It's the night before the first day of school.
It seems it was just the end of June - looking back on the year that was and anticipating an amazing summer. The summer was amazing... filled with friends, family, the hot sun in a big prairie sky, mountain hikes and ocean waves.
But somehow, here we are. Back at the beginning.
I love the beginning of a new school year. New beginnings bring dreams and plans, clean slates and opportunity. There is mystery and there are wide-open spaces. Possibilities make their homes in new beginnings.
I also fear the beginning of a new school year. Dreams and plans, clean slates and opportunity also smack of room for disappointment, worry, tension and upheaval.
In the school the girls are a part of here, parents are invited to write the principal a letter or email to make requests and offer insight into their child's potential placement, but no specific names of teachers. (Class lists for this year won't be formally made until the end of this week, and students in B.C. spend the first few days of a new school year with their previous year's classmates and teacher.) I wrote my e-mail last night - a hefty paragraph for each daughter, outlining my hopes and desires. I stressed the value of each of these daughters of mine - their unique and amazing qualities and the place I thought they'd fit in the best.
If I would have been honest, my e-mail would have sounded a little more like this:
Do you know how unbelievably important my girls are? Do you know that I think they are the most soft-hearted, brilliant, creative and imaginative kids on the face of the earth? Do you realize the gift your school has been given to have them in your classrooms and hallways?
I don't want them crushed. They must not be deflated. Their spirits should be nurtured.
Be sure that each of them has a teacher who is warm, kind and sees their true value. See to it that their teachers are gentle and insightful and will offer a shoulder squeeze and encouragement on a hard day. I want them to be surrounded with adults who draw them out and marvel at what they create and who they are. Please ensure that they spend their days in a room where they feel safe, and are filled up with words of affirmation and compassion.
I want you to make sure that they have access to positive relationships and are mentored and taught about how to create community. Steer them towards friends who will make them better people. Envelope them with relationships that will cause them to laugh with abandon, think deeply and feel significant.
Protect these daughters of mine.
Learn to love them.
Of course that is not the letter I wrote.
I know that no principal can make those kinds of promises or assurances to me. I wish they could.
But because they can't, we sat down tonight - these daughters of mine- me and their dad and we talked. We talked about finding their voices and making them heard. We reminded ourselves that we have to pick friends who we want to be like, because good or bad, we all end up looking and sounding like the people we spend most of our time with. We reminded each other that we are strong and smart but that we will make mistakes. Most of all I told them that they can always come home and talk to their mom.
They won't, you know. (Always come and talk to their mom.) But I wanted them to hear it all the same.
Tomorrow I will walk them to school, squeeze their hands and send them to their brand new wide-open space. I will say a prayer, turn around and walk away.
And I will leave these three daughters of mine to make their new beginning their own.