Dear daughter: You’re a little bit of me and *all* of you

Without a doubt, you are, and have always been, so solidly you.

Dear daughter: You’re a little bit of me and *all* of you

The moment you were born, my notion that you would be my mini-me was dispelled by the sight of your huge eyes and olive skin. Little did I know that this was only where our differences began.

In the hospital, I pored over every detail of you—noting certain features and predicting your future based on them. Then at home, in the haze of sleepy days and the rawness of adjusting to this new life in my care, I could see that you were small but mighty—even as a newborn, your intent gaze held the force you possess to this day.


Without a doubt, you are, and have always been, so solidly you.

And as you've grown, there have been moments where the differences between us have proven that point even more.

As a newly minted crawler who had a taste for independence and wanted to get going, you found diaper changes to be the perfect time to express your distaste for the inability to do what you wanted. You flipped, you kicked, you giggled—you resisted each and every attempt. And it was then that I realized—even though I am predisposed to be cooperative, you, on the other hand, definitely are not.

When you were three, having had a full day of "No!" from you, I sent you to your room, only to find cheeky little you stripped naked and singing and dancing atop your time-out stool. I realized it was not defiance you were showing me, but instead the difference between us. Whereas I am a rule follower, you will always be a make-lemonade-out-of-lemons girl.

And while I am cautious and contemplative about new people and places, you optimistically jump in with two feet and hardly a thought about what you will do if things don't work out, because somehow they always do.

At six, baking was an adventure with you, one that included more flour on the counter than in the bowl—cause and effect being far more interesting to you than the pretty cookies we were trying to make. Though I am a follower recipes, you clearly are not—your bold spirit emerging so many times throughout our baking experiments, reminding me again and again that we are very different.

Through these moments of pure you, I learned that being different than me and seeing the world with another perspective came from a solid sense of self that deserved to be nurtured and defended so it could remain intact, allowing you to become who you were supposed to be, and not shadowed by my desire for you to be like me.

Throughout your teenage years, managing our differences wasn't difficult in the usual sense of the word, where challenges and power struggles would be met with pouting and maybe even some yelling before one of us could claim victory. No, the difficulty was found more so in the quiet moments, where will and desire wrenched both of our hearts. Each petal of your bloom, exposing itself to the elements of life's rules, expectations and limitations, made our differences even more pronounced.

It has taken so much patience and perspective—all wrapped up in a whole lot of love—to get to this point where you are who you are today...strong and smart, independent, beautiful and kind. The spirit I saw when you were small still remains.

And here we are. And I cannot believe I am your mama. And you are setting off into the world.

My daughter, because we are so different, I want you to know…

...that seeking adventures can be just as much a journey inward as it is outward, so remember to take the time to be really still so you can hear what your heart is telling you.

...that your self-discipline to stay focused on goals also needs to be used to allow yourself to not be scheduled, not be on task, not be in control, and just to be. And in that, you are enough.

...that your conviction gives you a backbone, but you need to know when to bend and allow compassion to help you see, sympathy to help you hear, and forgiveness to help you heal your heart.

...that your outer beauty merely hints at the light that's inside of you, and whether you achieve world domination or not, by sharing your light you will illuminate what is good and leave the world better off for having known you.

You like to lead, I like to guide. You have an unquenchable thirst for adventure, I have a need to deepen my roots. Though we share similar tastes in food and fashion, and we both harbor a distinct and undeterrable drive to change the world in our own way. And when a problem arises, I'm more, "Now how do we fix this?" while you're more, "Let me put this in perspective."

We're a little the same, and a lot different. And I find a lot of beauty in that.

I admire your optimism and strength and would like to think that you still own it because you were given a soft landing place at home to fall if you did. And, my daughter, I want you to know that landing place is still—and always will be—here for you if you need it.

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This is how we’re defining success this school year

Hint: It's not related to grades.

In the ever-moving lives of parents and children, opportunities to slow down and reflect on priorities can be hard to come by. But a new school year scheduled to begin in the midst of a global pandemic offers the chance to reflect on how we should all think about measures of success. For both parents and kids, that may mean putting a fresh emphasis on optimism, creativity and curiosity.

Throughout recent decades, "school success" became entangled with "academic achievement," with cases of anxiety among school children dramatically increasing in the past few generations. Then, almost overnight, the American school system was turned on its head in the spring of 2020. As we look ahead to a new school year that will look like no year past, more is being asked of teachers, students and parents, such as acclimating to distance learning, collaborating with peers from afar and aiming to maintain consistency with schooling amidst general instability due to COVID.

Despite the inherent challenges, there is also an overdue opportunity to redefine success during the school year by finding fresh ways to keep students and their parents involved in the learning process.

"I always encourage my son to try at least one difficult thing every school year," says Arushi Garg, parenting blogger and mom of a 4-year-old. "This challenges him but also allows me to remind him to be optimistic! Lots of things in life are hard, and it's important we learn to be positive during difficult times. Fostering a sense of optimism allows kids to push beyond what they thought possible, like biking without training wheels or reading above their grade level."

Here are a few mantras to keep in mind this school year:

Quality learning matters more than quantifying learning

After focusing on standardized measures of academic success for so long, the learning environment this next school year may involve more independent, remote learning. Some parents are considering this an exciting opportunity for their children to assume a bigger role in what they are learning—and parents are also getting on board by supporting their children's education with engaging, positive learning materials like Highlights Magazine.

As a working mom, Garg also appreciates that Highlights Magazine can help engage her son while she's also working. She says, "He sits next to me and solves puzzles in the magazine or practices his writing from the workbook."

Keep an open mind as "school" looks different

Whether children are of preschool age or in the midst of high school, "going to school" is bound to look different this year. Naturally, this may require some adjustment as kids become accustomed to new guidelines. Although many parents may wish to shelter our kids from challenges, others believe optimism can be fostered through adversity when everyone is committed to adapting to new experiences.

"Honestly, I am yet to figure out when I will be comfortable sending [my son] back [to school]," says Garg. In the meantime, she's helping her son remain connected with friends who also read Highlights Magazine by encouraging the kids to talk about what they are learning on video calls.

Follow children's cues about what interests them

For Garg, her biggest hope for this school year is that her son will create "success" for himself by embracing new learning possibilities with positivity.

"Encouraging my son to try new things has given him a chance to prove that he can do anything," she says. "He takes his previous success as an example now and feels he can fail multiple times before he succeeds."

There's no denying that this school year will be far from the norm. But, perhaps, we can create a new, better way of defining our children's success in school because of it.

This article was sponsored by Highlights. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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