I have always been a letter-writer. It’s how I process. While I realize this letter is directed at a specific person in our lives, I think it’s important for me to say things publicly… both easy and hard. It is an act of accountability on my part, not an attempt to teach parenting or relationship etiquette or special-needs love. For me, it’s just talking, out loud. Parenting, out loud. Living, out loud. Without writing, out loud, I tend to hide.
Welcome to Team Rylie! I know you have 20 other hearts to teach and love and guide this year, but there is one that is most special to me. I thought some extra insight in Ry’s life might help you understand the importance of what you do every day for our family.
You are my eyes, my ears, hands, feet, and heart at school. Don’t ever hesitate to tell me anything. Every tiny piece of information you give me helps color in a blank picture of life for Rylie outside this farm. Keep some secrets for yourself… some private jokes between you and my girl. I won’t be jealous of that bond. I want Ry to meet and know women who are trustworthy, funny, smart, and kind. I have tried for almost 8 years to open the gates to her village. Just know that anything you share is gold to me.
While I’m writing this, Rylie is in her room. She’s crying. This is actually really normal for us… which doesn’t make it awesome… just normal. She’s not mad. She’s just exhausted. All fifty pounds of her has given everything it has to walk, talk, and learn in the last eight hours in 2nd grade, and there’s simply nothing left.
I don’t want you to feel bad about that. I just want you to see- to hear, because she can’t physically tell you- that she’s giving you everything she’s got. All her laughs, all her balance, all her energy. She’s using it. She’s not holding anything back. She’s not saving it for later. School is the highlight and majority of her life right now, and I want all of her best THERE.
It will get better at home. As the schedule sets in, as the routine surfaces, as the dust literally settles, her little body will get stronger.
Let me give you some hints for our Rylie Girl.
(and let me remind myself)
She loves a job. Give her a job any job, and she’s money. She’s serving, she’s productive, she’s busy, and she’s happy. She thrives on being needed, being helpful. You want to re-focus her? Give her a job. You want to motivate her? Give her a job. You want to calm her down? Give her a job.
She gets hungry. Her body is burning calories just staying upright. Like, ACTUALLY staying upright. Her vestibular system is in overdrive 24-hours a day. Balancing emotions, academics, and friendships is all extra. She may need an extra Clif bar or banana here and there (and there and there) to keep her body working for her instead of against her.
The girl is always telling a story. In the absence of words, she uses her body to show love, joy, frustration, excitement, boredom, hunger, and humor AND she does it within 2 inches of the person next to her. This makes her hands sometimes deadly but always telling. I know (OH MY WORD I KNOW) this can be a difficult thing to navigate, especially when you have other hearts to consider. I know. Remind yourself and others (and me, please) that she’s doing the best she can with what she has at the moment. When she’s shown more, she’ll learn more. When she learns more, she’ll give more.
She dresses herself. I take no credit or blame.
Rylie loves to write. Take notes. Make lists. Copy signs. She saves paper, scraps, paper scraps, and anything that might be able to be paper or a scrap later in life. Writing and paper and pencils are freedom for her.
Sometimes, in spite of 12 hours of sleep, a full breakfast, and everything else right in the world… it will just be a bad day. Fierce hugs, a new pencil, and a lot of grace are the ticket here. Also, maybe a dance party. That girl can dance.
She will learn math and reading, Bible and science in your class. She will also learn how to ask questions, to say ‘I’ instead of ‘me,’ and to let others go first. She will practice manners and grace, music and conflict resolution. She will navigate being the favorite and being left out. Ultimately, these life skills and experiences are more valuable to me than any test score or IEP goal. Teach her to love and be loved. The rest is bonus.
I know that it will be both a joy and a challenge to teach Rylie this year. You will say that’s true of every student, but I know. She trusts you. She believes you. She covets your wardrobe.
And so do I.
All of it.
I am so glad we’re on the same team. You are a FORCE, and you were made for this.
Thank you for what you do.