packet today. I think maybe fifty pages. We have gym on Thursdays. I need to wear my tennis shoes.”
“Can I buy lunch this week?” the oldest interrupts. “You have to punch in a code. You can just tell them your name if you forget.”
The little one with the pink shirt and matching pink earrings continues. “I think my teacher is a Christian. She’s so nice. I played on the big playground today. I ate all my lunch. Can you give me more tomorrow?”
“Mom, listen what happened”, the oldest who doesn’t really wear pink anymore breaks back in. “The teacher asked what we did this summer. I said, ‘We went on a mission trip to the Appalachian Mountains to tell them about the good news of Jesus’ love.’ That’s what we did.”
Without saying a word, my son holds up a small plastic bag containing tiny objects.
“What are those?” I ask.
“Shark teeth,” he says with a smile. They’re in piles of sand near the playground.”
“Wow, those are great. When did you find them?”
“The boys looked for them during recess. Can I have some milk? I’m going outside to kick the soccer ball.”
Running out the door my son leaves the only clue about his first day of school. Shark teeth. I don’t know anything about his teacher. There weren’t any words about friends or lunch or gym.
Every afternoon for the next few days the girls jump off the bus telling stories filled with new friends, teachers, and funny experiences.
My son meets me with a hug, a smile, “It was great”, and more shark teeth. He proudly shows me the big ones, black ones, and white shiny ones. “Look at how sharp they are. Here let me show you.”
“Ouch! That’s sharp! They’re really amazing. It’s great that you and the other guys can find these.”
“Can I have a snack? I’m hungry. I’m going outside.”
Watching my children play in the backyard I’m mesmerized by their laugher. For one year they’re in the same school with shared experiences. There’s comfort for each of them in knowing that somewhere under the same roof their siblings are there.
I know my girls’ hearts, they wear them where I can see, touch, and feel them. The words come easily, flowing out anywhere we are. My tough boy doesn’t sit and chat. He’s running, doing with so much inside.
“Why don’t we go to the school playground?” I suggest on Sunday afternoon. All the kids yell, “Yeah, we can show you what we do at recess!”
My son grabs a small plastic bag out of the kitchen drawer. “I’m going to look for shark teeth.”
The girls run to the playground equipment. “Look, Mom. Watch me do a flip!” The other calls, “Can you believe how high I can swing?”
My son walks straight to a pile of sand, rocks, shells, and somewhere in the mix, shark teeth. Someone must have envisioned little boys exploring here, in a place far away from the ocean. Bending down with his face almost touching the ground he meticulously digs.
I join him on the pile. “How do you find the shark teeth? I ask. “You just have to dig, and then you will find them. They’re in here, but you just have to look.”
My husband calls across the playground, “I’m taking the girls on the nature hike.” “Ok, I’m staying here to look for shark teeth,” I respond.
My son, still a boy but growing so tall and strong, digs next to me. My fingers comb the ground and ask, “So how do you like the boys in your class?” His eyes focused, fingers digging, the words pour out. “I like them. I’m making new friends every day. Maybe next week we can play soccer at recess.”
“How’s your teacher?” “She’s nice. I hope I learn a lot this year. Do you know we’re going to have computer lab, science lab, music. My music teacher is really funny. Look! I found a shark’s tooth.”
Minutes pass, maybe even an hour. He’s still talking and digging. Showing me shark teeth and opening his heart. We’re talking, searching, my son and I, on a patch of ground where buried treasure lies. He talks unashamed with face bent to the earth. It’s much more than a hunt for shark teeth.
He’s not like my girls who will one day drink coffee with friends and reveal their deepest secrets. He’s a boy, tough on the outside, and yet so tender on the inside. With busy hands, his heart opens.
He’s a boy who will one day be a man, a champion for God. He carries within him the potential to make a great impact for Christ and His kingdom. He may one day tell of Jesus’ love before he plays a soccer game. Perhaps he will boldly stand for Christ in business. He even talks about being a missionary.
God gave me a son, so different than me. My husband can show him how to be a man, and talk to him about God’s purpose in being a man.
I’m his mom. The Creator placed him in my arms for me to love, encourage, and train to be a man one day. He was never created to be like me. God wants me to relentlessly seek to understand who He made my son to be.
I’ll throw the football. I will gladly spend hours on the soccer sidelines cheering. I will sit in silence when he just wants to be with me. I’ll read the Bible when God gives me something to share. Quietly I will dig for shark teeth.
I will follow the paths to my son’s heart. Doing, accepting, loving.
Copyright © 2012 words and photographs Jane Carole Stein