Monday, August 3, 2015

To My Son On the First Day of School

To My Dearest Little One,

Well, you're not so little anymore. You're a fourth grader this week! How did that happen? And how did it happen so quickly?! And how did this summer fly by so fast? We had a blast together this summer. We went to Disney. We hung out at the pool. We saw movies. We went to the library. We watched TV. We played with the water hose. We had a water fight washing dishes. We had sleepovers with your pals. We baked a lot of pies together. Looking back, I enjoyed all the moments with you. In every light. I enjoyed your loudness. Your funniness. Your friends. Your uncanny ability to wake me up 20 minutes before my alarm is set to go off.

It seems like just yesterday we were bringing you home from the hospital. All 4 pounds of you.

And then we sent you off to Kindergarten.

And look at you now!

LITERALLY. CAN'T. DEAL. You're so big! And so cute! {Wait--you set me straight on this last week. Being cute is apparently for little kids now.} You're handsome!

I will miss having so much time with you every day, but you're on your way to learning and growing this school year. And I pray for the teacher that will walk you through this process during each school day.

I remember what each year of returning to school was like for me. It was equal parts dread and excitement. I was dreading doing homework, but I was excited to see my friends I had missed all summer. I was dreading the possibility that my new teacher would be a mean one, but I was excited at the possibility that he/she may be an excellent one. I was dreading waking up so early, but I was excited about showing off my back to school outfit. {OK, you may not be excited about that last one, because as it turns out, boys don't give two hoots about what they wear--EVER.}

But with school starting, I want you to know a few things that are on my heart for you on your first day back this year:

  • EDUCATION IS A PRIVILEGE! You live in a nation that gives you a quality education for FREE. This is a huge blessing. Most children in the world do not have this privilege. In fact, a Pakistani girl was shot for pursuing and advocating for education. There are literally millions of children who can't afford education. Or they are denied education due to their religion, race, gender, or any number of disqualifying factors. You qualify for an education just because you live in America. So remember that when things get boring or you don't feel motivated to try. Make the most of it. Give it your all. 
  • RESPECT YOUR TEACHERS! They work so hard to educate you. They give you their time, energy, and pieces of their heart. They face uphill battles of bureaucracy and increasing pressure to perform and juggle more. They work so hard to impart knowledge. Teachers have continued to protect their students with their own lives. They do all this for exceedingly low pay. Please not only respect them, but APPRECIATE them. And encourage your friends to do the same. 
  • BE NICE! Not just to your teachers, but to every kid. No one wants to be friends with the mean one, so you're only helping yourself out by being kind to others. Don't stop at polite. Look for opportunities to be kind. If there's a kid on crutches, offer to carry their lunch tray. If there's a kid who is upset, ask them what's wrong. Don't let anyone sit or play alone. And remember, if someone is rude to you, two rudes don't make a nice. If there's a kid that seems weird or different to everyone else, act intrigued instead of repulsed. If they have a different skin color than you, if they have a different accent, if they eat weird foods, or even if they carry a Buzz Lightyear backpack and that is SOOO FIRST GRADE, appreciate those things that make that kid different. Remember: God wouldn't have made us all so different if he wanted us to be the same.
  • BE HONEST! Don't lie or cheat. Pretty please? You'll only be cheating yourself. Once you have a reputation for being a liar, people won't take you as seriously. It breaks trust with your friends and with your teacher. If you're cheating, you're only cheating yourself out of the privilege of education. 
  • YOU'VE GOT TO KNOW WHEN TO HOLD 'EM. Know when to fold 'em. Know when to walk away. Know when to run. Is that song a little eons before your time? That's OK. It's before mine too. Basically, you need to know when to take a stand and when to walk away. Learn the difference between what is worth battling and what's not. Kids being mean to you may make you upset. And you may want to lash out. It's better to walk away & cool down unless your safety is being threatened. In which case you may want to discreetly talk to your teacher or your parents about it. If you see a kid being ganged up on, singled out, and bullied. I pray that's a moment where you take a stand to extend kindness to them. Don't waste your energy being mean to a bully. But don't just be like the rest of the herd. You could literally change a bullied kid's outlook by extending kindness and friendship to them. Make sure that you walk away from tearing people down and walk towards building people up.
  • SLAY THE DRAGON FIRST! Don't settle for only accomplishing what you want to and skipping what you don't. Do the things you don't want to do first. Get them over with. Then move on to the things you love to do. Why would you want to be doing your favorite things while dreading the things you don't want to do? You won't be able to go get your passions fully if you've got anxiety about the rest of your to do list. If you commit to slaying that dragon first, you'll have more room for joy and pride in yourself. The world is your oyster, baby. Go slay it!
  • SEE THE GOOD! Focus on the best parts of your day, not the worst. Count your blessings, not your burdens. You'll be happier and better for it. There are studies that back this up.
  • BE THE GOOD! Be the type that sees a need and fills it. See some trash on the floor? Pick it up.  If a kid is bummed out, make them smile. The kid who always gets picked last for kickball? Please pick them first. 
  • TALK TO YOUR PARENTS! We miss you so much every day. When we ask how your day was, please don't respond with an eye roll. We're interested in what you're learning, who you met, what made you laugh, what made you frustrated, what made you embarrassed, and what you need help with. We want to know what's going on with you, and there's NOTHING you can't say to us. Never be scared to tell us anything. That's what we're here for! We can't fix it all for you, but we can certainly help you through whatever you're facing. We want to celebrate the best stuff with you and we want to help you through the tough stuff. And for my end of our relationship, I promise I'll do my best not to embarrass you by hugging or kissing you too much in public. {But I won't be perfect at it! I just love you and I want to squeeze you! I'm trying, this is my promise to you!}
  • TALK TO GOD! He's always there to listen to you, even when we're not. Start every day by declaring your trust in Him. Ask Him for wisdom and strength. Praise Him with gratitude in the moments that are great. When you're overcome with worry or fear, pray for yourself, but also for someone else. Hopefully, in gaining peace for yourself, you'll find a way to be an answer to someone else's prayers or worries.
I love you kiddo. You've got this! 


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