What I Want My Child To Know As He Heads Back To School
Tomorrow is the first day of school. Second grade — wow! I know you aren’t happy about going back to school. You would rather be playing baseball or soccer shoot-out with the neighbor kids. You would rather be sorting your football or baseball cards. You would rather be swimming at the pool and jumping off the diving board for what has to be the thousandth time.
You would rather be watching movies or playing video games with superheroes and secret tunnels and magical worlds. You would rather be looking for bugs or cool rocks under the back porch. You would rather be riding your bike, eating popsicles, jumping in the lake with your cousins, or just about anything else that you’ve done this summer.
But, alas, time marches on. Summer is over and school starts again tomorrow. I am beyond thrilled — it makes my heart smile, really — to know that you have had one of those magical childhood summers, but now it is time to move on, time to go back to school.
But before we do, while we still have this one last day of summer left, I want to tell you a few secrets. Important secrets. Secrets that you can never, ever forget.
The first secret is that superheroes aren’t just in your storybooks and movies and video games. Did you know that? Did you know that superheroes are everywhere? They are walking down the street and going to Target and driving in their cars just like you and me. And you, my friend, are super-duper-lucky because you get to be with a superhero almost every day. Your teacher is a real live superhero, wearing a cape of patience and carrying a bag of magic disguised as lessons about math and science and reading and how to be a kind and caring person.
A superhero isn’t the one fighting the bad guys and capturing special coins. A superhero is anyone who makes a difference in someone else’s life, anyone who makes the world a better place. That’s your teacher, all of your teachers. So be kind and listen well to them. Help her do her very important work. Try hard and be respectful. These are the things that give superheroes extra special powers. And if you do that, if you help give your teachers extra special powers, then you are a superhero too.
The second secret is that when things get hard — and they most certainly will — almost everything can become just a little easier to handle with a few good, long, deep breaths. You are a kind child and an energetic child and a friendly child. You are also a sensitive child; you and I are more alike that way than you know. We cry easily, wear our hearts on our sleeves, are a bit prone to dramatics. If you don’t believe me, just ask your grandparents; they’ll tell you I was like that as a child. Ask Cashton’s mom; she’ll tell you I was like that in college. Ask Daddy; he’ll tell you I am still like that.
So believe me, I know that you will feel things deeply and that sometimes things will seem like more than you can handle. There will be times when things will seem so hard. It might be a tough math problem. Someone might hurt your feelings. You might mess up and hurt someone else’s feelings. You might want to shrink and hide. You might feel scared and alone.
But stay calm, take a few deep breaths, and remember that you’re never really alone. Your dad and I are always with you, always. You have our hearts and hopes and dreams and unbending support with you always. It might be disguised as a fleck of dirt or a piece of laundry lint in your back pocket, but it’s there. Always. So when things seem really hard and you’re hurting and scared and feel a little like you’re on an island by yourself, just take your deep breaths, know that you aren’t alone, and listen to your heart. Always listen to your heart. You’ll figure out what to do.
And the third secret, well, that might be the most important one, so listen well. Here it is: You know that magic that you felt this summer, that magic that you don’t want to end? Well, it isn’t really going anywhere because — and here’s the secret — the magic is right here, in you.
You are the magic.
What is it that your dad and I always tell you? Be the best Jackie you can be. You don’t have to be the best Jimmy or Johnny or Sally that you can be. You just have to be the best you that you can be. That’s not always an easy thing to do, but if you take your deep breaths and listen to your heart and find that linty piece of my heart in your back pocket, I know that you can do it. When you reach in and listen, when you work hard and are brave and are kind, when you are the best you that you can be — you grab a handful of that magic and you sprinkle it all around. You give others the power to find and sprinkle their own magic.
And that right there is really what it’s all about. Not the math facts and the reading levels (though those things are important), and it’s certainly not about the test scores (though those things can be useful in some ways, I suppose). What it’s really all about — what school and life, for that matter, is about — is the learning and the growing and the spreading of magic.
So don’t fret, second grade is going to be great! You will learn new things and meet new people, including more than a few superheroes. Be kind. Be a good listener and a good friend. Be a magic spreader.
And then, come home and tell me all about it, because believe me, not a minute of the day goes by when I’m not thinking of you, missing you, loving you.
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