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Middle school is happening! Some words for my big boy.

Well, here we are. Middle school. We knew it was coming, yet it still feels so big. So intimidating. So exciting. Yes, my love, I'm just as nervous as you are. Maybe more so because I've lived through middle school and I'm reveling (roiling?) in my own memories now. We've talked a lot recently, sort of casually, about what this transition means. But there are so many more things I want to tell you...

Choose friends who make you happy. And try to see them every day, even if just passing in the hall. Friends will be more important to you than ever now. You'll be meeting so many new people these next few weeks, and you'll likely want to cling to the people you know already. That's okay; you need security in times of transition. I hope you'll open up to new people, too -- people who have similar interests and humor, people who recognize how amazing you are and support you. (And get their phone numbers so you can spend time outside of school!)

Be as smart as you are. Never hide from your intelligence, but don't worry about knowing everything, either. Ask questions. Seek answers. Challenge ideas you don't agree with. You are good enough just as you are -- in fact, you are just right -- but I want you to push yourself further. This is where school work starts to count. I will always remind you to work hard, sometimes gently, sometimes not so much. Just know that when I push, it's not because I want you to be better, it's because I want you to have the best opportunities as you grow and spread your wings.

First day of 6th grade
Explore new things. This is a perfect time to find what speaks to your heart! Even if it's nerdy. Remember what I told you about what it means to be a nerd? It means you're all in. When you find something that's interesting or brings out your gifts, jump into it with both feet. Don't worry about what other people say. Chess club is cool when it's your thing. So is drama, art, comics, football, yearbook, roller skating -- whatever it is, do it with gusto.

Trust your instincts. Even if it means saying no or risking embarrassment, or even if you worry your friends won't agree. You have a kind heart and a smart mind. These two things will never let you down. If something doesn't feel right, it probably isn't, so walk away. And know you can always call Mom or Dad for help, no matter what.

Mind the internet. It is a public place. And permanent. What you post online can and will be seen by many people, and you can't always control what people see, say, or share about your online activity. The internet is a wonderful tool for research, communication, connection, creativity. But it also brings out the nasty in people. Only your notebook -- old fashioned pencil and paper -- is private. Write whatever you want in it. That's the best way to get to know yourself.

Be kind. Always, to everyone. But especially to tall, awkward girls who will crave your attention because you're tall, handsome, and funny. Resist the urge to say things like "Ew, gross" when you find out a girl likes you. You don't have to like them back, of course, but remember kindness before coolness.

Don't be the stinky kid. Hygiene matters! Toothpaste, deodorant, face soap. These are all very important.

Stay organized. Locker, backpack, planner, bedroom. Create your own system if you have to, but have a system. I promise you, organizing your space and your mind will help you stay calm and feel in control when things around you seem chaotic.

Remember your brother looks up to you. In all you say, all you do, first ask yourself if you'd want to hear or see your brother doing it, too.

Enjoy time alone whenever you can. I know our house is small and space is limited, but I will respect and protect your need to be alone. I promise to not take it personally if you don't want to join us on family outings. You're going to want to pull away from us a bit over the next few years, and that's completely normal and expected; I will try my best to remember that. (Just be prepared for me to ask "Everything okay?" about a hundred times a week. And probably hug you or stare at your face more often. You know I will.)

Remember you are loved. So very much. By your mom and dad, your brother, your grandparents and aunts and uncles, your friends near and far. And you're a child of God, who watches over you and loves you and will be your strength and shield whenever you feel nervous, afraid, or hurt. We love you unconditionally -- no matter what.

Don't pay attention to people who warn you about how hard middle school is, or say things like "oh god! Never again!" Life is what you make of it. My mom told me this over and over, and I'll remind you too. Middle school will be amazing because you'll make it amazing, my happy handsome boy. You're totally ready to rock it!

Know, as well, that at the end of every day, no matter what happens -- good and bad -- your family is here waiting to celebrate, kvetch, hug, laugh, and recharge with you. Always. 

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