7 Things I Want My Child to Know Before She Starts School

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For seven years I worked with some of the most amazing educators I’ve ever met—teachers, principals, paraeducators, professional development specialists, secretaries, school psychologists, and technology gurus. People who devote their lives to the task of giving young people today the academic tools they need to succeed in the world.

That job experience not only changed my perspective on my own life, it changed my perspective as a parent, especially when it comes to my child’s learning.

With this new perspective, there are some things I want my child to know as she heads off to school each year.

You can learn anything if you believe you can.

Everyone has a learning “mindset”.  A “growth mindset” means you believe that your brain can learn and grow. A “fixed mindset” means you believe that you are born with a certain level of intelligence and you can’t change it. For example, if you are a growth mindset, you believe that, even if you are not good at math, you can get better. If you are a fixed mindset, you believe that you’ll always be bad at math.

Research shows that some of the people who excel at what they do–professional athletes, authors, scientists–do so because they have a growth mindset. That means they might not have been very good at what they did when they started, but they knew if they worked hard they would get better. So they did.

You can do anything if you set your mind to it. Don’t forget that.

The most important thing you will take to school with you is a good attitude.

You get to choose how you “show up” at school each day. No one else can make this choice for you. You may not always get to choose everything about your school day, but you can always choose your attitude. You have the power to make assignments that might be boring be fun. You have the power to make classes that feel hard feel exciting instead. It all comes down to your attitude. Choose wisely.

You can do hard things.

Sometimes learning will feel easy. A lot of the time it might feel really hard. That is perfectly normal. Don’t give up just because something isn’t easy at first. Learning how to do hard things is one of the greatest skills you could ever acquire.

I will be happy as long as you are doing your best.

Please don’t cheat yourself out of learning by not trying. If you are going to do something, do your best. If you do this, you cannot fail. Because if you did your best, then you learned something, and that is never failure. Yep, you heard me right. If you do your best on a test and you fail, I will still be proud of you for giving it your all. And we will have learned what it is that you still need to study. If you don’t try and you fail, then you wasted your own time and energy. Don’t do that. Time is precious. You owe it to yourself to see what you are capable of. So do everything you do with your whole heart. If you do this, I will be happy.

School does not measure your worth.

In school, you will take tests. Tests are a way to measure what you know and what you still need to learn. THAT IS ALL THEY ARE. You should do your best when it comes to tests so that they can be an accurate measure of what you know. But never forget that that is all they are. They do not measure what a good learner you are. They do not measure what a good person you are. Don’t give them more power than they deserve.

The same is true of grades. Grades are a way of measuring progress. They show us what we are doing well at and what we still need to practice. If you have a lower grade in science, it does not mean you are bad at science. Grades are information we can use to learn about how we learn best.

Schools use tests and grades and levels and scores to measure a lot of things. But there are also a lot of things they don’t measure. Tests will not measure your passion or your drive or your determination. Grades do not reflect what a kind and thoughtful person you are. Don’t believe for a second that any letter or number could measure your worth. You are more than the sum of your scores.

Your curiosity is your greatest strength.

Your curiosity is what drives your best learning. It drives you to question things you don’t understand. I hope you always keep your fierce curiosity. It is when we stop being curious and think we “know” things, or when we simply give up and stop asking questions, that we stop learning and growing.

Others may not always appreciate your curiosity, but don’t let that stop you. You may have to learn to hold your curiosity until an appropriate time to seek your answers. You may have to learn a respectful way to express your curiosity. But beware of anyone who tells you your curiosity is bad. It’s not true.

The thing that will make me more proud of you than anything else is your kindness.

School is important. You will learn things that will open doors to more things and more doors and so on. But there is so much more to learn than science and math. If you graduate and you don’t know algebra but you have learned how to feel empathy for another person, I will be immensely proud. If you can’t remember what the scientific name for rain clouds is, but you know how to be kind to others, even when they aren’t kind to you, then I will know you have succeeded.

Learn as much as you can from school, but don’t limit your learning to the information in your textbooks. Because the things that matter in life are so much bigger than that. Let your sweet light shine and do all the good you can for the people around you. As your mother, I love to see your brilliant brain in action. But I am never more proud of you than when you show the world your kind heart.

I Wrote a Post About Donald Trump and Realized It Wasn’t About Him At All


I wrote a post about Donald Trump.

I really have no interest in writing about politics. I don’t even care to comment on all the reasons why I don’t want to contribute to my opinions to the Internet web on this year’s candidates.

