Be A Bridge, Not a Moat: A Letter to My Daughter at the Beginning of Middle School


For so long, you and I have looked forward to these early days in middle school with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. As your mama, it feels like I was just in middle school a few months ago. I’m pretty sure I graduated from high school last week, and sending you to kindergarten? I could swear that was just yesterday. Time is passing so quickly that I fear I haven’t prepared you well enough for this new step in your life, and the independence that comes with it. You are growing up before my very eyes, and I wonder how many “teachable moments” I have missed. Have I said everything I needed to say? Have I given you the courage to make right choices and the grace to make mistakes? Are you ready?

Over the past several months, you have asked me so many questions about what middle school was like for me…although it doesn’t seem like very long ago, there is so much that I don’t remember. But here’s the thing: even things that you don’t remember very well have shaped you. Your middle school experience will shape you. Just remember that middle school is shaping your peers, too. YOU are shaping your peers, as much as they are shaping you.

This I know: you are stronger and braver than I was at your age. You have the ability to talk easily with both children and adults, and you are a leader. You have power. Your youth does not limit your power. Even at your age, you have the power to build up and the power to tear down. 

So of all the things that I could talk to you about, of all the things that I could emphasize, you know what is really weighing on my heart? I want to remind you to be a bridge, not a moat. You have largely grown out of the princesses and castles phase, both to my delight and my chagrin. Nonetheless, the lessons and the analogies remain. In middle school, you can dig a moat to keep others out, or you can build a bridge and help others across.

In these middle school years where acceptance is paramount, look for those kids who are just on the periphery. Include them. Sit with them. Invite them over. I promise I will say yes. There is so much in this world that divides us. I hope and pray that you will be a force to be reckoned with-a force of love, mercy, and inclusion.

You may never know the impact that you have on others. You might never see that your act of kindness changed someone’s life. But never forget that you have that ability. Remember that children who are mistreated become adults who mistreat. Your words matter. Your actions toward others matter. Though this new school is bigger than your last, and you may feel like a small fish, don’t for one second doubt your significance. You, my darling, can change a life…your school…the world. Start today.


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