My daughter is starting 7th grade in a week and it has gotten me thinking about how much she has grown and matured. As a toddler, she was the one that was always crying in group pictures because other kids were too close to her and I was out of arms reach. We couldn’t even do playgroups because she would just cry the whole time. I am a sensitive person by nature so it was easy for me to understand how she felt but also difficult in that I didn’t want her to grow up fearing everything and have my anxiety issues. I read a lot of books on highly sensitive children and tried a lot of different strategies with her. It was very hard on me to push her to do things and watch the scared look in her eyes. It is still an ongoing battle but she has gotten so much better at dealing with her fears as she’s grown. So there is hope for your kiddos that have the same temperament! I wrote a letter to her and she has agreed to share it in hopes that it might help others.
My Dearest Daughter,
It is unbelievable to me that you will be 13 in a few short months. A teenager, a young woman, and a middle-schooler. You were cautious and sensitive since birth and I remember the back pain I had from holding your finger while you learned to walk. You started walking around 13 months but would not let go of my finger! I walked holding your finger for over three months until one day when you were 16.5 months I decided you were ready and needed a push. I pulled my finger out of yours a few feet from the door and you took those few steps on your own. First there was terror in your eyes and then that slowly was replaced with a sense of accomplishment and excitement. From then, you were off without ever falling! You walked back and forth through the kitchen with a huge grin on your face and I sat back, watched and cheered you on.
Fast forward 11 years… You are starting middle school in a few weeks. Middle school… a whole crazy world in itself and a huge new challenge for you. You are my oldest child, my only daughter, and my Mini Me. I understand how it feels to be an introvert, highly sensitive and to be overly cautious because I was and still am that way myself. We are rule followers and not risk takers. We suffer from anxiety instead of going with the flow. We fear way too much instead of trying new things. I know how scared you are of change and that switching to a new school after seven years in the same protective elementary school has kept you up at nights. I’m not going to lie, it has kept me up too. As you start this next chapter in your life, I have some advice from one worry wart to another.
Try new things. Join clubs. Talk to new people. I know these are things I harp on the most, but they are the most important. You always ask me “I’m not an athlete, why do you keep pushing me to play sports?” My dear, I don’t expect you to be an athlete or even care if you are, I just want you to find things you like to do. Not necessarily things that you are good at, just things that you enjoy doing! I don’t want you not to try something just because you think you won’t be good at it or that you’ll fail at something. Failing is learning! If you enjoy doing it but fail, just try again. We will be here cheering you on no matter what. If you try something and don’t like it, that’s fine, I’m just proud that you tried it! You will never know if you don’t put yourself out there and take risks. I know you get annoyed that I’m always asking you about different classes and clubs that are out of your comfort zone. I only do it because I want you to figure out what you’re passionate about. Sometimes it is something you would never imagine, until you are put in a situation that makes you try it.
Take some risks. Now this is a tricky one – I’m not talking about behavior you know is wrong or illegal things. You will be exposed to a wide variety of new things in the next few years and I pray that we have taught you enough to make good choices. However, I’m wanting you to push yourself out of your comfort zone and face your fears. There have been times when you have begged me not to make you try something new or go somewhere and believe me, it has been hard for me not to back down. My heart aches when you cry but when you come home and say “Mom, thanks for making me do that, I had fun”, I know that I need to keep pushing you. I want you to be young and have fun! You only live once and the memories you make now stay with you forever. I’m not promising they will all be great memories, but I would love for you to have memories of doing some silly things. Some of my best memories are from slumber parties, giggling with my friends until we cried, summer camp, school trips, prank calling boys, and even tee-peeing houses. Did I just admit to that?? Now I’m not advocating these things and there will always be consequences to your actions, but sometimes innocent fun is worth some punishment. You do have to be very careful with social media though and making sure your actions don’t cause heartache for others.
Choose your friends wisely. One of the things I love most about you is how you are with your friends and your forgiving heart. You are loyal and so caring towards them. You have all grown up together over the past seven years but things will start to change over the next few years. Some friends will drift apart and start hanging out with new people with the same interests. This can be exciting and also painful. Just remember to treat others how you would want to be treated. Don’t talk bad about people even if others are doing it. Be confident in yourself and know that others lash out from a place of hurt in themselves. These years are very confusing and emotional and it’s easy to get bogged down in the drama. I know it’s hard to think about in the midst of a painful situation, but this time in your life is a very very small part. It’s a few years out of about 80! The most important thing to come out of middle school with is your integrity. Don’t compromise your belief system or friends to avoid a few weeks of an awkward situation. Find friends that share your moral value system and hold on to them. Some of them will be your life long friends and support system!
Live like your glass is half full, not like it’s half empty. I know it’s hard to be optimistic all the time, but please try most of the time! Sometimes it’s a good thing to live like Sue Heck from The Middle. I know she’s a funny TV character, but she teaches a very valuable lesson about living true to your heart, trying new things and not caring what others think. Life is so much easier if you live with a positive attitude. Trying new things and not caring if you fail is how you grow. It teaches us to be stronger and to know that we can get back up and try again. It’s a hard lesson for parents to let our kids learn since it breaks our heart as much as yours when you fail. We have all failed at things but we have lived through it and so will you. If you think positively, those failures open up a whole bunch of other options that you may never knew existed.
Pray, Pray, and Pray. My heart is filled by your love for God. You live in such a God honoring way and I pray that you continue to do so. Remember to seek God everyday and to reach to him for guidance. You might not always get the answer you want but he will support you just like we do. I would hope you will always be comfortable to tell us anything, but if you don’t, there are a ton of other adults that love you and would do anything for you including your extended family, our close family friends, teachers, and your pastors. Please open up to them if you need help with anything. Listen to God and he will guide you too.
As you venture into this new exciting time, please know how much I love you and how proud I am of the young woman you are. We will always love and support you in whatever you do. I continue to pray that you stay confident in who you are and know that God made you perfect. You are who he wants you to be so don’t try to change that. He blesses each of us with special gifts and I continue to pray that you realize these gifts and pursue them. Please do not be afraid of taking leaps of faith because we will always be there to catch you if you fall. It’s time to let go of my finger once again and believe in yourself that you can do it!
I love you,