To My Daughter, On the Eve of Starting Second Grade

Dear Madeleine,

I don’t know how we’ve come to this point. Yesterday, we sold a bunch of your baby clothes at our yard sale and I cringed inside as I had to let each piece go. All those little moments of wonder and awe and joy – not just from you, but from your dad and I as we watched you and grew you and raised you.

You were my little helper all day yesterday, bagging items and helping me count money. When we had a lull in shoppers, you’d scooter around the driveway or run and leap up, trying to hit the yard sale sign hanging over the garage.

That’s you, Madeleine: Part good girl, part bundle of energy. Enthusiastic about all of it. Never giving up. You are the girl who laughed through a thousand pat-a-cakes, who sang and danced to kiddie songs on the CD player, who started asking questions about God at age 2, who gives in to your brother more than you should, who has made countless pictures and cards for your parents and grandparents and teachers and friends, who gives me a goodbye kiss and hug every single morning. You are pure joy; you are a bubbling stream; you are a shining star.

You are also a first child, which means when Ephraim came along, you weren’t welcome to come snuggle in bed with Mommy and Daddy early in the morning anymore because Ephraim had usually beat you to it. You have listened to us give you speeches about expecting you to be the role model when really you were still such a little one yourself. You have endured endless torture from your little brother. You have been preached to when what you really needed was to climb in my lap and be loved. You are delicate and tough all at once.

I still remember my first day of second grade. We had recently moved to a new city, so I wasn’t just starting a new grade; I was starting at a new school. To this day I know I wore a pink skirt and a white top with pastel letters. I don’t remember what the letters said. But I distinctly remember approaching the front doors of Indian Creek Elementary that day in that poofy pink skirt. I remember feeling confident.

Confidence is part of your spirit, all wrapped up with your independent streak and your strong will. You have recently become much more tween-like – talking back and smarting off with more attitude than I ever had as a teenager. I don’t know what to do with that. You are growing up too fast.

The thing about second grade was that it’s the first time I remember feeling like my own person. Sure, I have memories from before that year, but I must have crossed one of those Piagetian cognitive phases or something because who I was in second grade was just different – more me. You’ve been coming into your own, too. I have a feeling that you will challenge me more than ever this year, and it is my job to sludge through all that attitude until together we find the true, authentic Madeleine, and to encourage and love and teach and celebrate that you.

Tomorrow morning, I will feed you doughnuts for your first day of school breakfast and I will take your picture and I will send you off with Daddy for your first day of second grade. At lunch you will find a note from me in your lunchbox, and maybe for a few minutes you will think I am cool.  In the evening you will tell me excitedly about your day and whine a little about me brushing your hair and you will hear me tell you I love you like I have every day of your life. I love you, I love you, I love you. I am no perfect mom – not even a good mom sometimes – but I can’t stop loving you, my baby girl. Go get ’em tomorrow.

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