Dear nervous-to-send-her-child-to-school-for-the-first-time mom,
I love how much you love your daughter. How you made sure that everything was just right for her first day of school. The bookbag and matching lunch box are adorable, as are the hairbow and cute socks.
I’ll go ahead and give you a heads up that the first day of school is going to take on a lot of different looks over the years. The outfit she chooses for that special day may or may not be your favorite. And that sweet way she poses for a first-day-of-school picture on the front porch? Enjoy that while you can.
And while you think this first day of saying goodbye is hard – and it is – just wait until she’s the one getting into the driver’s seat and backing out of the driveway on that first day. You’ll pray the whole time she’s driving, until you get that text letting you know she made it there safely. Just like she made it through that first day of school, she’ll make it through this. She’s going to be just fine.
Enjoy all of the firsts this year! Exclaim over all the papers she brings home at the end of the day…because you know what you won’t see in high school? Papers sent home from school. Not unless you’re willing to brave the depths of her bookbag for yourself.
Every morning pack those snacks and lunches with care and sweet notes. Know that lunch will take many forms as the years progress, but never give up on writing those notes.
Drink in the after-school chatter in the car. Learn the names of her friends and classmates. And keep on being interested in those friends and classmates because come middle school and high school, they become a huge part of her world – and yours, if you’re lucky.
In the long run, you’ll never regret a minute you spend at the ball field or the gym watching her play a sport or in the auditorium listening to her perform. Be there and support her whether she’s on the bench the whole game or is a silent tree in the school play. These will turn into some of the best memories you’ll relive together.
I can’t say you’ll ever fully embrace field trips. But just hold on and be grateful when you can follow the bus in your own car. Bouncing along on a bus full of second graders where the volume level matches that of a roaring jet engine reminds you that you’re not so young anymore. And know that once she’s out of elementary school, you’re basically excluded from field trips and class parties. Celebrate quietly.
And another thing to celebrate? That point when you sense that you’re no longer required to stay up half the night finishing a science project. Hopefully, that hits around middle school, too, and that one you’re actually allowed to celebrate loudly.
And one more thing…those cute cupcakes you once lovingly decorated for the fundraiser bake sales? By senior year, you’ll be grabbing a plastic carton of whatever-holiday-is-next iced sugar cookies at the grocery store the night before and calling it good.
There will be teachers throughout the years who are true heroes. They will love your girl and educate her well and teach her important life lessons along with academic ones. And there are teachers who will help your child learn that some personalities aren’t our favorites, but we can still make the best of the situation and respect their authority while we’re in their classroom.
While school and homework and extracurricular activities will take up lots of time, keep your family a priority. Eat meals together. Play games. Take walks. Read books. Give your girl a sense of belonging. Right now, you’re pretty much the only option. But at that point in life when you’re not, you still want her to choose (at least some of the time) to be with you.
Make time for God. Keep going to church. It’s good to have family devotions. But also make conversation about spiritual things a natural part of your day. Pray with her consistently. Keep reading those Bible storybooks at bedtime for as many years as you can get away with it.
Pray for her. Every day. You aren’t there in that locker room with her when she’s tempted to do wrong, but God is. Teach her that character is more important than good grades…but do your best in your classes, too.
And finally, don’t be stingy with your heart. Give, and give, then give some more. Some days – those middle school and high school days when she’s trying to figure out who she is and she’s not sure that she likes herself or you – give even more. And when the drama flies through those high school years, be the adult. Start practicing now discerning when something needs to be said and when you should just keep quiet. And when it needs to be said? Timing is everything.
Before you know it she’ll be rolling out of bed – either early so she can see her friends before school or just in time to beat the tardy bell, depending on her personality – and it will be her very. last. day. of. school. Ever. And you’ll wonder where the time has gone.
And yet you’ll know. You’ll see that the ponytailed, bright-eyed smiling five-year-old girl has become a confident eighteen-year-old young woman. And when that last morning comes, you’ll paste on a smile for her though inside it’s hitting you that things will never be the same. And you want to be able to say you’ve loved her well through it all. You’ll be feeling proud and sad and that emotion that can only be labeled as bittersweet.
So take on the challenge, much-younger version of me. Some days will be really hard. But the good ones will far outweigh the bad. Cheer your sweet girl on and, when she needs it, cheer her up. Tell her you love her every day. Be grateful for all the memories you’re making together. And when these school years are all over, know that even better days are ahead.
At least that’s what I’m told. I’ll have to get back to you on that one.
- A Letter to My Teenage Daughter: Hold Onto Your Heart
- A Letter to My Teenage Daughter: God Made You Special
- A Letter to My Teenage Daughter: I Think One Day You’ll Understand