It seems like only a few days ago we were bringing you home from the hospital and adjusting to life as new parents. Together we’ve navigated through a lot of firsts, but starting high school seems somewhat bigger and different than most. Your other firsts resulted from lots of hard work; months of babbling and sound formation gave way to your first word. Months of scooting around lead directly to your first steps. You rode your first bicycle after hours of practice. Starting high school, in many ways, is the exact opposite of the natural flow you’ve come to expect; the hard work comes after the first day, not before. For this reason, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement without stopping to consider the challenges that are yet to come (and trust me, they will be there, even when you least expect it). And so, as you get ready to climb on that bus and ride into the sunrise of your first day of high school, I’d like to give you some thoughts to keep not just in your back pocket, but in the forefront of your mind.
It’s hard to overturn a first impression. In the next few years you’ll be meeting a lot of people. Teachers, fellow students, employers in the inevitable odd jobs you’ll have to finance your shopping obsession, colleagues in upcoming volunteer projects – the list is endless. Remember that first impressions count (a lot!) and that it’s hard to change people’s minds once they develop certain notions about you. Showing people that you are a kind person, a caring friend and a hard worker is a choice that you will need to make every day. It may be exhausting, but it’ll be worth it when you build meaningful, lifelong relationships and develop an unwavering work ethic that will serve you well for the rest of your life.
Don’t forget that school is your job. Sure, school is a great way to pass time between weekends. But it’s also a critical way to help you forge your path in life. Working hard on your studies will open many doors in the future, and, just as importantly, it will help you figure out what interests you and where you want to invest your energies in the future. Don’t get discouraged when things are hard: just like in a paying job, you can’t just go home when the going gets tough – you’ll need to work through the challenges and find a way to make it work. You may not always appreciate the path, but you will value the results.
Enjoy all the late nights now. I already see how you love staying out late with your friends and babysitting until the wee hours of the morning, and we are so happy that you are reliable enough to earn this privilege. Do not break this trust. I also encourage you to enjoy all these late nights now because there will be a time in the not-too-distant-future that you’ll be begging for bed before dinner and wondering how you ever begged for a later curfew. I promise you, this day is coming.
Stay close to family. You’ll have plenty of time to be with your friends during high school, but there will be times that you’ll have a family event you just can’t miss. And while friends are fantastic, family is forever. Don’t lose sight of what’s really important.
Put down peer pressure. For better or worse, you’ve been headstrong and opinionated since birth. You’re never afraid to say what’s on your mind or fight for your way of doing things. Let your moral compass be your guide in the face of the temptations you’ll face in the years ahead. Never be afraid to be your own person or to lose sight of who you are, and never compromise on what you know is right. And when things get really tough, don’t be afraid to ask yourself ‘what would Mom do?’ You may think that you’re missing out this way, but sometimes it’s ok to hold back. You can thank me later.
Remember that we’re always here for you. We may not always agree on how situations should be handled, but just remember that your father and I always have your best interests in mind. And we’ve been there (perhaps your father a bit more than me). We will always love you even when you make decisions we wouldn’t agree with or approve of, and we hope that you’ll always feel comfortable to tell us about what’s going on in your life. We look forward to helping and supporting you and to sharing this exciting time with you.