Letter to Jack: On Starting Kindergarten

Jack —

We have a thing we do right now. At night, after your story and during tuck in, I give you something to think about. In the morning, we talk about it. Maybe it’s just an excuse to stay up a little later. Maybe it’s temporary, a routine that won’t last much longer. Either way, I don’t mind.

The other night, I asked you to think about five things you want to learn to do in kindergarten this year. This is what you told me:

1. Make a giant guy out of paper
2. Make a poster as big as my office
3. Get some new games and toys on the tablet
4. Learn to make a shirt
5. Make a Valentine’s Day card for me and Mom

photo (3)I like your attitude toward your education, that it should teach you things that are artistic, practical, social and entertaining. It’s a path toward self-sufficiency, one that would lead you to your mid-twenties, enjoying a quiet Sunday afternoon in an apartment you decorated wearing clothing you made and telling the people in your life how much they mean to you. Of all the futures I imagine for you, I like this one quite a bit. It has a hint of the hipster about it, with its DIY-mindset and without the irony or attitude or, hopefully, mustache wax.

There are all kinds of things I could tell you about today because they’re the things all parents feel when their first child starts kindergarten. About how I can’t believe how fast this time has gone because I remember bringing you home. How I hope you’re ready. How I can’t believe what that big boy backpack looks like on your back. These things are all true. But I’ve already had my moments like these, when your mother and I went to registration and orientation. When I saw how big the school was, compared to your pre-school, and pictured you walking down its halls.

I’d rather give you a list of my own, of six things I hope you learn this year, and every year, that you’re in school:

1. Find your thing. The thing that you love, above all others. Your mother and I promise to help build a life of learning that helps you can get as good at that thing as you possibly can.
2. Stay open to the new and the different. Don’t let anyone’s opinions — your friends or ours — keep you from learning or trying something.
3. Become a student of the world. Stay curious and follow your own path to knowledge. While school is, by its very purpose and nature, an institutional assembly line, that doesn’t mean your life has to be. Consider school to be the beginning of your education, not the end.
4. Keep joy in your heart. Whenever you think you can’t do something, or bring anger or resentment to the task, those feelings tend to reinforce each other. Treat school like an adventure, a challenge to see just how much you can do. You’ll surprise yourself.
5. Stay true to yourself. Never hide who you are to fit in. Never be embarrassed by what you like or think or feel. If you do, you’ll attract people who like this other version of yourself and you’ll constantly feel the pressure of putting on this other self.
6. Make the giant guy and the poster and the shirt and the card. I want to see them and anything else you want to put your mind and heart and energy toward.

One more thing: I’m proud of you. I can’t wait to hear about what you learned, today and every day.




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