Monday marks my little cousin Alex's first day of preschool. She's been in day care since she was born and has always loved the rush of learning, earning bragging rights as the fastest puzzle-builder and biggest "Thomas the Tank" fan. Except now, she couldn't be more excited to join the big leagues: preschool. Because she just turned five and because I can still feel her her two-month-old self wrapped up in my arms, I'm feeling incredibly nostalgic (and old).
Though I'm sad she seems to be growing up too fast, I'm thrilled at the prospect before her. She's a 5-year-old in 2016. This means a lot of things. She's been alive through some of the most notable moments in the USA's history. She's lived through vicious terrorist attacks overseas, brutally heartbreaking shootings on home soil, and a time of turmoil between those bravely employed to protect us and innocent victims. However, on the brighter side of things, she's seen love for all be legalized, a female candidate secure a democratic nomination, and the Chicago Cubs' Jake Arrieta pitch two no-hitters.
With that being said, I have a few hopes for her in her upcoming years as a student.
Hi love. I couldn't be more proud of you for starting school. So many amazing things lie ahead for you and I can't wait to see the look on your face when you have every new adventure. Well, I can wait, no need to rush time.
First of all, just because we live far away from each other doesn't mean I won't be rooting for you every step of the way. I most certainly will.
Second request: take advantage of every moment you're in. OK, so this might be for when you get a little older because it doesn't take a lot to get 5-year-olds excited about things but still, the point is there. You'll get to a point where you may be shy to answer a question, or embarrassed when you don't know something, or you feel bad for they quiet kid in the corner. Never be afraid to answer a question. Learning is so much fun and being wrong is part of the process. It's all about trial and error. And don't feel bad for the shy kid in the corner, go up and say hi to him. Be kind to every fellow student. There's no point in wasting your energy in being anything but kind. Trust me, what goes around comes around.
Thirdly, be proud to be a girl. You're growing up in a time where feminism is finally bubbling to the surface and unveiling the sheer power women have. Never for a second doubt that you are not as smart, strong, fast, etc. as a boy. You definitely are. Don't think that football is just for the boys and Barbies are only for girls. I know you already don't have a problem with this. Your love for any moving vehicle and "Star Wars" shows me that you aren't even fully aware of the gender inequalities kids experience from such a young age. So keep that head up and always fight for what you love, no matter what anyone tells you about it.
My fourth call to action for you: read. Read so much that your eyes hurt and then read more. There's a million other worlds and times and lifestyles and cultures out there just waiting for you to discover. I know we love watching "Paw Patrol" and "Frozen," but don't limit yourself. Reading will give you a joy that no movie can convey because it's an entirely different medium. You will immerse yourself into different universes and feel apart of the stories. I'll ask your mom to start reading "Harry Potter" to you. That's an easy way into your bigger cousins' hearts (not that you're already fully there).
Basically what I'm asking of you is to enjoy every single moment. Before you know it, you'll be in my shoes. I hope for both our sakes that that moment doesn't come too fast.