The person who wrote this asked if I’d be willing to run this anonymously. Of course, I said yes. The details vary, but much in this post encapsulates my thoughts on this day before my oldest also starts middle school.
To My Daughter On The Night Before You Grow Up….
My darling child,
Yes, I realize you will not actually be a grown up tomorrow.
But what you will be, is on the road to becoming one. The pre-school and elementary school years, although fast, took place in the right lane, and at eleven years long, are the longest part of this growing up thing. But the changes that are about to occur are…well, a little bit staggering.
You were a smiley and cuddly baby, an adorable and curious toddler, and these last 6 years of elementary school, you were a bright, sensitive, caring, talented, funny and beautiful child.
But you are now changing lanes. This is Middle School.
While I realize these years are going to go fast, what gets me is that you are now getting on the road to truly becoming an adult. You are about to look at the world through different eyes and the world is going to see you in a different light.
I see it as a highway of youth with each lane representing a stage–this middle lane being the remainder of your years living under my roof. When you change lanes again, it will be for college, and that lane lasts just four years and moves at lightning speed. But the changes that occur from eighteen to twenty-two will not be as extreme as the changes that are going to occur between now and high school graduation. So this is it, you are about to grow up. And you are about to do it fast.
I will never forget the lump in my throat on your first day of Kindergarten. You were never a child who had difficulty separating or starting something new. You were thrilled to be in a new classroom, in a new school, and with new faces. I, on the other hand felt like I was leaving my sweet innocent child alone in the wild. As I kissed you good-bye and walked out of your classroom and into the school hallway and then out the front door, I was flooded with the reality that in a blink of an eye the year would be over and in a few more blinks you would be graduating the fifth grade. And what really got me was the knowledge of what would happen in those blinks…the social development, the intellectual advances, the emotional growth, and all beginning in Kindergarten.
Elementary school was an incredible six years and the change from being just out of toddlerhood to being a tween is pretty astounding.
You may not be aware of this now, but you are changing lanes. And this one is going to be a little bit faster.
All these massive transformations are going to happen…your brain, your body, your want for friends over family, your sense of self, your interests, your crushes will stop being innocent and you will become less innocent, or at least less naïve to the perils of the world.
As this road lies ahead of you, and of me, I keep hearing the same sage advice from so many parents….BUCKLE UP.
So, my darling daughter, I thought I’d give you some of my own advice on the night before you start growing up:
- Stay kind. I can go on and on about how you have re-defined to me what it means to be a good person. You are really one of a kind. Not a bad bone in that that body of yours. You are all heart and soul. And it makes me cringe to think of you entering a building where the meanest of mean can live. I worry you will get eaten up in there. But I also worry that middle school will harden you. So, please stay kind. Continue to stand up for people and things you believe in. It always make me proud how aware you are of the feelings of people around you. Whether someone may not feel comfortable or included or someone needs an upstander, you have been there. This is tough to do, especially in middle school. Stay kind but also stay aware.
- See those “popular” girls over there. The ones that are really pretty and always look like they are sharing the most interesting, classified information with each other. And their laughter and fun seem to be everywhere. Yes, them. Look away. Walk away. While some of these girls will be great people, some are not. And many will likely have a strong need to be included and recognized by the “it girls.” This is so normal and natural but please don’t be that girl. What can happen to nice girls is they can do not nice things or unintentionally put friends on the backburner when a queen bee comes a buzzing. This can happen in small ways that are subtle or big ones that are cruel and obvious. And the process, whether big or small, can be excruciating for all involved. So my advice…find kids whose only agenda in being your friend is….being your friend. Stay real and be with people that you can be yourself with. Know that having silly, crazy fun with your friends is not a show for others, or a ladder to get somewhere else.
- Write neater. You are going to have to step up your game here. School has always come easy for you and you have pretty much coasted through the elementary years. Not so anymore. You are going to have to study. And go that extra mile. And write neater.
- Put down your phone. I truly feel badly for anyone born after 1996 who didn’t get to have a phone-free, insta-free, snap-free, group text-free, selfie-free adolescence. And I totally get why your phone is in your hand. I like my phone too, looking at Facebook and texting my friends. But I also know when to leave my phone off and away, and cease my virtual connection to the world outside. And I also know how to navigate and process this cyber-life, not only with little energy but also with thick skin. You’ll get there someday, but for now please just know when it’s time to put down your phone.
- Don’t follow every single rule. Be safe, ethical and moral, but, seriously, break a rule or two. Find a rule and a time it’s ok to break it and begin to let your wild side breathe.
- Know yourself and be yourself. Next to being kind-hearted and compassionate, the most important thing to me, as your mom, is that you are comfortable in your own skin. Have confidence, and know and feel your beauty. You are like a piece of a jigsaw puzzle, one that fits into other peoples’ pieces at different times. Each side or groove of everyone’s piece is a different personality trait and whether you are eating lunch with someone, doing a science project with a classmate, or having a sleepover with your best friend, you are fitting into their piece. And when fitting into another person’s piece, depending on the side or quality of that piece, it can bring out that same quality in you. This happens with adults too. That’s why different friends can elicit different parts of our personality. This can be great. But it can also stifle your character. Make sure you don’t cover up your personality. If, for example, you are hanging out with someone who is making fun of someone else, don’t laugh, and let your compassionate side show. Be yourself. Always. Be caring. Be funny. Be smart. Be special. Be thoughtful. Be kooky. Be beautiful. Be lovable. And walk toward your talents and strengths. Actually, run. You are not yet aware of what you are capable of and you have no idea what an extraordinary person you already are at eleven years old. My respect for you is huge and my love for you is so enormous, it hurts.
I promise you that the energy you would expend to fit into a different mold to be recognized or accepted is much more damaging then the feeling of simply not being seen.
And this I promise you, my darling daughter, that even though you may not become an “it” girl or feel “cool” during the next three years or even the following four of High School, I promise you, you will feel every bit of “cool” the next time you switch lanes.
So, my sweet and darling daughter, good luck tomorrow growing up.