Even at five, our little man has been the recipient of many letters. The first was written before he was born and included things I wanted him to know about how much he was loved from the moment we knew he was coming into our lives. Then there was the one of thanks from our Bo-Bo Fairy, given to him when he was ready to give up his pacifier (Bo-Bo). It was time to have our Bo-Bo Fairy take it to a new baby who needed it, and she felt he needed to be congratulated. Since then, letters from us on birthdays and from Santa at Christmas have become traditions in our family. These letters hold words of love and the recognition of milestones that have been met along the way. Little Man looks forward to these letters now. In fact, this past Christmas, truly understanding what an undertaking it is to deliver toys to deserving boys and girls all over the world, he was concerned that Santa might not have time to write a letter since he was so busy. I felt pretty confident that Santa would come through.
It has become easy to see, that even at a young age when his daddy and I still need to help him read these letters, the written words have had a great affect on him. He knows we are proud. He knows his actions are appreciated. He knows he is loved. As his mother, I know how important all of this is. That being said, I'm also a middle school teacher. After fourteen years with tweens and newly-turned teens, I've seen a lot. In fact, I've often told my students that they are the subject of a book I've been writing. The working title is The Things I Never Thought I Would Have to Say, But Do In Middle School. They think I'm so funny! I'm not kidding.
As my little scholar begins his future in public school this week, I feel another letter needs to be written. This one, however, will not be filled with the warm fuzzies of the others. This one has a need for practicality and a degree of bluntness that will allow some very important advice - not only for Kindergarten, but for life as he goes through school - to be gleaned. It will include the following pieces of advice that, as his mother and a teacher, I know he needs to be made aware of and will help him to be successful:
1) Don't feel the need to be perfect. No one is.
2) Not everything is going to be easy. Whether it's learning to read, tackling math facts or climbing the rope in P.E. - just keep trying.
3) Please use a tissue. Please do not use your hand, your sleeve or the paper you are giving to your friend or teacher.
4) You will come across bullies. It will happen...and most likely it will be when an adult isn't right there to help. I know this can be scary, but I don't want you to be an audience to this. Don't just let it happen. You don't have to say a thing to the bully. In fact, I wish that you wouldn't. He or she probably won't hear what you are saying anyway. The person being bullied, however, will be straining to hear ANY kindness in that moment. Be THAT voice. Be his or her friend. Will you be best friends from that moment on? Maybe not, but your kindness will be remembered - and on a day when you need it - maybe it will be returned.
5) Use your manners. A simple "please" and "thank you" make more of an impression than you think.
6) Please revisit #3. Seriously.
7) If someone asks you to do something that you know is wrong - whether it is unkind or unsafe - say, "No." If you feel you need a reason, use me. I'm happy to be the "mean mom" if it gets you out of an uncomfortable situation.
8) School is not a race. You do not need to be the first person finished to show how smart you are. Take your time and do things well. Take the time to show what you know.
9) Part of growing up is realizing that you may not choose to be friends with everyone with whom you have to work. From peers to adults, I know it can be difficult to work with people when you don't see things in the same way. Yet, you need to be respectful and willing to work together when necessary. Your future teachers and employers will find much value in this skill.
10) Mommy and Daddy have spent a small fortune on school supplies. Please keep them out of your mouth. Nothing is more gross than chewed up pens, pencils and marker caps that are covered in spit. Nothing except...well, once again, please see #3.
That's all I have. If you can think of any gems along the lines of "If I knew then what I know now...," it would be fun to see them in the comments below. Feel free to add!