Monday, August 25, 2014

Back To School Bravery

Inspired by Glennon of Momastery (as I so often am), I was moved to write Maggie a letter on the occasion of her first day of Kindergarten. Glennon's letter is beautiful, but I sense her son is a very different person than my daughter, and rather than borrow her letter entirely (as she offered to her readers), I decided to borrow bits and pieces but mostly write my own.

I worked on it off and on the last few days, and then last night after baths and books, I realized I'd never really finished and here was the night before school right upon me. So I rushed upstairs to grab my laptop only to be told, "I don't want you to read the letter, Mama."

So, I didn't. Instead, we talked (and cried) through her sudden realization that Mama and Daddy would not be coming with her on the bus in the morning or accompanying her to her classroom for the day. We talked about how good it is for her to tell us when she's sad and nervous, and we made a plan. But it twists a mama's heart to realize she can't fix the situation; she can only suggest tools for dealing with disappointment and anxiety. And the message I find myself repeating on a regular basis, "You can't be brave if you're not scared first. Brave means being scared and doing the hard thing anyway."

So, since she refused to listen to it, I'll post my letter here. And try again next year.

Maggie,

Tomorrow you start Kindergarten. Tomorrow is the first day of thirteen years of school, the beginning of a grand endeavor.

You are our superbrave girl. In your five years we have watched you learn to do difficult things, things that were scary, that you did not believe you could do. But you have! You climb high on the playground; you talk politely to people you don’t know well; you are developing the skills you need to become someone who “can read the words, not just look at the pictures.”

Learning is exciting. “The world is so full of a number of things,” and school will provide an introduction to so many of them. Sometimes you’ll find it’s easy to learn. School will help you discover your strongest talents, and your work on those talents will always make us proud.

Going to school will also mean you have to do hard things. Everyone finds school hard sometimes. For some people reading is hard; for others, it’s math. Some people don’t like sports, or music, or art, and others find it very difficult to pay attention. When learning is hard, it is important to ask for help. From classmates, or teachers, or us. The bravest people ask for help when they need it, and we know you are brave.

You know what else brave people do? They watch out for others who are finding school hard and help out. Kids who need help might be crying, or alone, or looking like “uncooked spaghetti.” It takes lot of courage, but talking to or playing with a person who needs help is one of the bravest things you can do. Sometimes you can’t help the person by yourself, and you need to tell a teacher. That is not tattling; that is being brave and kind. Especially when no one else is helping.

Every single person in this world struggles at times, and every single person in this world can make a difference through kindness. What we hope for you is that you use your courage to be kind. To yourself and others. Ask for help when you need it, and help others in turn. You can make the world a better place.

We love you to pieces, Sweet Muffin. When you get on the bus tomorrow morning, our hearts will be bursting with pride. You are our WonderGirl! And when the bus brings you home in the afternoon, Mama will be waiting.  

Love,

Mama and Daddy

16 comments :

  1. What a lovely gift for Maggie. Some day she will be reading it to her own children... really sweet! So, how did first day go????

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    1. Damnit Zoe - EIGHT MINUTES TOO LATE FOR FRIST! WHY did your comment not show up :p

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    2. Zoe is prompt, she is.
      I think it went pretty well. The most feedback I got was when I suggested the fire drill she described was exciting. Meltdown city. It was NOT exciting! According to her teacher, balloons, books, and presents are exciting, and absolutely nothing else. I wish I knew what exactly her teacher said that led Maggie to think there are only three exciting things in this world. I think that may be the saddest part of this transition. I know so little about her day now. When she asked me to review the day with her (as we often do at bedtime), I realized I really couldn't help much!

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  2. Awwwwhhhhh this is beautiful. And I smiled BIG at 'uncooked spaghetti'.

    Maggie's a darling and you're amazing and I hope it all went well x

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  3. OMG BAWLING. We have one more week. And I want it to go so so so slowly. This is a beautiful, beautiful, beautiful letter. I don't blame her for not wanting to hear it because she IS brave. I love, too, that you told her that helping other kids who may be having a hard time is important, too. Sigh. Our babies. OUR BABIES!!! Omg. Please, tell me that she loved it?

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    1. Yeah, that's the part I got from Glennon, but I wonder if I'm asking too much. I'm most worried that she won't advocate for herself, but I thought I'd throw that in anyway. How long will I feel this wrench in the mornings and at night when I can't "review the day" with her (because I don't know what happened!)?

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  4. What a beautiful letter...our kids have one more week, I like to copy you and write a letter to Miss Amelia - she can use words of encouragement. Good luck hope it went well! :)

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  5. Ah, Sarah - we are in the same head space this week. Your letter is beautiful, and I would want to say many of the same things to my children even 8 and 11 (!) years after kindergarten. My favorite part of the day is still the moments when my kids walk in the door after school. I hope day one was a good one, and all the days after that.

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    1. I do hope this is a letter I can tweak and reuse over the years. If she ever is willing to listen to it. :)

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  6. Whether Maggie wants you to read her the letter now or not, it will still be something you and she will treasure for long after she passes through this milestone. I promise.
    When Zilla was in baby daycare, we got a paper that told us every move she made - when she ate, slept, cried, pooped, whatever. It was helpful for parents who had to be at work and away from her. As she moved into various rooms each year, our daily reports were much less specific and only included the highlights. And then there's this last year where the bulk of our feedback from teacher was only when something went wrong, never positive (but that's another whole story). The point here is that it's so hard not to know every second of their day and rely on someone else to fill it in, whether the child or the teacher, but you'll know the things you need to know. Somehow that all works out. I am often frustrated that Zilla doesn't give me the excruciating detail I might want some days, but she knows I am here, that I want to know, and that she can tell me anything. That's important now and far down the line.
    You will all do a great job of facing this year, I know it! I hope all goes well! XOXOXO

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    1. Yeah, I'm going to hold on to it and mess with it over the years. And write one for Leo one day, too. So far, we got a green report from yesterday, not yellow or red, so that's good.

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  7. What a touching letter to Maggie! She is, indeed, a brave girl. I love your definition that you have to be scared first to be brave. Beautiful writing and beautiful message, Sarah! I hope her first day was positive!

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  8. Oh Sarah, such a beautiful letter. I'm definitely going to follow your example and write a letter to my little one when she starts kindy. I think one of the wonderful things about blogging is that years down the track our kids will be able to read what we were feeling towards them when they were little. I also love your definition of brave.

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    1. Yes, I wonder sometimes about how much I share, and if they'll resent me for that. But there's also the good stuff and the peek into my mind and heart at the time.

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