You’ve got scrapes on both knees and a Spiderman ball-cap perched on your sandy blond hair. Your eyes are your father’s, like the soil beneath your fingernails from working in the garden—picking raspberries and strawberries and digging around the beans you planted—and you’re four and a half going on fifty with your old-soul gaze.
You’ve got my freckles on your nose and a Spiderman backpack with paper and pens and a strawberry squeeze yogurt, some homemade chocolate chip cookies and a peanut-butter sandwich.
It’s your first day of school today. We all bike with you through the hamlet. Daddy with his school bag too, because he teaches down the hall from your classroom. Your little brother on his training wheels, me on my mountain bike and you on your two-wheeler. You stop and look both ways at the Co-Op like we’ve taught you, and I want to tuck you back inside my womb and never let you go.
But then we’re there, in the school parking lot with yellow buses and big kids with paper bag lunches and brand-new sneakers, and my heart hurts and I’m thinking of all the things I didn’t get you that I should have: all the things I should have taught you, all of words I should have said and the stories I should have read. Do you even know your phone number?
We walk down the stairs. There’s your teacher, my friend who lives down the road from us, and she’s gentle with you. She leans down and looks in your eyes and says, “Good morning, Aiden! Are you excited for your first day of school?”
And we all breathe a little easier, and I kiss you on your soft cheeks and you do your small smile, the shy one. “You’ll stay, Mommy, for just a little while, till I feel okay?”
“I will stay the whole day if you need me to,” I say, and Kasher and I find two chairs at the back. The short plastic kind.
And even as we watch you there from the back, sitting with the other children on the mat learning the weather—I hope. I hope with all my heart you know what every child needs to know when he first goes to school.
Who You Are
You are loved. Not just as in, “I love you,” but as in, “I would die for you, that’s how much I love you“ and that this love would give you the kind of confidence peat-moss gives roots, that you would stretch taller than a sunflower, your face lifted up, and shining.
Where You’re From
I want you to know your phone number and address, but more than that—I want you to know where you’re from. From a Creator who designed you, from a family that loves you and we live in a brick house, yes, but we make it a home not because of the walls around us but the values we hold. Let those values hold you too, son, and let your home be more than a location, but a people. You are from us, and your address is wherever we are.
No matter if you get an A or a D, your worth is still bigger than all the letters combined. It is immeasurable. I want you to work hard, not to prove something to me but because working hard will bless you. Because you have been given a brain, hands and a mouth with which to serve the world, and working hard will allow you to do that. But no matter the outcome of that hard work, your worth stands alone. Nothing can touch it. You will never matter more or less. You are enough.
No matter what anyone tells you, you are never too little to make a difference. You have a voice—use it for good. You have a heart—use it to love. If you see a kid being bullied, stand up for him, even if it means you get bullied too. Love is not affected or determined by size or age.
Dare to be different, son. Think for yourself. You have been given a mind and a voice of your own—use it to make your own decisions on things based on what you’ve learned at home. The world is full of opinions about who you should be, but you always have a choice. This world is not our home—so don’t be afraid to live outside of the box.
There are other things of course—like knowing how to write your name and how to count— but regardless of what people say, these are not the essentials. It’s better to know who you are than what others expect of you.
You look over at me—you’re eating your snack now, and you nod. Smile. “I’m okay Mama—you can go,” you mouth to me from across the room and I swallow. Smile back. Stand, and walk slowly out the door. Looking back only once.
You look so small, but I know you’ve grown miles since this morning, son.
And I whisper a blessing over you as we bike home.
Emily T. Wierenga is an award-winning journalist, blogger, commissioned artist and columnist, as well as the author of five books including the memoir Atlas Girl: Finding Home in the Last Place I Thought to Look (Baker Books). She lives in Alberta, Canada with her husband and two sons. For more info, please visit emilywierenga.com. Find her on Twitter or Facebook.
Created in conjunction with the Smithsonian Institution and with the latest CGI technology, the Knowledge Encyclopedia is bold new approach to family reference using 3-D rendered images to explore the wonders of the word in unprecedented detail. Hardcover. (Age 8-15)