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To My Daughter on Her First Day of School

Dear Bun,

Four short years ago you were cozily lodged against my ribs. You would kick like mad, long pushes and short jabs, and I think I knew then that you would be a spark, a bright flame dancing through life. I should have known how fast you would dance, how quickly the years would go.

“Does she ever put her head down on your shoulder and just rest?” the doctor asked me once when you were a baby.

“No, never,” I said.

A look of mild concern flashed across her face, but I wasn’t worried. I knew you were too busy seeing the world, too busy even to sleep at night for more than a couple hours at a time.

You have always been a keen observer, a quick wit, rambunctious, insatiable. Your hungry eyes eat up the world. Your growing mind digests it. More you say.

More reading, more running, more laughing, more joking, more stomping, and gliding and leaping and dancing and singing.

More.

I can’t keep up.

You are not like me.

I am careful, deliberate, steady. Always have been. Always will be, I fear. You race along, three paces ahead. I tell you to slow down, take your time, have patience. These are important things, to be sure. They will come with time, I think. But for now you sprint through your days, and your restless nights. Quicksilver.

It’s your first day of school.

I look into your eyes, your blue-violet eyes, as you squeeze my legs. I watch as your little blonde head navigates the classroom. So strange, that hair, those eyes. The sun, the sky. So unlike my sensible brown. Some fluke of genetics. But they suit you. Light and lively.

This is a good place for you. This is a place that sees your energy, your enthusiasm, your verve, and is pleased. They will not tame it.

Never tame it. Promise me. It’s too important.

There will be people who try. They will see your spark and try to snuff it out. Don’t let them. There will be people who tell you to sit down and shut up. Don’t listen. There will be people who try to steal your joy. Hold onto it tight.

But here you are safe. It’s a good place filled with art, music, language, numbers. There is even a great wood to run through with tall trees and soft earth. Just remember to slow down every once in awhile. I know you don’t want to, but you’re so talented. Sometimes it’s okay to take your time and let your talent shine.

This is a lot to remember for a young one, but there is just one more thing, and it’s the most important.

Be kind.

Your words and actions matter.

In school you will be tested. There are tests for facts and knowledge of course, and you’ll take plenty of those. But you will be tested as a person too. Generosity, empathy, courageousness. These are big words but they are the result of small, thoughtful actions, repeated over and over. Kindness is a habit. Practice it.

You are still little, but everyday you need me less. This makes me happy and incredibly sad at the same time. I can barely lift you now. I will carry you until my arms give out, but you spend most of your time on your own two feet. Independent, confident.

Today you’ve already forgotten about me as you flit from one corner of the classroom to the other with your lilting, tiptoe walk.

I don’t cry. This is where you need to be.

Love, forever,

Mama

 

Image credit: SF Gate Blog

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