To My Daughter On Her First Day

The Next Family

By: Joey Uva

Kindergarten! Where have five and half years gone already? In one week you will start kindergarten. I attended the elementary school open house held back in April and saw what your very first class room would look like; it took me back thirty-eight years to my first class room. I don’t remember much from when I was five but I remember that classroom. Your classroom was filled with little desks, boards, and books with letters and numbers on the walls. I can’t believe we are here already!

Your new school provided me a list of skills you should have to be ready for kindergarten. We have been working on this list all summer. There were times when we sat down at the dining room table and practiced. There were times we practiced in the car to musical learning CDs. There were times we practiced when I didn’t even call it that –we would just do it randomly as a little game or challenge and you would smile at me proudly when you got it right. Those were my favorite times!

Here is your “Kindergarten Readiness” list:

· Write your first name using first letter uppercase and the rest of the name in lower case letters. You’re getting very good at this! You and I practiced. Papa “T” practiced this with you a lot. You’d both sit at the dining room table to practice; he is so good with you. You’d get a little bugged that a certain letter isn’t very good and Papa “T” would just be patient and remind you, “it’s only practice, so the next one will be even better!” And guess what? It was!

· Recite your first and last name. You had this one accomplished a long time ago.

· Recognize your first name in print. You have been able to do that for a long time.

· Hold and use pencil, crayons, scissors, and glue appropriately. We have all that covered. One thing, the scissors make me nervous even though you have wanted to use scissors since I can remember. I remember us playing Play-Doh. Your favorite thing to use was the plastic yellow scissors. You would say, “let’s cut the colors Papa!” You loved it!

· Take turns. You can do that!

· Sit still on the rug in crisscross position for 15 minutes. You might find this a little challenging, because will not be not watching a cartoon, eating at the dining room table, or reading a book with me. Maybe your teacher will be reading a book, and if not, you’ll do just fine.

· Raise your hand and wait to be called on. Yep, you can do that.

· Be able to dress and undress yourself when using the bathroom. This took practice, but you have gotten better and I am proud. You still have a little challenge with buttons on your pants, but we’ll get it right.

· Sharing materials. Check!

· Recognizing colors. I remember us driving home one day shortly after you turned five; you looked and the sunset and said, “see the colors papa.” I said, “yes it’s beautiful! What color is it?” you said, “vermillion!” I smiled and said, “you are right!” You know your colors, but it’s your vocabulary that amazes me.

· Recognize numbers and letters and the difference between them. Check!

· Take responsibility for opening, packing and closing backpacks and lunch boxes. You got this in the bag. Ha! Papa made a silly joke; you’ll probably be embarrassed by that one day. I understand.

· Speak in complete sentences. I remember the first time I went over the list with you. You said, “Papa, what is a complete sentence?” I explained it even though you just used one.

· Recognize basic shapes and colors. You got it!

· Able to listen and follow directions. You can do that.

· Work and play cooperatively. The first time we went over the list you did not know what the word “cooperatively” meant. You do now.

· Listen to the teacher without interrupting. You can do that.

I understand why there is a “Kindergarten Readiness List”. It’s there to help you and me prepare. Well, I have another list, a list that I first started thinking of shortly after you were born. A list that is harder for me to help you with. I will be able to guide you, comfort you, provide love and safety, and be there whenever you need me. It’s a list with a few items that I wish nobody ever had to write down. I am writing them down because I love you!

Papa’s Readiness list for elementary school and the future:

· I know you will be nervous and shy on your first day of school. You tend to be very shy. Give it two weeks Pumpkin, and you’ll be coming to me with the name of your new best friend. I know your heart and what it takes to enter it.

· You’ll get frustrated when you get something wrong. It will be all right; nobody is perfect. Do your best, not anyone else’s.

· You’re not always going to want to do your homework. Even though you may not like me sometimes when I make you do your homework, know that my love is still there in that time.

· You may not want to get out of bed for school. Once you are up and going, you’ll be all right.

· You’ll have to learn math. Division was especially hard for me to grasp. I got a school-assigned coach to help me. It’s ironic; today, one of the most successful points of my carrier was when I became a software engineer –it’s all about numbers and I love it. Remember, it could be your biggest challenge that becomes your greatest success.

· I did not like to read in school. I would really have a tough time getting through a book. Not sure if you’ll be the same. If you are, you’ll look back and be thankful.

· You will most likely get teased by another kid. I wish this didn’t have to be true, but if you get teased for being different, too tall, too short, heavy, or thin, remember I am always here for you!

· You might get teased for having gay parents. This one will be very hard for me. I will be here for you if you ever have to deal with this. I want you to be you; don’t worry about if it will hurt my feelings. Be yourself and know that I am your father who loves and wants the best for you.

· You may or may not be a popular kid. Popularity comes and goes. Whether you are or not, I expect you to treat all the kids with respect.

· Your friends may change as you move on to other grades. Be easy on yourself if a friend betrays you, you have a parting, or don’t simply get along anymore. Friends change throughout our lifetime, there will be some friends for which you have a very strong bond with and they will remain a very long time.

· You may get a crush and get your heart broken. I remember my first crush was in the eighth grade and my heart was broken. Being your father, I am hoping your crush is much later than that. When you do get your heart broken, whenever it is, know that my arms are open and I am here for you.

· Peer pressure can be challenging. Know that you can make your own choices. Don’t allow anyone to make you do anything you do not want to do. If you do stumble, I will be here.

· Know that I will be proud of your accomplishments. I will cheer from the sidelines as much as I can.

I am sure this list will grow as you do, as you learn and progress from elementary school to junior high and high school. I was thinking a lot today about you starting school. Your first day of school is hitting me a little harder than I expected. Maybe one day when you are older you will read this and understand what this day means to me and how much I love you. I know that some of the things on my list are years away but they’re hard not to think about as you enter your first year of school. I am proud of you! You are the very reason I wanted to be a father. To my daughter on her first day of school: I Love You!

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