My friend Lizzy is an amazing photographer. She also a pretty fabulous mom. Her son has been in the same class with Jackson for the past two years. They’re about to be in first grade together. I adore the Tator Tot, which he would be so mad if he knew I wrote that nickname here.
She and her husband are also raising a magnificent daughter, who starts middle school today. I know. Just the words “middle school” bring back so many horrible memories. But it happens, even to the best of families.
It got Lizzy thinking, so she wrote an open letter to her daughter, which I share here with her permission.
Friday is a big day. My daughter’s first day of middle school. New outfit…check! New shoes….check! More new shoes….check! But the first day of school is just that, the very first day. There’s a lot that comes after that.
Now that I’m old enough to have a middle schooler of my own and be HORRIFIED by it (when the hell did this happen?) I have things I want to tell her, good, bad , embarrassing. Some things she already knows, some she would think are stupid, but I don’t care. Here is my open letters to middle school girls everywhere.
People can be mean. They can also be pretty amazing.
There will be soo many people in your life as you continue to grow up. Everyone has things to offer you. Some of things are fabulous, fun, wonderful, profound. Some will be things that you just don’t need. Negativity, the opportunity to be a jerk, self-doubt, embarrassment.
Here’s what I wish I had taken more to heart when I was your age and getting older: You are under no obligation to take things from people that you do not want, do not need, or go against who you choose to be. You are your own author. Don’t give the others the pen!
It matters how you treat people. It. matters. a. lot.
It is something you think you know already, but it bears repeating. It is just good manners to say please and thank you. It is a good lesson we learn when we are 2 years old; this does not make it childish, it is simply a lesson that many adults forget as they grow.
It is the mark of a good person who shows respect to the people who take time out of their lives to make a difference in yours. This goes for parents, teachers, friends, coaches, grandparents. Be grateful.
To be kind when one is receiving kindness is easy. To be a good person when angry, when treated unfairly, when hurt… that’s a lot harder. It is a fact, not just in school but in life, there will be people who choose to treat you badly. How you treat these people, how you react to them, how you let it effect you…that is up to you. Be compassionate. Be STRONG.
During hard times remember this: You’re part of a team. Use them. Don’t feel like you’re in this alone. Not now, not ever.
A couple side notes:
Being an ass is not funny.
Acting like you’re stupid is not cute.
Your body does not define you.
You’re not an expert at anything….yet
It is called making friends for a reason. It is a process. It takes a little bit of work. It is fun and it doesn’t happen on your phone, there’s no app for that.
Your parents are trying. Like really, really hard. We are spending a lot on gas money. We already took math class. We HATE buying school supplies. It is stressful and expensive and I’d like to know what you’re going to do with 16 red pens. We stress out watching you play sports. We do all these things and more because you LOVE you. How much you may not truly understand until you are the parent buying 16 frickin red pens for your kids. We wish for you so much: so much happiness, so much success. So few tears. WE ARE REALLY REALLY TRYING. Throw us a bone once in a while. Please and Thank you.
Middle school is a big deal for a lot of different reasons. I can still remember (vividly) many things from middle school. A lot of those things are probably part of who I am today. It is my turn to be a part of a team that supports an 11 year old girl and her friends as they figure out the (…the words I want to put here are *shitstorm? what’s the diplomatic way of saying????…) ADVENTURE that is middle school.
Thank gawd I have a team of my own