I wrote it because I was venting and then I left it in my pile, not sure what to do with it next.

I revisited it today while cleaning out my drafts folder, thinking perhaps it was time to delete it and move on. After all, it’s not really the kind of topic I care to share in my writing space. But as I read it I realized that, even though it is about Trump, it isn’t actually about him at all. It is about the power of language and communicating. It is about some of the amazing people I know who have developed and mastered this skill, and the lessons I’ve been lucky enough to learn from them–lessons I’m still trying to manifest in my own life. It is about kindness as a priority.

And because this is a place where I write about things I want for the world and for my children, I am sharing it.


Why I’m Not Impressed By Trump’s Radical “Honesty”

I used to be just like Donald Trump.

Ha. Ok. Maybe not just like him. But when it came to saying what was on my mind, I was an open book. And by open book I mean active volcano.

It’s not hard to make a case for such radical honesty. I find that a lot of people like the idea of the blunt “truth”. In a world where it can be hard to tell if people are deceiving or misleading you, the idea of people saying exactly what they think or mean can be appealing. Especially in politics. So part of me can understand why Trump has gained so many followers with these tactics. A volcano is captivating for a little while, especially if you can look past the destruction in causes.

When he responded to the Orlando shooting tragedy by thanking people for congratulating him on being right about radical Islam, I did what many people did: I expressed my concern about his communication habits on social media.

And just as one might expect from social media, people interpreted my post as an open door for a debate.

One debate partner in particular accused me (and my entire generation) of wanting everything to be “sugar coated” and stated that it was time for us to learn some “hard truths”.

Like most things that are “sugar coated”, the comment stuck with me. Not because I was particularly offended by it, but because I recognized it.

You see, I used to make the same argument in my defense of my own radical honesty. I didn’t see the point in “sugar coating” things. To me, editing myself meant being less honest or less clear in my message.

And yet, in the back of my mind, I couldn’t help but wonder what the point of speaking is if no one can hear WHAT you are saying because of HOW you are saying it? Still, I couldn’t see a better way than brutal honesty.

Then I stumbled upon the quote, “Sometimes being kind is more important than being right.” And I started to notice that the people I admired most in my life were people who were both brave AND kind in their communication. Somehow they found a way to speak their truth, and yet they did so in a way that never threatened anyone else’s truth. They used their language not to raise a wall but to build a bridge.

What would change if we valued each other more than we valued our own “message”?

If I choose to slow down and consider what I want to say before I say it, that isn’t sugar coating; it’s being thoughtful. If I reword something so that people can more easily hear what I’m saying, that isn’t being political; it’s being intentional. The choice isn’t simply to spew like a volcano or say nothing. I can speak my truth AND I can do so in a way that doesn’t harm or disrespect another.

And honestly, if my truth is harmful to another, I can choose not to speak it. My truth isn’t any less true just because I choose to keep it to myself.

I had focused so long on gaining the courage to express my beliefs that I had forgotten the point of doing so. Language isn’t just a vehicle for me to make a statement. Language is a way for us to connect with each other.

Anyone can throw a rock through a pane of glass. Not everyone can build a stain-glassed window. Donald Trump may be really good at making statements and expressing opinions. But then again, so is my first grader. It doesn’t require any skill to blurt out whatever you are thinking. Having an opinion and saying it out loud doesn’t impress me. That requires the maturity and competency of a toddler.

Being able to speak your truth in such a way that you create something of value without harming anyone in the process–that is a skill worthy of attention.

Baby, Nobody Has A Good Reason To Be Mean To You. Ever. 

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I picked her up from school on Tuesday. It was the week of Valentine’s Day and we had spent Monday decorating her Valentine’s box to take to school for her party. I loved this project with her because it reminded me of my own elementary years and what fond memories I have of creating that box each year.

“How was your day?” I asked, as usual.

“Fine, except (names two girls in her class)  told me that my box was ugly and that it was the worst one.”

Here’s the kicker. We hadn’t even taken her box to school yet. We were taking it on Wednesday.

Is there anything that makes a parent’s blood boil faster than hearing about someone being mean to their child? Seriously.

I kept my calm but I told her that it made me so sad and frustrated to hear that people would say that. I vented some of my thoughts out loud, telling her that I didn’t understand why anyone would criticize someone else’s creativity and that that was just ridiculous that anyone would even say something like that and if you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all.

