My Sweet Cooper,

Your big adventure begins today. It’s a momentous day for the little girl who loves shoes, jewelry and all things girly. (Even your guinea pig is named Sparkles.) You’ve anticipated this day all summer long, maybe longer. Your first day of Kindergarten.

You call me Aunt Diffy. I call you my Sweet Coop-A-Loop, a name Carter and your dad came up with before you were born.

But I never know exactly how to reference you, when I’m (frequently) telling others about you. You’re my nephew’s baby girl. My brother’s granddaughter. Are you my Grand-Niece, my Great-Niece? You’re both grand, and great, in my eyes.

Do you see these First Day of Kindergarten photos your mommy and daddy shared? Just look at the joy in your eyes, the mischief in your grin, the sweetness of your countenance and the confidence of your intellect. You are truly grand, and really great, my sweet Coop.

I’ve also looked forward to this day, because you’ve looked forward to it. But I’ve felt some apprehension, too. And not just because your great-granddad, Papa Grady, says “Cooper seems to be having birthdays faster than the rest of them”.

It’s because you’re leaving a safe environment and stepping into a world that doesn’t always include the rest of us.

You’re ready for it. I’m not.

School is a magical place. But it’s also a brutal place.

One of my prayers for you Coop-A-Loop, as you begin your educational journey, is that no one ever steals your joy. Already, you know you are surrounded by an army of people who love you. And we’ll always be with you, even when you don’t see us. Even when we’re gone. But will you remember how much you’re loved, on the days that aren’t so lovely?

I hope so. I pray so

When the day comes that you encounter a “mean girl”, and you will encounter one… probably before you finish kindergarten … I hope you dig deep, and allow the defiant spirit of your great-grandmothers to rise up in you. You have some tough, strong grandmothers.

On the day you encounter a bully, I hope you feel the love of your family, your warriors, surrounding you, encouraging you to march on. Head up, eyes focused, face forward.

I hope you understand that the meanness of others has nothing to do with you, and everything to do with jealousy… and the insecurities of the one hurling the dart. I pray those word-darts never hit their target. But if they strike, I hope they slide off like hot butter on Teflon.

I pray you’re able to see past the mean exterior of anyone who may be lonely or unloved, and extend a hand of friendship.

My prayer is that you, Carter, and children around the world, have a safe school year. Every year.

May lifelong friendships begin today.

PS, let’s check back here thirteen years from now. #touchdownGeorgia! ♥️🖤

Do you know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.

1 Corinthians 9:24