Thirteen years ago, I gave birth to an old soul. We refer to our middle child as Grandma Lily. She’s sensible, responsible, quirky, self-assured, and amazingly unaffected for a middle schooler. She’s a regular no-nonsense kind of young lady. This is the dream of every middle school parent. We are grateful to have her.

As we edge towards the precipice of sending her to high school, things feel uncertain and scary. My husband and I teach high school students. High school is a hard place to be, especially for a girl. Appearances, relationships, and an array of opportunities to make terrible decisions become more pressing. The stakes are higher. I pray she maintains her sense of self and lifts others up instead of letting people tear her down or lead her astray. 

I plan to have a talk with her this spring. It might sound something like this:

Please stay unaffected, my sweet girl. Continue being unconcerned about brushing your hair and continue arguing you aren’t that sweaty and don’t need a shower. That tells me you aren’t trying to impress anyone. Not that your unofficial uniform of sweatpants and hoodies don’t tell me as much. You aren’t concerned about trends and are much more interested in comfort than fashion. This is a good thing.

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Your ability to anticipate consequences and make good decisions accordingly is remarkable. I know plenty of adults who could learn a thing or two from you. Continue to think ahead before you say or do anything you might regret. Plan well before you say or do anything you hope will help you succeed. Forethought is important, and you’ve got it. Please don’t lose it.

Continue developing your quiet strength and composure.

Keep shrugging your shoulders at foolishness without getting sucked in. Keep calling out wrong when others are being mistreated. Instead of judging those who fail, pray for them. Be nice to mean people. It will at least slow them down a little.

Don’t stop having a tender spot in your heart for small children and people with special needs. They need the voices of people like you to advocate for them. Look for them when you get to high school. Keep reaching out to the one who sits alone at lunch. Talk to the boy next to you in math class who always looks sad. Treat the girl in the wheelchair like she’s a normal person because she is. Keep your eyes on Jesus.

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Once high school gets here, you’ll be an underling in a powerful hierarchy like you’ve never known. Let God’s opinion of you be your guide instead of the opinions of the kings and queens of high school. Treat them with respect but don’t worry about what they say. Their opinions don’t matter, and you won’t likely see many of them in five years’ time anyhow. 

Don’t keep Jesus to yourself. Keep living out your beautiful faith by your good example and kindness. You’re different and people will scratch their heads trying to figure out why. They might think you’re weird. This is normal and OK. Don’t be ashamed to let them know what you believe and why you believe it. Love people into the Kingdom, don’t try to preach them in.

Listen for God’s voice about what you should do with your life.

Don’t let me, Dad, or any teacher pigeonhole you. The Holy Spirit is the best authority on what you should do. We see your strengths. God will tell you how to employ them as you become an adult. You have a powerful call on your life and God wants to see you live it out. Listen for His voice and put Him first.

Above all, know you are deeply lovedby God and by me and Dad. No matter what happens or what mistakes you make, we love you. Come to us and we will fix it together. Nothing can separate you from the love of Christ or the love of your family. Stay unaffected by the world and keep being you, my love. The world depends on it.

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Tracy Gerhardt-Cooper

Tracy Cooper is a New Jersey wife, mom, teacher, and writer. She loves Earl Grey tea, quiet mornings, and autumn leaves. You can read her blog, Earl Grey and Yellow, and follow her work on Medium.