One of my FAVORITIST Back-to-School traditions that MY mom did for me when I was growing up was a note every year on the first day. I still remember the first time I stumbled upon my mom’s First Day of School note. It was the first day of kindergarten. I was wearing sunshine yellow shorts and a purple and pink splatter-painted shirt. I had a lunch pail that was My Little Pony and a matching purple backpack.
I was nervous! I had been going to preschool for the last two years, but this move to kindergarten was a BIG one. For starters, my preschool had mostly been playing and crafting and story time – absolute heaven for me. Kindergarten foreboded centers with computer work and writing and math. I was terrified of math! I didn’t understand – and still don’t really – why math is even necessary. Seriously, even if I were to sprinkle glitter on a math book, it’d be a FAR cry from being anything close to magical.
Kindergarten would be challenging academically, but also I had to get used to the idea that I wouldn’t have such easy access to my daddy. You see, my dad worked as the music director at the church where I had gone to preschool. I could see my dad whenever! If I had a feeling of homesickness, I could just tell my teacher that I needed a big bear hug from my dad and (granted he wasn’t in a meeting or something) he’d pop by in a jiffy. Kindergarten was a part of the local elementary school which was several blocks away from Big Daddy Bear Hugs.
The morning had gone well so far. My teacher, Mrs. Mugford, was super nice. And the tiny cartons of orange juice that were given at snack time were DELISH. But I definitely couldn’t shrug that bit of sadness I had whenever I thought about this new season of my life – this growing up that I was definitely not okay with…yet.
Until Mrs. Mugford told us to fetch a school supply from our backpacks and I hurried to the peg in the coat closet where mine was hanging. As I rooted around for the school supply, my little kindergarten fingers brushed against an envelope that I hadn’t remembered being there before. I pulled it out. It was small – about the size of a business card. My name was written on the front of the envelope in my mother’s beautiful, swirling handwriting. My stomach fluttered at this sudden stumbling upon of treasure.
I tore it open.
The character Suzy Zoo smiled up at me. Inside the tiny card it read, “My Sweet Julie, I hope that your first day of kindergarten is as amazing as you are! I can’t wait to hear all about it when you get home! Praying for you, Mom. Xoxo”
I felt as if I had sprouted wings and was flying up in the clouds with the birds and airplanes! My mom’s words of encouragement filled me with the much-needed joy and peace I needed to start my academic career with confidence!
I marched back into that kindergarten room and had the best day ever. Even the math lesson wasn’t so bad because Mrs. Mugford let us practice counting using M&Ms! And when I felt the urge to ring my dad for a hug, I just reached into the pocket of my sunsine yellow shorts and felt the Suzy Zoo card of magic from my mom and got back into the game.
Every year since then, my mom has snuck a First Day of School Note for me to find in my backpack or lunch pail or pocket. One year it was even taped to the mirror in my bathroom! The years I was in college the letters arrived by mail. And after I graduated and went on to become a 2nd grade teacher, my mom made sure that a note made it into my lesson plan binder every year.
I came to depend on those notes! I hungered for the bit of encouragement that only my mom could provide me with to inspire the strength and vision for the coming year.
Now I am a stay-at-home-mommy to my boy, Noah. But my mom is a teacher. Maybe I’ll write a note for her this year. 🙂
Such a simple tradition to start for your child this year! Hit the dollar store or local card shop and pick out an appropriate card for your little one(s). Sneak it into their backpacks for a special, super encouraging surprise on that first day. Your Mommy words are so powerful!