I was still frustrated by the situation when we got home. As we got out of the car I said, “You know, I’m so disappointed that someone else would treat you like that. It makes me mad and it makes me want to march over to school and put them in timeout. But the truth is, I can’t. Because I’m not their parent and I can’t control how they act. The only thing I can control is what I do as your mom.”

And I stopped and knelt down to her level and looked her in the eye and said,

“Please hear me when I tell you this because it is so important. Nobody has a good reason to be mean to you. Ever. If somebody is mean to you, it is about them. It is not about you. If someone doesn’t like your box, that is fine. We all like different things and that’s ok. But that is not a good reason for them to be mean to you. They could still be polite and kind. Even if they don’t like your stuff or how you do things, even if they don’t like you or disagree with you. That is never a good reason for them to be mean. You may not be able to change how they behave but you can know what you’re worth and you can believe in how you deserve to be treated. You always deserve kindness and respect. Always. No matter what. Everyone and everything deserves to be treated with kindness and respect. There is no such thing as a good reason to be mean to someone. Ever.”

This bullying and mean girl shit is out of control. It’s happening in KINDERGARTEN, people. How does a five year old even know how to be mean??

I suppose that’s a rant for another day. Because it is an easy rant to get carried away with, and one that ultimately leads to blame, which doesn’t seem to help anyone.

So today I’d like to stay on the topic of taking responsibility for what we can control. Every child and every human will probably encounter a situation in their life in which someone is mean to them. We may not be able to change the way others treat us, but perhaps we can change how we allow ourselves to be treated. I can’t change the people who hurt my feelings, but I can choose to remember that the pain they inflict isn’t my pain to carry.

And I may not be able to march into Kindergarten and put everyone into timeout, but I can tell my child ever day, “No one ever has a good reason to be mean to you. Ever. So if they are, let it go. Because it isn’t your pain to carry.” And I can pray every day that she will believe me. That she will grow up knowing how senseless meanness is, and that that will not only guide the way she behaves but also who she chooses to invest her time in.

When other people act in a way that feels desperately and painfully out of our control, it’s easy to forget we have a choice at all. But we do.


(Disclaimer: In no way do I mean for this post to imply that I am without blame in my life. I know that I have made mistakes and been mean and unkind more times than I am even aware of. We are all human and we all strive to live in a way that is in alignment with what we believe and I, like most people, often fall short. I can only hope the people I’ve been unkind to had the strength and grace not to carry my pain with them. I also recognize that my child is human and will probably be unnecessarily mean to someone else at some point(s) in her life. I hope this message addresses both sides of the situation.)

Have Courage and Be Kind


We went on a mommy/daughter date to see the movie Cinderella.

It was actually a pretty good movie. I don’t really want to get into picking apart Disney movies regarding the unrealistic love stories or why everyone’s parents always have to die. They probably have a lot of “hidden” messages, maybe even some I’m not aware of.

Instead what I’d rather point out are the obvious messages. The first is a theme throughout the movie, Cinderella’s motto, “Have courage and be kind.”  Any movie that has my daughter whispering that to herself on the way out of the theater is a winner in my book.

The second was slightly less obvious, but still plainly stated. Cinderella was locked in the tower when the prince came to try the shoe on all the ladies of the house. By chance, they discover her. On her way down to face the prince for the first time as a “plain”/”servant” girl, she catches sight of her ragged clothes in the mirror and wonders out loud if the prince will accept her for who she is. She says the following:

“This is perhaps the greatest risk any of us will ever take. To be seen as we truly are.”

And that’s the whole reason why this blog even exists. Because if authenticity was easy, it would be the norm rather than something we have to strive for and if that were the case I might as well be writing about something as common as brushing your teeth. Being yourself in a world that is full of opinions about how and what you should be takes more courage than anything else. Letting other people see you feels like a risk that even the bravest of us shy away from sometimes.

Why is that, I wonder? Do we need other people more than we need our true selves? But if the relationship is based on something other than your true self, it is rarely fulfilling. Perhaps it’s a little of both. We need our true selves in order to find the kind of people we need. We need authenticity in order to create the authentic connections we crave.  We need both. To have courage and be kind.

As a parent, we not only have to figure out how to do this, we also have to figure out how to teach our children how to do it.

Unless they are the ones teaching us…

Daily Photo – March 15, 2015

We had a mommy daughter date tonight. We went to see the movie Cinderella at the theater. It was a pretty good movie. 

Even better was when my tired little girl climbed in the car at after the show and I heard her whisper to herself, “Have courage and be kind.” (One of the main lines of the movie.)

I love this girl.