Dear Owen,

You have gotten used to sleeping in all summer. Not wearing shirts or shoes that require laces. 6:30 am will come as a rude awakening. Your dad will wake you up. Hopefully give you the outfit I picked out and give you a poptart or eggo or something, because chances are good you will all be in a hurry and grumpy. But hopefully he will remember to get a quick picture of you before you go. Because it is a momentous day.

Your first day of third grade. And third grade seems so much bigger and older but still has just a bit of that innocence left. Like you still might like me to be the chaperone on your field trip or show up to eat lunch with you in the cafeteria. And I am well aware that these days are numbered.

I don't want to do the math on how long ago my own third grade days were. They warned us that third grade would be hard. There were times tables, long division and cursive writing to learn. And I want you to learn those things (except for long division, I think that is about as useless as learning how to use a card catalog now). And these days there are probably high stakes state standarized tests. You will learn to bubble and make your marks neat and dark. You will be reminded over and over that it counts. That you are getting a grade.  And of course I want you to ace the hell out of that dumb test.
I hope you learn that there are more important things than tests and times tables and curvy writing that no one uses anyways.

I hope you learn to speak up, to ask questions, to answer, to introduce yourself, to ask for help and to let someone know if things are not ok. Your voice is more important than any test or that writing prompt.

I figure it is time that you learn that Santa and the tooth fairy aren't real. And I can't help but think that surely you already know this and are just playing along because you think that the presents will stop if you do. 8 is old enough to know the truth. That it isn't about some man in a silly suit. And in the same breath, I hope you learn to not let go of all the magic and mystery and excitement. That is something no one can teach you. Kids come by it naturally. It is us grown ups who forget.

I hope you learn that being brave isn't something you are. It is something you do, with your knees knocking. Learn to do the things you are afraid of or aren't good at.  Make peace with that fear so it can't stop you. Now, it is writing and bike riding and asking to join in. If you can learn how to do something anyways. Even when you don't want to. Even when you are afraid. Even if you might not be very good at it. You can do anything.
And, you don't have to be great at something to enjoy it. Need some examples of this --just watch me ski or golf or dance (I could keep going with this list for awhile).

I hope you learn to tell the truth. Unless the truth is just to be mean. Then I hope you learn to keep your mouth shut.

I don't teach 3rd grade but I do teach and I notice that most good kids do exactly what I ask. If I ask them to define 10 words, the good kids define 10. If I ask them to write a one page essay, the good kids turn in a one page essay. Don't be a good kid. Be a great one. Don't just do the minimum. Do more.

Last year you really wanted more friends at school. The best way to accomplish this is the be one. To ask. To invite. Go first. Not everyone will want to be your friend. Sometimes your friends might not want to stay your friends. Love them anyways. If you have a crush on that sweet girl 2 desks over. Write her a note (but don't expect to be allowed to have a girlfriend!). Rejection really stinks. It hurts worse than stepping on your legos. But hearts always heal. I hope you learn that it is better to be kind, than cool. That no one likes a know-it-all or a braggart.  I know that the next decade of your school career will teach  you more about fitting in than anything else. But try to forget all that. Fitting in only teaches you how to be someone else. And that someone else isn't nearly as great as this silly 8 year I know.

I hope you learn that there will always be kids that are bigger, taller, faster, smarter, have more video games, have more friends or maybe even know more science facts than you.
You are no less than them.
I also hope you learn that there are kids that aren't as smart, don't always have clean clothes, aren't nearly as cute or funny or can't remember what 3X4 is to save their life.
You are no more than them.

I adore it when you bring home straight As, or win an award, score a goal or are front and center in the school play. I want to bust with pride. Put it on facebook and tell everyone that you are my kid. But here is a little secret -- how much I love you doesn't depend on those things.  I love you the same on the days where your folder gets signed, your shirt is on backwards, you forget your homework and are mean to your sister. I love you the same even if you eat the last Oreo or I step on your legos in the middle of the floor which hurts like a few words that I hope you haven't learned yet.

Those things might not make it to your report card, but I swear they will get you further in life than writing in cursive ever will. Also, you might want to learn how to sign my initials, because some times this less than perfect mom of yours forgets to sign your homework folder.
your mom who promises to try not to dance or run into other cars in the pickup line this year.

(and if you have read Carry On Warrior by Glennon Doyle you know that I completely ripped off her concept. Her own letter to her son on his first day of third grade. There is a copy of it here:
I read it last Spring and couldn't wait to read it to my own son on his third-grade-eve.  He completely ignored me and kept playing mindcraft. So I figured I should write my own. I'd slip it in his lunchbox....but I'm pretty sure the I love you notecard I put in with his sandwich might already be a little too much. Go read her letter -- it is greatness. Actually, you should read the whole book.)