My oldest daughter is starting kindergarten today. While most of these things won’t come in to play this year, I’ve been thinking about what I want her to remember as she goes through her school years. These are only a few of the things that I hope to teach her over the years but I think that these are all critical to her success in life.
Your academic performance does not determine your value.
Excelling in school is important, but it is not everything. And your grades will never mean that you are more or less worthy. We want you to try your hardest, but as long as you are doing that we will always be proud of you.
Your teachers deserve your respect.
Your teachers work so hard and they deserve your respect. That means they deserve your attention and quietness. They are trying their best to teach you and your classmates in a way that will benefit you all and in order to do that they need you to respect them each day no matter how you feel. If you have a question or don’t understand something, by all means ask them about it. But always express respect to them in your tone and attitude.
Your peers can not tell you what to do.
Your friends will be so important in your life. It’s critical that you choose your close friends wisely. Those who you associate with will shape how others your age and adults view you. And no matter if the person is your best friend or an acquaintance, if they tell you to do something you do not have to obey them. If something feels unsafe or unkind to you, leave the situation and find new friends.
Regardless of your feelings, treat everyone with kindness.
There will be days when you don’t feel good. When you’re tired or angry or upset. Remember that everyone else has those days too. By showing kindness to everyone even when you don’t feel especially kind, you can show Jesus’ love to others and can make a positive difference in their life.
You are free to make your own choices but know that every choice has a consequence.
As you get older you will have the freedom to make more and more of your choices. Choose wisely. Consider the implications, both good and bad, before you make a decision. Know that God gave you free will and as you earn our trust and respect, we will give you more and more freedom to express it. But always remember that every choice that you make has a consequence and you will have to live with that consequence for the rest of your life.
The adults in your life only want what’s best for you.
Even now there are times when you seem to question whether a decision that I’ve made for you is arbitrary or not. But I can promise you that every decision that I make is because I think it is the most beneficial decision for you. The other adults in your life, family, teachers, youth group leaders, friends, all want the same. We want you to succeed and so every choice and decision that we make will be to advance that goal. Sometimes you won’t be able to see the big picture and will not understand our reasoning, but I promise you that we are only trying to do our best to help you succeed.
You don’t need to be like everyone else to be awesome.
You are you and that is awesome. God made you EXACTLY like he wanted you to be. Your big heart? God’s idea. Your creativity? A gift from God. Your stubbornness? Something that God placed in your life to allow you to use it to your good and overcome any negative impact. You have a unique sense of style, humor, thought process, intelligence, feelings, and goals. These don’t need to look like anyone else’s to be great. You are great because you are you. And please never believe it if anyone tells you otherwise.
Sometimes people will be mean.
I want things to be always rosy and easy for you. I want to protect you from harm and from meanness and from anything bad that might happen to you. But that isn’t real life and sometimes those hard things will be what helps us grow and learn the most. People can be mean. It’s an unavoidable fact of life. Some days, you might be the one being mean. Try to let the things that others say in meanness roll off your back and give them (and yourself when you mess up) the grace to correct their behavior and learn from it.
You will mess up.
On that note, know that you are going to make mistakes. Some of them will be little and won’t cause many problems. Some of them will be huge and you’ll still be reeling from them years from now. When you make those mistakes, because you will, I want you to remember a few things. First, the only perfect person on this planet was Christ. And He was perfect to forgive you of your imperfections, no matter what they are. Second, your Daddy and I aren’t perfect either and we don’t expect you to be. Do you hear me? We don’t expect you to be perfect and our love is in no way conditional on the mistakes that you do or don’t make. Just like Christ will always forgive you, we will always forgive you. Thirdly, while we need to learn from our mistakes, God forgives and forgets for a reason. Give yourself a break and forgive yourself. Take time to examine your mistake and learn all you can from it and then give it to God and get it out of your head.
Above all else, we are most concerned about your relationship with Christ.
Do we want you to get good grades? Yes. Do we want you to choose good friends? Yes. Do we want you to make good choices? Yes. But more than any of that, we want you to love God. God loves you more than anyone else in this world ever will. And His love will never, ever change. He sent his only son to die just for you. He wants to have a relationship with you every day of your life. In the end, and every day that you are alone, it is just you and God. We pray every single day that you fall more and more in love with Jesus every day of your life and that you choose to accept him into your life as your Savior. There is literally no decision that you will make that is more important than this one.
Extracurriculars are just that, extra.
There might be a time when we tell you that you can’t do an activity or join a group or do something that you’re sure will be the best thing to happen to you. While we believe that there are things outside of school that are important, we also believe that school is extremely important. If you’re falling behind in class because you’re too busy outside of class then something will have to change. It is not a requirement that you participate in every sport or activity or club. Our top three priorities for you will always be church, our family, and school and if other things need to be cut in order to prioritize those things then they will be.
You can’t be everything to everyone.
You also can’t be everything to someone. Don’t let anyone manipulate you or place all of their responsibility on you. You are not responsible for making anyone else happy. You are not responsible for the decisions that anyone else makes. Never get too dependent on anyone to forget that you are smart and capable and that the only one who you are responsible for is yourself.
You can ask me anything and I will try to be as open and honest with you as is age appropriate.
I want you to come to me with anything and everything. Boy problems? Come to me. Questions about school? I’m your girl (or if not I can find someone who is). Wrestling with a decision? I can try and help you figure out the way that you should go. Confused about the lunch table gossip? I want to be the one to help you make sense of it all. Know that a lot of what you hear at school is not going to be true or factual or realistic. When you’re hearing something from a peer you’re hearing it from their skewed perspective that can be influenced by many different things that you don’t know about. I will always try to answer any question without embarrassment and with honesty in a way that is beneficial to you at your age.
Your Dad and I really do remember what it was like to be your age.
Right now you think that Daddy and I are the coolest. You want to dress like me and do things that we do and be just like us. I know that soon, sadly, that will change. Even if it doesn’t seem like it, we remember what it was like to be your age. Even if it seems like it was eons ago, we were your age and faced much of the same experiences that you will be facing. Sometimes we’ll be able to look at a situation and see more of it then you can simply because we’ve already lived it and learned from it. Give us a chance and we’ll try to help you as much as we can.
This life is a gift.
You were born with a purpose. I don’t know what you’re going to do. Maybe you’ll cure cancer. Maybe you’ll be President. Maybe you’ll be a Mom with three beautiful children. Whatever you choose to do, know that life is a gift and you only get one of them. You will be important and can serve God just as well from the kitchen as from the board room. And you can change your mind and go from one to the other. But also pursue the things that God places on your heart because you only get to live this life once.
What did I leave out? I’d love to hear from you!