Every morning since Will's first day of kindergarten I have sent him, and then Hallie, out the door with a hug, a kiss, a declaration of love, and a simple request.
"Work hard and be kind."
Today Will and Hallie begin a new school year, complete with new teachers, friends, expectations, responsibilities, and experiences. I wish for them a year overflowing with academic learning, emotional growth, and opportunities for physical activity, creative expression, laughter, and fun.
I also wish - and hope and pray - that as they navigate the educational and social paths ahead of them, they remember my simple request. I hope they remember that while grades are important, report card percentages matter less than the hard work that went into them and the learning that occurred along the way. I hope they remember that a victory in the classroom or on the playing field means nothing if others were pushed down in order for them to rise up. And I hope they remember that kindness goes further than indifference, cattiness, and cruelty combined.
When they feel discouraged, frustrated, sad, or even angry - which they will undoubtedly feel at some point throughout the school year - I hope they hear my voice in their heads, reminding them that hard work and kindness matter most of all.
For fun, here are pictures of Will and Hallie on their very first days of school. Will started around the time he turned two because I'd gone back to work and preschool served as our daycare, and Hallie started at two-and-a-half because she wanted to go to school with Will more than anything else in entire the world.