As my girl's fifth grade culmination rapidly approaches, there are lots of feelings in this house about it. She told me yesterday that she is beginning to get sad about saying goodbye to elementary school. This has been her home away from home, longer than any has been to or will be again. It's the end of a sweet chapter and the beginning of new adventure ahead. I am also sad, happy, proud and terrified all at the same time.
In wanting to remain positive and excited for her, I will be there at her promotion with smiles, hugs and a card with lovely words of praise. However, this is the letter I really want to give her, but have decided can wait just a bit until I let her read it:
Dear Sweet Girl,
Congratulations on finishing fifth grade. You have come so far and I am so very proud of you. I love watching you navigate academics, friends, and fun during your years in elementary school. You have been so successful, and have participated in so many wonderful opportunities through these years. You put yourself out there for the Spelling Bee and for Student council President, and even though these two things made you afraid, you tried your best. When these things didn't go your way you took the losses in stride. You have also accomplished so much, from winning art contests, writing contests, being part of student council for three years, to singing in the choir and performing all through school. I love watching you grow, and I love seeing how happy you have been at school.
You also had hard days at school. Days when you cried when I tried to say goodbye to you in the morning. With each year you attended school, you got more and more comfortable, but back in Kindergarten you had a hard time saying goodbye through April. In first grade it took you until Thanksgiving to say goodbye without tears and in second grade, it only took until Halloween. Some days you would cry when you got home from school, because of issues or misunderstandings with friends. Sometimes you would get sad if you didn't do well on a math test, or on the rare occasion that you forgot something important at home. Overall, you have been so happy at school, and it has been so wonderful watching your confidence and spirit soar high.
I love you so much, so I feel the need to explain that this may feel like its all about to change. I will do everything humanly possible to keep your confidence high, but it is not all up to me sweet girl. Middle school can be rough. You will see things, hear things, and experience things that you haven't before. You will be curious when all your friends ask you to join them in trying new things. It will feel exciting, and thrilling to break the rules once in a while. I will not get angry if you do, but please listen to that voice inside you that will scream to you if something doesn't seem right, when something (or someone) doesn't feel right. You may not always want to come talk to me, you don't have to, but please talk to someone you can trust who is older and wiser than your friends.
You will be part of a much larger group of students next year. You will make new friends and have new opportunities. You might feel for the first time that school work is challenging and it might overwhelm you. Its okay to not get great grades, its okay for you to fail a test, its okay to feel like its too hard. Its not okay for you to give up though. You have to ask for help before it gets to hard, and there will be so many people you can ask. Please do not think this makes you look like you're not doing well, because if you're asking for help, you're doing great. Students around you may make school work look easy, please do not waste too much time comparing yourself to others. Its human nature, but we really all learn things at different paces. You will get there.
Friends that you know and love now may change over the summer. You may change over the summer. Physically and emotionally, you will see changes all around you. Kids can be mean, and they might be mean to you. I will never tell you to ignore them, because it isn't possible. People will hurt you in your life and that pain might be deeper than any pain you felt before. You may not understand why, and they may not understand why either. Surround yourself with people who take care of your heart and fill you up. You can always come to me and say you need a hug. If you don't want to talk about anything you don't have to, but please let me hold you when you need. No questions asked if you don't want. You have my word.
With all these people you meet, you will likely have a crush on one or two of them. Please don't show them all your cards. Be discreet because you may change your mind and you don't need everyone you are crushing on to know you like them. Be yourself around them. Giggling, and talking really loudly around them isn't being yourself. Keep your feet on the ground, take a deep breath and try to think about what you're going to say before you say it. People are attracted to calm, articulate people. You are very articulate when you are calm. You do not need to ask or tell me anything when you want to kiss someone for the first time. Just keep in mind that it is very different from what you see on T.V. Both people kissing need to participate and it may involve
using your tongue. If you don't move your tongue around, the other person might just stick their tongue in your mouth, resulting in you gagging. I know from experience that this could make a nice experience not so nice the first time, and it may take you a while to get it right. Do not do anything if you don't feel ready to. Not everything is comfortable the first time, but it is a lot more comfortable with someone you trust. You are not missing out if you walk away from an experience if it doesn't feel right. You are the first person you need to protect at all times. Listen to that big voice inside you again, and if isn't loud enough, take a moment to yourself so you can hear it. Its called your instinct, and its never wrong.
Next year you will come to me and ask me for new things. You will want a phone, a new pair of shoes, and a cool backpack and other things that a lot of kids around you have. I will not get you all of those things. I can't afford to and you will not need them all. Please do not beg me for them. If you really want something, I will help you figure out a way to make enough money to buy them for yourself. Having those things will not make you happier. Having things can sometimes make you feel more included, but if you can't have what everyone else does, you will survive. If someone doesn't make you feel included because you do not have what they have, then they are not a good friend. There will always be people around you that have more than you. There will also always be people who have less. Be aware of our differences and then look past those differences and find the good in your friends.
When you were a baby, I went on a hike with you in a pouch strapped to me. I saw a friend and told her that I loved having you as a little friend to hike with. She warned me to never think of you as my friend, and that my role to you is your mother. I agree that I will always be your mother, but I will also always be here as your friend. I am quite skilled at wearing different hats. I can wear one or two hats at a time. I will have times where I have to choose one, but if you really need me, I can wear the one you need. When people hurt you, it may change you, but when people love you it may also change you. You changed me and opened my heart in a way I didn't know possible. I love that it was you who made me a mother. I am so lucky to get to be on this adventure with you. Please do not grow up too fast! You only get one go around with childhood, so please take your time. Sweetness, here's to you! Well done! Take my hand and I will let it go whenever you want. You're going to be amazing. You already are.