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Letter to My Kindergarten Graduate

I saw you trying to be brave. I saw you smiling through your trepidation. I knew you wouldn't let you true feelings show. So, I cried instead.
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Dear Julianna,

I cried the day you started kindergarten. I watched you line up between 18 other 5-year olds (most of them louder and taller than you) and the tears started falling. I'm usually so stoic. I didn't even cry at my wedding.

But I saw you trying to be brave. I saw you smiling through your trepidation. I knew you wouldn't let you true feelings show. So, I cried instead.

You shed your own tears privately at different times this year. There was the first time you were teased about your glasses. The small rejections of girls at lunch. The emotional tumult when you went to principal's office for writing a note to a bully.

But sometime around January, the tears dried up. Your energy was all going into growing. You lost four teeth in the span of a month. Your red curly hair grew several inches. You learned to jump rope, hula hoop and ride a bike. You decided to ignore the boys who once tormented you. You chose to play with the girls who accepted you instead.

As an adult, if I'd experience even two or three of the changes that you experienced, my body and psyche couldn't handle it. I couldn't cope with the most minor change to my appearance. But that's childhood. You learn either learn to accept the changes inside or you become overwhelmed by them.

In April, you got on stage for the first time, conquering butterflies, to perform in "Friendly Neighborhood Helpers." You were a crossing guard and a mail carrier. There were 50 sets of eyes watching you. and yet you beamed as you sang your heart out. I don't remember much of the performance except seeing how happy you looked on stage.

Those few minutes gave you a hunger to perform. In May, when the talent show try-outs began, you wanted to participate. I was overwhelmed with deadlines and responsibilities. I said we'd plan for it next year.

But you wouldn't give up. I've always wanted you to learn to fight for the things you really care about. You need to find a way to make the things you want happen in life, despite the hearing the word "no." Even if the "no" is from people you care about most.

You knew you didn't want to perform alone, so you enlisted the help of a friend. That's another lesson you learned pretty quickly: There is safety in numbers.

You decided on an anthem you and your friend both loved and knew well: "Let it Go" from Frozen.

You practiced separately because your friend has been sick, missing weeks of school. As the day of the talent show approached, you expressed trepidation. You said you were excited, and a little nervous. But it was the excitement you chose to focus on.

And that's when the real change happened this year. You started to be my teacher. Because I have many years letting my anxieties decide what I will do. I have taken risks -- some big and others small. I went to graduate school in a city where I knew no one, I moved to NYC without a job.

But too often I have said "no" to chances to be on center stage, hiding behind excuses of obligations.

As you were practicing your number for the talent show, I was wondering how I might get out of flying halfway across the country by myself for work I love. The only reason I didn't want to do it was because I was afraid.

I told you the day of the talent show not to be surprised if some of the kids decided not to go on stage. But you corrected me: Once your name is on the list, you can't chicken out.

I don't know if I can be as brave as you, but you are teaching me that I should at least try.

Two days before Kindergarten graduation, you got up in front of the entire school with your best friend in your matching dresses. You channeled Elsa, pretending to freeze us all with your power. But I was already stunned. You are realizing something I knew: Your real power is something you had inside you all along.