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E-Zine / Twas the night before the first day of school

Twas the night before the first day of school

On the night before the school year began, there were anxious moments in my household too. The kids were worried about making new friends, the location of their locker, the teachers and the homework. We were worried about the transition they should make from a very busy summer full of sun and fun to the classroom. Dining table conversations revolve around such issues, but sometimes written words help you express yourself better. I wrote a letter to my daughter, and shared my anxieties, fears and advices before she started seventh grade. It was a pleasant surprise to receive a response from her.

Sharing our letters with the readers of Serenelight..

"Dear daughter,

It's a good fifteen days before the Almanac announces a curtain call on Summer of 2012, but back to school nights and registration mornings unofficially dictate that we should stop hiking up the mountains, waddling in the pools, walk barefoot in the golden sand and embrace academic life. It's always a bitter sweet moment to send you girls to school come September. On one hand, I am happy that I can work peacefully, without the white noise that you guys provided, and on the other I will miss those erratic piano beats, crazy words that were exchanged between you sisters, and your loud music that certainly isn't my taste.

Expectations change with every passing year. This year will be no different. I will expect you to be honest, truthful and responsible also. But I don’t expect you to be perfect, neither do your teachers.

Please don't study. I know the pressure you are under where each one of your friend is following the rote routine to master the textbook aiming for a hundred percent during testing. You don't have to get a hundred percent if that’s what it takes going forward. Understand the subject. Learn it. If you are learning about Greece, you don't have master the textbook to understand the subject. Read along with the teacher when she teaches the class. Pick up a historical fiction that outlines the syllabus you have. Read and enjoy the different perspective of the same subject laced with dialogues, and grandeur, and some imagination. Watch a movie. Imagine yourself how it must have been. How Caesar must have been as a person. How life must have been during those times. His mundane, his magnificent, and his thoughts as he ruled.

Realize that your textbook is a guideline of what people your age should know about – not the entirety of what you should know. Your grandfather wrote textbooks. Your grandmother is working on one right now. Ask them, and they will tell you the process of how textbooks are written. How they tread the path of history, carefully outlining what can be safely discussed and understood in a classroom full of students with diverse backgrounds and varying levels of intellect. Don't let an outline define history to you. There are more people than the listed ones in the textbooks any given time. Their roles were equally crucial in changing the course of time. Just because it is controversial, you cannot deny yourself the pleasure of knowing them.

We have never forced culture or religion on you. There are absolutely no limitations on you when it comes to expressing yourself. You have the freedom to wear any color, any design, and any brand as long as it adheres to the policy imposed by the school and general decency. Don’t go by what your friends wear, don't go by what your friends think of what you wear. Be yourself, be the way you like yourself to be. Those who aim to please others will never succeed, even Vera Wang has her detractors. When you look at yourself in the mirror (that is if you have time before you dash off the door half asleep!) slap on that smile. Your smile is the only accessory that I never want you to lose in some locker in the school hallway. Everything else with a dollar value can be replaced.

Please don't gossip. I don’t want to know who the friend of a friend likes. I don't want to know about your friend's father who punishes her if she misses the grade. Tell me about you, yourself, and your own issues. Talk to me, always. I want to know about your likings, your confusions and your time management issues. I want to know what troubles you. I want to know what affects your performance. I want to know how I can make life better for you. If the friend is affecting or influencing your life, I need to know. But if your friend is expressing herself in ways that you don't approve, please don't talk to me about her. Like you, she is trying to find herself, and her method might not be the same as yours. Respect that, and let her paint her nails black, and get streaks of blue in her hair without judging her in front of others.

You are an inch taller than me now, and strangers ask us if we are sisters. But let's not trick ourselves into being each others friends. I will never be your friend. There is nothing wrong being your mother. Your grandmother and I always had, and still have a very open relation where she knows about everything that happens in my life including news about what pissed me off that day. We never had to pretend that we were friends before we started sharing everything with each other. It was an easy transition, to show her how I danced to a certain song in Kindergarten to how I danced for a certain hit number during my teenage years. Never a shame to be her daughter, never in need of a sham called friendship. Let’s take pride in being mother and daughter.

Manage. Please learn to manage now. It's not easy to think about life sciences and cell division when you are lost in Aria, but that’s how life is, and always will be. Lose yourself in music. I like seeing you lost, your eyes closed and fingers flowing smoothly over the piano keys, half of your nail polish chipped, and your hair tied in a bun. It overwhelms me emotionally to see you like that sometimes. It scares me also. This thing called life is cruel. Even if you choose to play piano for the rest of your life, you will have to learn to manage your time, and prioritize your commitments. School teaches you that art, and if you submit yourself completely, you might even master the art before you graduate!

Please be alone. Every day. Even if it is for ten minutes. Without music running in the background. Without talking to a friend or texting one. Without reading. Without playing with your sister. Connect with yourself. I had too much energy to do that when I was your age, but when I finally said hello to myself in my thirties, I wondered where I was all those days, and why didn't I break the ice before. Don't let that happen to you. Close your eyes, and lose yourself every night before you sleep. Dream. Where I don't matter, your sister doesn't, and your father doesn’t.

