I watch her from across the room as she giggles with friends. Their heads bent close together, I imagine them dreaming about and discussing which classes they should take. The halls of this school are unfamiliar. It’s a time for visiting, for learning about the curriculum and expectations. She twirls her hair with one finger, a gesture I recognize as nervousness. As she pulls away from her friends and walks toward me I see a young woman. Tall and slender, no trace remains of the chubby toddler I carried on my hip.
She puts her arms around my neck, almost tall enough to look directly into my eyes and says, “Mom, I have a feeling middle school is going to be the best years of my life.” My heart breaks a little, and I can’t bear to think about how contrary that statement is to practically everyone’s memory of middle school. I admire her optimism.
Wasn’t it yesterday that we were taking pictures outside her Kindergarten classroom? I remember we started that morning with a special pancake breakfast. I carefully adjusted her backpack (which seemed huge on her tiny shoulders). I was so brave as I waved goodbye and walked away, but I cried in my car. Elementary school loomed large and long in front of us. This will take a while, I thought. Then I blinked, and it was over.
Here we stand at the start of a new world. I can’t even imagine all it will encompass, but I do know what I hope she carries with her into these years. This is what I want to tell her, what I want her to know for sure:
In the midst of discovering more about who you truly are as a person, negotiating the crazy influx of hormones in your body, and navigating an increased school work experience, there is one thing you can know for certain. I promise you that this family will be your safe place. This is where you can always relax and be yourself no matter what kind of drama, hurt feelings, or disappointments you face during the day at school. We love you fiercely and unconditionally. There are some things you have to figure out in life, but your place in our hearts and lives isn’t one of them. You are completely secure, loved, adored, and safe with us. We are with you and for you and care about you deeply. We want to know what’s going on in your heart and mind, soothe the hurt places, and enjoy all the beautiful characteristics you possess- how lucky we are to have you as our daughter!
Please keep talking to us. I hope the dialogue we enjoy will continue, even if it has to limp a bit. We may not understand exactly what you are facing, but we do understand difficult feelings like fear, anger, jealousy, embarrassment, and disappointment. You have our promise to be a safe place where you can talk about your feelings. We will not brush them off as trivial. If something is important to you, it’s important to us.
We hope you’ll make decisions based on what you know is right and true even in an environment where “following the crowd” and “fitting in” are a powerful driving force. It takes a lot of guts to be a leader, and I know you’ve got what it takes. But I also know you’re going to make mistakes, so let me be clear right now that we know it will happen and it’s okay (we all make them!) We are going to love you through the consequences of your mistakes.
Let your kindness, which is a part of your identity, shine through. Don’t get caught up in trying to be best friends with someone or feel worthless if certain girls choose to leave you out. Friendship isn’t about manipulation. Just be the type of friend you want to have and you’ll find true friends. Not perfect friends; Your feelings will get hurt and you’ll hurt their feelings, too. There will be plenty of opportunities to practice forgiveness.
If you ever feel lonely, please remember that you are never truly alone. You’re growing in independence, as you should be, but that doesn’t mean isolation. We are here and we are your biggest fans. You can always count on us.
When I held your hand as we walked into your Kindergarten classroom so long ago, I couldn’t imagine the young lady you would be today. I know you won’t hold my hand as you walk into middle school, (don’t worry, I wouldn’t embarrass you like that) so I want you to know you’re holding my heart. I am always loving you and wanting the best for you. Always.
If this post resonated with you, read one Mom’s letter to her child as they enter Kindergarten.