To my favorite kids on the first day of school, This summer has been more than I hoped it would be. I will miss your wild, your loud, your annoying, your hugs, your kindness, your love for each other and your love for me. I will look forward to hearing all about everything at 3:30 every day. I remember being your age and the palpable excitement before the first day of school; in fact, I still feel it. I know you are all a little nervous, a lot excited and perhaps a bit bummed that school is already here. Because I am your mom, I wanted to share a few things with you before the big day that I hope you will remember.
Education is a privilege. You are so incredibly lucky to be going to a great school for free. Kids all over the world wish they had this same opportunity. A girl in Pakistan was shot because she wanted an education. Kids in Haiti can't afford school. Many children in America attend school but never feel safe there. You have a beautiful school with a fantastic principal, qualified teachers and volunteer parents who show up every day to educate YOU! I know there will be times when school is "boring" or "too hard" or "no fun," but try to remember how positively lucky you are. Education means opportunity, and opportunity is priceless.
Be kind. There is no excuse for mean. Use your words wisely. Say only things that build others up. Look for ways to include, not exclude. Two rudes don't make a right. You've been taught kindness; it is what we expect.
Find someone who needs a friend. Just last year, you were the "new kid," so you know how hard it can be. During the first week of school, find someone who needs a friend, and make them feel a part of things. Don't let anyone sit alone. Don't let someone play by themselves on the playground. Having a friend can literally change someone's life; be that friend.
Never lie. Lying is the quickest way to destroy a friendship and break trust; find people who like you for the real you and allow you to stay true to who you are. Make a pact with yourself to be 100 percent honest this year.
Never cheat. Cheating eats at your soul and takes away your confidence. No test or paper is worth your integrity. If you make a mistake or forget an assignment, accept the natural consequences for your actions, and resolve to do better next time.
Know when to walk away and when to take a stand. As you get older, kids will talk about and do things that make you uncomfortable. When you are in those situations, be bold enough to change the topic or activity or, if you must, walk away. If what they are doing or saying is hurting someone or destroying something, be brave enough to tell an adult. All of these things are hard to do, but you are stronger than you think you are.
Respect your teachers. Your teachers spend countless hours preparing inventive ways to share knowledge with you and your classmates; they cannot do their job with incessant interruptions and problems. Do your class a favor and contribute to a good educational environment; encourage others to do the same.
Keep the competition on the real field. Sports at school, on the playground or in PE are for expending energy, growing friendships and learning new skills. Save the competition and intensity for games that actually matter. Don't make up rules. Don't be the referee. Never lose a friend over kickball.
Ask questions. Never feel ashamed for wanting more information. If you don't understand something or need to know more at home or school, ask, search, find out. Questions are what real learning is all about.
Work hard. Millions of children would love to be in your position; show your gratitude for what you have by working hard, all the time. We expect your PERSONAL best. We would be failing as parents if we allowed anything less.
Get it done. You have quite a few responsibilities because you are all getting older. Most of life is hard work with a little play mixed in. Learn to enjoy work. Don't waste time whining or complaining about homework, piano, practice or cleaning. Just get it done! If you can accomplish the important things first, I promise there will be plenty of time for your favorite activities later.
Look for the good. There will always be good and bad parts of your day; focus on the good. You will be infinitely happier if you do.
Fill the need. Be the kind of kid who sees a need and fills it. When walking by desks, push in the chairs. See a wrapper on the floor? Pick it up. Notice a friend who is sad? Make her happy. Is there a classroom job everyone hates? Volunteer for it. Someone who never gets chosen first? Choose him. All three of you are smart and capable; give back by making the world a better place.
Enjoy differences. It is easy to get close to people who are just like you, but when you do that, you miss out on some really amazing friendships and growth opportunities. Take advantage of situations when you are with people who are different from you. Learn from them, become friends with them, enjoy them.
Talk to us. We LOVE to hear about your day, not just what you did but how you felt about it. Share with us your favorite moments and the times that were hard. Never feel worried or embarrassed to tell us something that made you feel uncomfortable. If you are struggling with grades, teachers or friends, we want to know. We cannot fix everything, but we can support and love you through anything.
Pray. At times it can be easy, even in a whole school full of people, to feel alone or confused. God is always there to listen, comfort and guide you. Begin your day speaking to him and asking for strength and clarity. Offer silent prayers during the day in difficult moments or times of need. End your day with gratitude to him for the blessings you enjoy.
I cannot wait to see what this year brings for you three big boys of mine! I never thought it would be possible, but I love you more each year and am constantly amazed by your energy, talents and good hearts. Thank you for just being you.
This post by Brooke Romney originally appeared on Mom Explores Michigan. It has been published here with the author's permission. Brooke Romney is a freelance writer and author of the blog Mom Explores Michigan.