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“Stepping Up” Letter to My Daughter

Inspired by Langston Hughes’ poem, “Mother to Son”, an end of year tradition at my daughter’s school is to ask a parent to write a congratulatory letter to their child about all of the hard work they put in, in order to get them to the point of promotion to the next grade. The parent is then asked to read it to their scholar, on stage, at the Stepping Up Ceremony. This year, two parents were asked. If you haven’t figured it out yet, yours truly was one of them! Kamryn and I had a ROUGH year! In the letter, which I have reproduced below, I capture our journey…

” Kamryn, Kamryn, Kamryn! My, My, My! What a year we have had! I just want you to
take a moment and look around you and truly take all of this in. You are at your Stepping Up Ceremony. You have been promoted to the 3rd Grade! If we are to be honest with ourselves, we’ll admit, that you being here, on this day, amongst all of your fellow scholars who you learned alongside for the past 10 months, was not guaranteed. Being here, on this day, amongst your teachers, who worked so diligently to ensure you understood concepts and ideas, was not set in stone.

Kamryn, as YOU know, being here, on this day, was no easy task.

I remember the day that would define how we would live our lives for weeks to come.

It was a Saturday afternoon in late March. We had just sat down to go over your Life’s Work. That’s when I opened your folder and read the piece of paper that threatened to crumble my entire world. It was pertaining to your latest Reading Assessment score. It stated that you did not progress towards the next STEP level and if “you did not make sufficient progress in the coming months, then we may find it fit for her to repeat 2nd Grade.”

Time stood still. Air nearly failed to reach my lungs. If I wasn’t already sitting down, I am pretty sure I would have collapsed. “Repeat 2nd Grade?” My daughter, get held back a year? My daughter…having to hold her head in shame as she watched her former classmates step up to the next grade? My daughter…having to live with this stamp of disapproval forever?

Oh no! I could not let that happen! I could not fail you. I could not allow you to fail yourself. I could not allow you to believe that you could not do better than your very best. I could not allow you to believe for one iota of a second that you were not brilliant. I could not allow you to fall, not like this, not so soon, on the road to your destiny. Because Kamryn, when you cry, I bawl my eyes out. When you fall, I tumble. You are a part of me. When you’re sick, I’m ill. When you laugh, I am in utter bliss. When you triumph, life is great.

I was determined for YOU to prove to YOURSELF that this was just going to be a minor set back. That this trial, would ultimately, lead to your phenomenal triumph. You see Kamryn, long before you were even born, I made a promise to God that I would do whatever it took to see to it that you were a success. And I am not one for breaking my promises.

There was absolutely no way I could call myself a mother, and not fight for you, my daughter.
And fight, we did, together.

For the next weeks, our nights were super late and our mornings were super early. On many a night, you would finally lay your head down after 10, only having to get up at 6. After school, we would come home, and go through your reading, line by line. We would go over character motivation. I would repeatedly ask you what a character wanted. Why they wanted that and how you knew. We discussed how a character’s motivation affected their actions. We went over citing evidence. You HAD to show proof! We discussed character relationships and how one character affected another throughout the story. Thoughts, feelings, actions, evidence. Thoughts, feelings, actions, evidence. Thoughts, feelings, actions, evidence. And then you had to write it all down! We made charts and reviewed the previous night’s readings while you were getting ready for school, on your way to school, when I picked you up from school, and while you were eating dinner.

Nothing else even mattered. We ate, slept, drank and breathed what to look for when working on Step 8 and 9 Assessments. We even made up our own motivational cheers. While walking to school, we held hands, and prayed under our breaths. I fasted every Monday and spoke to God throughout the day.

Kam, I can honestly say that you have worked your very hardest this school year. Amidst the tears of frustration, the constant erasing that bore holes in your paper, and weekends that felt more like weekdays, you rose to the occasion and fought for your place at this ceremony.

Kammy, all of that finally paid off. You passed! You have earned your place, in third grade. Kammy you have EARNED it! And Mommy is ssssssoooo very proud of you and you should be proud of yourself.

Although we worked for you to pass these tests, I need you to know that you are more than a number on the bottom of your report card. You are more than a test level on an assessment. You are AMAZING, and make me immensely proud to be your momma. You are wise beyond your years. You know, it is you who often times comes up with the best solutions to our daily fiascoes. You are intelligent and fearless. Fun and feisty. Hilarious and imaginative. Clever and compassionate. Your zest for life, reminds me of the importance of slowing down to enjoy it.
Kammy, I must tell you that this challenging time that we overcame with the help of your teachers and first and foremost God, will be the first of many, many, many more hurdles to come. But if this year has taught you anything, I hope it is that whenever you are faced with a challenge, it is NEVER the time to cower in self-defeat. It is NOT the time to throw in the towel and quit. Rather, it is the time, to rise to the occasion and not only do more than your best, but beyond it. It is the time to push yourself, farther than you ever thought you could go. It is the time to fight for your success!

The Motto of LPBV is “Work hard, change history”. Therefore, I implore you, I encourage you, for all those who came before you, and made it possible for you to be here, I need you to fight for your place. Do not take your education for granted, because, it is the only thing that can never, ever, be taken away from you.

So Kam Kam, go forth, continue on your journey, Just know, that whenever you need your teachers at LPBV, myself, or the Man upstairs, we will always be there. I will always be your number one cheerleader. Kamryn, I love you beyond words. You are my world and the reason I do all that I do. I love you and I am proud of you! Congratulations, My Third Grader!”


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