Dear Baby Boy,
Give me one more year, or two, and I'll see what I can do about finding a proper grownup name for you. Tonight, I still have snowballs in my hair and tears I can't wipe fast enough.
You are going to First Grade tomorrow. After a year of answering the same question ("What did you learn in Kindergarten today?") with the same answer every time ("We did the same thing, Mimi, the saaame thing.") I am trusting that this year's teacher can springboard you past learning to spell c.a.t. Let's hope for the best.
Do you remember that night when it snowed and we went outside in the darkness to play? You wore my white hat and spent most of your time sneaking around the corner to make weapons of fluffy destruction aimed at my pencil head. I dodged a lot. But you made me laugh so hard that I fell down on the ground and begged for mercy. It was that look - yes, that one - mischievous, joyful, full of yourself.
Time goes by fast, Baby Boy, real fast. Before you know it, I'll be writing (and weeping) a letter to you about your high school graduation right here on this blog....if there are still blogs in the year 2022. You are embedded and brimming over with all that is good in this world and I am proud of you, but I would like a word with you before you go out to conquer the world at recess.
Your teacher: Pay attention. Show respect. Think of her as a fountain. You are the sponge. If she's a good teacher, you'll absorb a lot of facts and figures. If she's a great teacher, she'll help you find them yourself. If she's an extraordinary teacher, she'll inspire you to look beyond the obvious and think critically. If she's a master teacher, she'll expect more questions than answers. Learn to ask the questions, Baby Boy.
Friends: You don't need 100. You only need a few. Choose them as wisely as a six-year-old can. You will know whether or not you want to spend time with them based on the way you feel about yourself when you are with them. You know right from wrong. I know you do.
You only need a few loyal friends to help you make it through the day.
Girls: I know. I know. You're still in love with Tiffany from Kindergarten. But she doesn't go to your school anymore. Listen, Baby Boy, girls are fickle and nothing but trouble. TROUBLE with a capital T.
They rarely change and usually grow up to be bigger bullies. When I was in the sixth grade a girl took a weeping willow branch and smacked me across the face with it over and over on the playground. I had to get a bigger branch and defend myself. I didn't want to hurt her; I just wanted her to stop hurting me.
When you encountered your first bully last year in kindergarten, you walked away and found a new friend after he pushed you down in the rocks, scraping your knuckles until they bled. You found a way to get up and remove yourself. I like that about you. But I worry sometimes that you might get pushed around. Don't get pushed around, Baby Boy, okay? I don't know whose way was best, mine or yours, but I do know that sometimes you need a big stick and sometimes you need to walk away; at times a little of both. Just in case, I still have that branch.
Don't make me come to that school.
Tolerance and Patience: Get some.
Practical Matters That Every First Grader Should Know: (Are you taking notes, Baby Boy?)
You don't owe anybody else an explanation, your lunch money or your cell phone number.
Take the window seat on the bus. Don't eat the pizza cause it's full of bad bad bad cholesterol that will catch up with your little gene pool sooner or later and please, whatever you do, do NOT drink out of the public water fountain. Bottled water is your friend.
Did you hear me, Baby Boy? I said stay away from trouble makers. Why? Cause they'll get you in trouble.
On Valentine's Day when your teacher hangs all the little red hearts up with names written in black Sharpie pens on the wall, make it your mission to buy special ones for the children who most likely won't be "friended" by anyone else. Sign them anonymously, or not, and don't say a word.
Sit down first or somewhere by yourself and ask people if they'd like to sit with YOU.
Always carry peanut butter crackers in your backpack for emergency energy, respectfully insist on going to the restroom if you need to and make it a point to hold the door open for your teacher. Think of tests like a game to win. Don't text in class and make sure you eat breakfast every every every day.
Hard concepts are only temporary challenges. See? I told you you'd figure out how to put all the ice pieces in the Don't Break The Ice Game eventually, now didn't I?.......and please oh please oh please read everything you can get your hands on. Twice.
Think, Baby Boy, think. And be true to yourself. Only you. And be kind. You will reap what you have sown in this department - even in the First Grade.
Sports: If you don't want to play, don't play. You don't have to be a jock. I have an inkling you might want to draw or write or sing instead. You've already written six stapled together "books" for me to read in my spare time. I knew you were artistic the day you wanted to make a movie with your crackers in the pizza parlor.
When you find yours, hunker down.
As proud as I am of you, at the end of the day I am more interested in how your character grew than your grade point average. Measure that carefully.
None of it, however, will ever mean more to me than the look under that white hat in the snow.
Got that, Baby Boy?
Yeah. I know.
I've gotta find another name.