09 August 2016


Dear Public School System,

I sent you my child last week; a bright-eyed, inquisitive kindergartner who is eager to earn and just a little bit nervous to be there.

She'll likely be with you for the next thirteen years. To put it in perspective, that's about as long as she'll be living under my roof. There will be days that she spends more of her waking hours with you than with me. I hope you can understand why I don't take the time that she will spend with you lightly.

Please don't break her.

I don't mean that in the don't give her artificial coloring or sugar, and help her get on the right bus sense. Though, I'm sure you know my type, either having met others like me, or through the mostly`exaggerated stereotype of an overly concerned parent; I'll likely send her own snacks and, while I did ultimately manage to refrain, I seriously considered following her bus to school on the first day.

I'm putting my trust in you to ensure her physical safety. It's a stretch, considering I only stopped cutting her grapes up a year ago, but I'm making an effort to embrace, or at the very least, shake hands with, the village mentality.

But while I'm absolutely concerned with her safety, I'm talking about her spirit right now.

Don't break her.

She is bright and full of hope, and, while resilient, still so impressionable.

Don't break her. Please, don't break her.

She will ask questions- a lot of questions. Please encourage them. I know you're tied to a curriculum and might be limited in the answers you can give. Point her to books and resources beyond you if need be, but please don't shut her down.

As much as I hope you encourage her to ask questions, I hope you encourage her to answer them as well. She's a critical thinker and her means to a solution might not be traditional, but be patient, she will get there. She might raise her hand ten times and give the wrong answer nine; don't let her stop raising her hand. Don't let her stop trying.

Don't hold her to a different standard than her male peers. Don't let their answers carry more weight than hers. Don't let their voice be heard above hers. She knows this isn't how the world should work; but you and I both know that it happens, more than her kindergarten self is prepared for. Please don't let it be on your watch.

Unless something- be it a profession, or sport, whatever- requires specific reproductive organs to participate, don't discourage it, whether it's outright or implied. Give her examples of women succeeding, and not just during Women's History Month.

If by some chance one of her fears comes true and you tell her to color inside the lines and she responds with her practiced line of, "I understand that's how you like it, but I'm okay doing it this way," I hope you smile and appreciate it.

She lives with the belief that differences should be noticed and celebrated. She does not find shame in talking about areas she needs extra help in. She looks out for others, talks daily about how to be inclusive, and trusts that she can call on those around her when she's struggling herself. Please be an environment where she can continue to practice these beliefs rather than changing her behavior when in your walls.

Teach her. Believe in her. Tell her there is good in the world and show her how to be a part of it.

I'm not asking you to treat her differently than you would any other child you're entrusted with. I don't believe she is entitled to any special treatment. I don't expect you to raise my child. The responsibility for the well-being of my child is one that I am fully accountable for.

But you are a resource, and just as any other person or institution that stands to influence her as greatly as you do given the time she will be with you, I have expectations.

I work hard to encourage and demonstrate lifelong learning, and you are a part of that. I don't want you to be the part that burns her out.

I work hard to teach her compassion and empathy. I don't want you to be the place where she questions the existence thereof.

I am deeply committed to supporting her as she is- her ideas, her convictions, her creativity, her personality. Her confidence and self-worth is a priority to me. My home will always be a safe place for her, one in which she knows she's loved and valued unconditionally. There will always be a contrast between school and home. I just ask that the divide not be glaring.

I know the transition from me to you and back again won't be seamless. A week into it already, I can see this. Whether I'm ready for it or not, she's coming for you; she's there.

Please don't break her.

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