To My Daughter as She Begins Kindergarten: oh, the places you will go

It began with a painful and exhilarating walk into the hospital, five and a half years ago.

And left us walking out of that hospital 24 hours later, with no baby in the backseat.

Instead, our footsteps took us, every day, multiple times a day, into the nearby NICU, where we paced around worriedly next to your isolette.

After we were able to be discharged from the NICU, we carried you into our home to meet your big brother, and our trek was almost completely confined to those walls for many months as we learned to care for your skin.

Months turned to years, and finally, our steps became your steps. You let go and learned to walk on your own… cautiously, carefully, never too far.

We’ve spent the vast majority of the last 5.5 years by your side…pushing your swing at the park, shuffling into doctors offices, piggyback rides up to bed.

And tomorrow, you will walk into your classroom to start a new journey. And only you can determine where you will go from there.

My sweet child, on this day before you begin Kindergarten…

Oh, the the places you’ve been – and the places you will now go.

I know you will stand for big things, because of where you’ve treaded before. I know your pain has brought forth great concern and compassion for others. I know your fears have elicited deeper empathy and understanding. And I know the courage you’ve had to cling to has found a strength and capability that we are grateful for.

I have been asked, again and again, how I am feeling, if I will cry as I walk away from school tomorrow.

If there will be tears, they will fall because of pride for who you are and the impact I know you will make on those you walk beside. If there will be tears, they will come from the gratitude of this milestone, not from the grief of any kind of loss. Because there were more than a few times that we didn’t know if we’d see this day, if we’d get to experience the excitement of you starting school.

That kind of uncertainty changes a person, a mother. It molds your emotions for new changes into those blooming with celebratory appreciation rather than nostalgic back-pedaling.

When I say “I can’t believe it’s here,” I don’t mean that the last five years went quickly. I mean that I can’t believe you’re here, going to full-time school. From your arrival as a critically ill newborn who has already climbed some tough mountains in your short life, I am awed by the way you are thriving today. Loving deeply, living big and wide and loud.

Tomorrow, you will take your steps into your Kindergarten classroom. You will walk into new relationships, new feelings, new challenges.

And I pray with each step that you never forget who you are: an ambitious, compassionate person lovingly created by the Lord just as you are, with many gifts to offer the world and the opportunity to make a huge positive difference in many lives as you strive to live out your God-given purpose.

Happy First Day of School, beautiful girl.

The Best Children’s Books to Foster Kindness

With my own two children now being 5 and almost 8 years old, there is no doubt about the very real impact that reading has on their lives – not only for developing their minds and learning, but also for exploring new themes, problems, situations, characteristics and so much more. It is because of children’s books that we have had some tremendously beneficial conversations about different places, people, abilities, ideas.

I’ve shared previously about our family’s favorite books about differences in general and about disabilities, and today, I’ve rounded up our favorites that focus on a theme we could probably all use a little more: kindness!

With such a variety of books out there that highlight empathy, understanding and kindness, I try to avoid the ones in which the characters complain or constantly throw tantrums or call each other unkind names…Unless there is a very important lesson at the end, and we can talk through some of those issues. But there are so many wonderful children’s books that highlight compassion, empowering others, positivity and being kind – and reading these is a great way to reinforce these behaviors in young kids!

Here are some of our family’s favorite books with themes of kindness…children's books kindness and being kindA Girl with a Cape by Amy Logan. I met Amy when we both spoke at the Hearts at Home conference in 2015, and she is such a wonderful person to be around! We all love her book and its great message – and Brenna also love the leopard-print scarf it comes with 🙂

Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun by Maria Dismondy. A reader recommended this book to me, so I grabbed it from the library, and my kids loved it. The little girl in the book showcases what forgiveness looks like – as well as doing the right thing – and what it means to treat others well. This book could open up lots of conversations about how we treat others – definitely a great one for all ages!

Have You Filled a Bucket Today? by Carol McCloud. In this book, the author writes about how, with all of our words and actions, we have the opportunity to fill or take away from someone’s “bucket.” When we use kind words, or do something nice, or even simply smile at someone, we fill their buckets up. And so the book challenges kids to always try to fill someone’s bucket.

Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts. The little boy Jeremy finds the shoes he wants but they’re too small. So he makes the tough decision to give his pair to a friend who needs them. A sweet story about selflessness and giving.

children's books kindness and being kind

The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig. Brian is a student that no one pays attention to – he feels invisible. Until a new student comes to school, and they connect. And as this new little boy includes Brian, it changes Brian’s world. The illustrations do a wonderful job showcasing his feelings, with Brian starting out black and white, and color emerging like the rest of his classmates as this little boy interacts with him, until he is fully colored at the end.

Paulie Pastrami Achieves World Peace by James Proimos. A silly story with a good lesson, about the impact that we can make when we treat people well and give of ourselves.

Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson. Maya is new to school, but Chloe and her friends won’t play with her. One day, Maya is suddenly gone and Chloe realizes that her chance to be kind – like a pebble in water spreading ripples – is now gone. A good opener to conversation about how we can try to right a wrong and try again to be nice to someone.

Ordinary Mary’s Extraordinary Deed by Emily Pearson. I absolutely LOVED this one, with its core message about how much impact ONE action can make and spread across the globe!

children's books kindness and being kindBloom With Mi by Amy Kavelaris. This book by my friend Amy is purely delightful. A sweet girl named Mi figures out how to spread kindness and love through giving.

What Does It Mean To Be Kind? by Rana DiOrio. This book outlines different ways to show kindness, from holding the door open for someone to forgiving someone who has hurt you. And the culminating message is that we can all make the world a more loving place to live when we are kind to each other.

Good People Everywhere by Lynea Gillen. This one contains endearing examples to inspire children to grow into grateful, caring, and giving people, and also includes activity pages to help kids practice skills for creating gratitude, compassion, and beauty in daily life.

How Kind! by Mary Murphy. The storyline of this book includes farm animals who each do one nice thing for each other and each recognize those kind acts provided by someone else, encouraging them to keep the chain of kindness going. It’s simple and positive.

children's books kindness and being kind

Anything else you would add to the list?