Don't compare yourself with anyone. You are far too precious to be compared with anyone else. I like you the way you are. Your grades, your actions, and your thoughts- set higher goals for all as you want them to be, but not to be better than someone. I don't care for anyone else in the world. I am too self centered that way. Other than you and your sister, no other kid matters to me. If you have a perfect grade point average in your view, that is perfect enough for me. I don’t have to know what the other 98% have. I never will want to. Just you, your view of perfection, and your score against it. That should be the ultimate comparison.

Another small promise while we are running a laundry list, please don't talk about what you want to be when you grow up. Growing up is fun, let's focus on that. If you want to take up culinary arts as an elective, go ahead. Don't think of how it looks on a college application. If you want to take up computer sciences, do so because you are interested. Not to please your father. He is proud of you and loves you the same whether you write a novel, or write a cryptic code. Same applies to college. At the right moment, you will know what you want to be. We will support you with all our hearts (and bank balance) to help you achieve what you want to. It can be anything from making a movie to making upma on top chef. Put your heart in and succeed. Your dream and your future are far more important than our bragging rights

At your age, I know it is hard to read something that was not said within one-hundred-forty characters. But I still love my thousand words, and one day you will too. A thousand more for a different moment, let me conclude now, wishing you and your sister the best for the coming academic year. As usual, your father and I will sit at a local Starbucks after dropping you off to school, my eyes still wet because I obviously shed some tears when you waved bye and disappeared among your friends, not once looking back. It's even harder this year, your little sister going into a classroom where her feet don’t touch the ground if she sits on her seat. But I will find my strength, immerse myself in work till both of you come home with colorful stories about your new teachers, new friends, and new classrooms.

It amazes me, the way you have grown and matured every passing year, first day of school being a reference record of the speed of those changes. Wishing you the best for the academic year..

Love,

Mom (and Dad because I know it takes at least two to raise a child in this house)"

"Dear Mom and Dad,

Seventh grader means one step away from the top of the school, and two from high school.

All my friends have already mastered the art of rolling their eyes and flipping their straightened hair, while they wave good-bye with their perfectly manicured fingers, and smile with their heavily glossed lips. So I think this year, a LOT of my friends are actually going to wave good-bye to their parents. (This will be the first time in the past seven years that their kids actually turned their head in their direction!) Please don’t expect to turn my head, flip my hair and wave you bye with a perfect smile on my face, because chances are I'll fishtail braid my hair that I forgot to diffuse, and my nailpolish is chipped because I forgot to coat it after the last Sunday’s manicure.

I'm no Greg Heffley, who turns a tomato red when his mom says goodbye to him. But don't expect me to be a pink pony either, who will jump up and down, and say "Bye Mommy! I'll miss you." I understand that you will cry on the first day of school, what with keeping up with the family tradition of crying for every new step the kid takes. Get over it! It's just the next grade. They would have passed me even if I got all C's on my report card, and I brought home a perfect report card, star studded CST result, which proves I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself in seventh grade.

Let's not forget about you Daddy. One moment, you tell me that I can be a mathematician, and the next moment you go gaga over how much I have grown from my diaper and nursery rhyme days. I'm neither old enough to think about my career in math, nor baby enough to open my Cat in the Hat book with you. Let's make a deal this year. I'll help you memorize the hottest and coolest song of 2012 ( I still can't believe you don't know who Liam Payne is!), and you help me memorize my theorems in Algebra 1 and 2.

Aren't I thankful you guys are too busy to volunteer in my classroom? It’s tiring to keep up my act of a perfect child when you are there following my every step. Thank you for not being that helicopter mom who emails the teacher a hundred times just to see if I have turned in my assignments on time. I might forget on Day One, maybe even on Day Two, but I'll fix it before it gets anywhere NEAR the Aeries Parent Portal. Trust me. Been there, done that, and made it into Principal's Honor Roll twice. Proves I must be better than a lot of other kids ( No offense to my friends who submit their assignments on time!)

Don't worry, I won’t hide a makeup kit in my locker (It's overflowing with clothes and shoes I innocently forget to bring home.) And please don't worry, I'm not going to search for anything inappropriate on my laptop, or my engraved Itouch which discharges, and resets itself to the year you were born. You know me, I can barely clean up my room, let alone the history on my computer. It's still laziness, but makes your job a WHOLE lot easier.

I forbid you from being my friend. Thankfully I have a lot of friends whom I can talk to about my teenage crisis. We love the hormonal drama and mood swings. We don't want you to lecture us about how it's a normal part of growing up. It is special for us, and we would like it to remain special. But I love coming crying into your arms once in a while and hearing that it will be okay.

Going to seventh grade is a big change for me. More privileges, more responsibilities, and more work. Maybe that would translate into more slacking, and more irresponsible behavior, but hey, I talked to both of my grandmothers today. Surprise, surprise! My perfect parents were not at all perfect children. And you turned out just fine. I'm sure I'll do too. Let me steer my own ship, but if I get lost in the fog, beam me from the lighthouse.

Till next year,

Rea"

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E-Zine / Twas the night before the first day of school