A letter to my eleven-year-old daughter


Dear Victoria,

As a fifth grader, you probably feel like you and your friends rule the school.

You’ve worked hard in elementary school and now it’s your chance: Your chance to have the teachers who let you choose where you want to sit in the classroom.  Your chance to have no homework almost every day.  Your chance to get treats and have rewards.

This is your year.

We’ve talked about middle school as it inches close.  Here it is December, your eleventh birthday, during your last year in elementary school.  Middle school is a near-reality.

You’ve asked me all these questions and I don’t even know the answers.  What are the rules?  Are you allowed to sit wherever you want in the cafeteria?  Can you take band and chorus?

I don’t know.

But I know some things about middle school and being a tween.

Sometimes growing up hurts.

Sometimes it’s embarrassing.  You trip over yourself.  You say something silly.  You get a pimple right before picture day.

In middle school, it can feel like the whole world zeroes in on your failings and mistakes.

It’s awkward and unsettling.  It’s hard to know where you fit.

Girls get mean.  Boys get weird.  Teachers aren’t always as approachable as they were in the past.

And then there’s feeling a little more grown up, but still so very lost in a growing-up world.

Every process, every journey, every great accomplishment has ‘middle school years’—the season of in-betweens, of growing out of the old but not quite fitting into the new, seasons of waiting and messing up and learning through hard lessons.

But what every great journey teaches us is that the end will come and it will be worth it.

And you, my girl, don’t need to be afraid. 

You work harder than anyone I know.  Even when you’re just having fun reading a book, you set reading goals for yourself and track your progress.  You make plans and charts and set agendas.

And, that’s what you do for fun.

You juggle your busy schedule with grace and responsibility, always excelling, always giving the very best that is in you.  No one works harder than you.

Last week you asked me if I thought you should start studying now so you already have the periodic table of elements memorized for sixth grade science.

That’s you.  It was so very you.

Here’s my heart for you and some of the lessons you can tuck away for these middle school years:

Stop fretting and worrying that somehow you won’t be enough when the time comes.

You don’t need to study a year in advance for something you may need to know in middle school.

All of those details, all of those expectations, all of those adjustments and changes are for another day.

Today, just do your best and enjoy this moment.

It’s okay to mess up sometimes.

In middle school, it can feel like our every mistake and every flaw ends up on the nightly news.

Things get blown out of proportion.

The world feels like it’s going to end more nights than not.


Mistakes happen sometimes.  You don’t have to win every competition, be the best in every class, or get every answer right.  We love you and treasure you and are proud of who you are.

So, give yourself some grace.

If we were perfect, we wouldn’t need Jesus.  We wouldn’t need a Savior.

But when you mess up, apologize and move on.

This is where true character begins—knowing you aren’t perfect, taking responsibility for your own mistakes, realizing that sometimes other people are right and you’re wrong.

Then, try again and do it differently this time.  Laugh at yourself.  Shrug off the condemnation and the internal dialogue telling you that you aren’t good enough or aren’t pretty enough or smart enough or capable enough.

Ignore all those lies and the haunting temptation of insecurity and just be comfortable with who you are—flaws and mistakes and everything.

And give that same grace to others.  Give them space to be human and room to be real.

This is the time when faith gets personal.

We’ve always done our devotions and Bible reading all together as a family, but this is the time for it to be real and to be your own.  This is your moment to engage with God’s Word and let it change you and guide you.

Kindness and character matter more than any popularity contest.

I watch you at church when they call all of the kids up to light the Advent candle.  You stand in the back and usher little ones to the front, making way for the smallest and the overlooked ones.

Never forget that kindness matters.

No one needs to be an easy target for cruelty, or annoyance, boundary crossing, or bullying.

But even in the toughest situations dealing with the most difficult people, choose kindness.

You can stand firm and stand up for yourself while still showing love and compassion, remembering that hurting people hurt other people.

Learn to listen well.

Listen to those you disagree with.  Listen to those who are smart.  Listen to those who are hurting.

So much of middle school drama is about people over-reacting to situations because they make it all about them and never consider the other person.  “ME” becomes the center of the tween/teen universe.

Stand out from the crowd by doing what so many people fail to do:  Really listen to others.

The world is full of people who have lots to say; what it needs is someone wise who knows how to truly listen.

Choose your friends wisely.

Choose friends who appreciate who you are and who encourage you to always be your best ‘you.’  Choose close friends who draw you to God and who never pressure you to do what you know isn’t right.

Friends don’t pull you down or hold you back. They don’t harp on your mistakes or rejoice when you fall.

Good friends catapult each other forward and have each other’s back when they stumble.  So, choose good friends and learn to be a good friend to others.

We are your safe place.

You never have to perform for us.  You don’t have to be perfect.

I can be reactive as a mom.  I know it.  But never forget this, you can come to me….always.  Maybe I’ll freak out for a moment, but I’ll get over it and we’ll get through anything together.

 We are your safe place.  We are the ones who will love you no matter what and help you always.  Come to us with the hard things and the hard days.

Be who you are because who you are is worth being.

You are the kind of beauty that comes from the inside-out.  You are deep-down lovely with your kindness and purity of heart.

Beauty like that isn’t even slightly impacted by the middle school explosion of hormones, awkward limbs, pimples, and braces.

We love you and value you and treasure you for who God has made you and we are so excited to see all that He has called you to be.



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