Jack started 4-year-old preschool last week. New school, new teacher, new friends.
Two days before school started, we received the most thoughtful package in the mail from his teacher – an introductory letter for parents and a special note for Jack. On the outside of Jack’s note it said, “Please read to your child Tuesday night at bedtime. No peeking!!” She must have known neither Jack, nor I are very patient souls.
But we waited. Tuesday night at bedtime, I gathered Jack’s 1 year baby book, Dr. Seuss’s Oh, the Places You’ll Go! and the letter from his teacher. He smiled that smile I haven’t seen enough lately looking at his baby pictures. Big smiles, every page, thank you Abby for this treasure. It really felt like a gilded treasure as Jack beamed at his tiny self wrapped in swaddling cloth and flanked by mom and dad.
We read Dr. Seuss and then I opened Mrs. Bartlett’s letter – magic confetti contained within equally magic words of encouragement.
Gold sparkling confetti for under Jack’s pillow, to help erase first day jitters and fall asleep fast. Jack loved it. He repeated the word magic like a sweet treat in his mouth to be savored slowly. He strategically sprinkled his confetti on the north end of the bed and carefully placed his pillow atop the magic. By the time I circled the bed to turn off his lamp, he had his eyes closed. I kissed him goodnight and without opening his eyes, he whispered, “I’m already sleeping.”
Okay, sweet dreams my boy.
When we got to school the next morning, it felt a bit surreal to hang your bright red Lightning McQueen back pack in that familiar nook, with “JACK” proudly displayed above your hook. What I didn’t tell you Jack, when I dropped you off that day, was about all the thoughts swirling in my brain. You have a hook and cubbies… and a pencil box. When did that happen?
I transferred your hand into Mrs. Bartlett’s and that relieved your shyness enough for me to leave. Three days in and you already love your teacher. I do, too. Anyone kind enough to send magic confetti in the mail knows a thing or two about making learning fun.
Jack ~ I know dad and I seem like we were always old, but we remember what it felt like to be students. We remember graham and milk breaks in kindergarten, we remember teachers that brought out the best in us, and you can bet we remember all the interesting tidbits we learned on the school bus.
I know it drives your dad a bit nuts, but I love when you come running to me with a problem I can easily fix with a kiss and a tootsie roll pop. I’ll take a thousand brotherly squabbles and quirky annoyances today over the more difficult challenges that lie ahead. The ones you won’t come running to me with and the ones I can’t so easily solve.
When you are shy or challenged at school, I won’t be there to make things better, but your dad and I are trying to teach you courage, common sense and kindness.
Words are important, so we try to tell you all the things we hope will become part of your core subconscious. The voice that talks back to you in your head. We want that voice to be rooted in a positive place. We want that voice to echo the words of your family telling you over and over again:
You are loved.
You can do anything you put your mind to.
You are smart.
You are kind.
You are enough.
That’s the voice I want talking back to you down the road when someone makes fun of you and you wonder if it’s true. That’s the voice I want talking back to you when you’re thinking about making fun of someone else, and I hope you decide not to. That’s the voice I want screaming at you when you’re contemplating in your mind if you can do something or not. Do it, try it, practice. Jump.
Hard work and kindness are the kinds of currency that can buy you so many of life’s most meaningful rewards. If you are unsure about how to handle something, try these.
You’re not perfect or flawless, or owed anything from life, but you are capable and supported and loved. Should you ever doubt that, circle around. Dad and I will tell you again. Life is not fair, but we love you. Home will always be a place where you are accepted and shown compassion. You can rest assured, there will always be milk and cookies here, too.
I knew when I dropped you off Wednesday morning that lurch of hope and fear was going to engulf us both. But we did it. We did it with a little hand holding and some magic confetti. Time she keeps a marching and so we must keep marching, too.
Finding joy this week in teachers who know how to make magic, a boy who is loving school and those first couple of leaves flirting with deeper reds and oranges.
Happy September folks. It’s magic time in Wisconsin. Cue the cute boots, hot apple cider and pumpkins.