A Letter for My Kids, On Their First Day Of School


If the kids were still with us, they would have started school today. It hurts me to not be antsy, waiting in the school pick up line to hear about their first day, what they’re excited about, who’s in their class, and to see them grow another year. It’s so, deeply, painful. Since they were in kindergarten, this it the first year that I won’t see my kids in their schools. There’s no back to school excitement for us this year, and missing these milestones in their lives feels like my heart has been stolen from me. But there are things I want them to know, and one day, I know they will find these letters and they’ll see that their mom walked right by them, through every good, bad, lonely, and happy time in their life… even though I wasn’t physically with them. Teach your kids what you want them to know, enjoy your time with them… and help them become the type of people who will change the world.

Dear Zoe and Shiloh,

Today is the first day of school, and this is the first year that I won’t be sending you off to start a new year of friends, learning, adventure, and growing. It’s been hard to not meet your new teacher with you, to see who’s in your class this year, and get you signed up for your fall activities and teams, and I’m left wondering and wishing I was able to be a part of this milestone with you. 3rd and 5th grade, I just can’t believe it. Shiloh, I remember when you were just in kindergarten, so excited to learn how to read, and Zoe, after your first day in kindergarten you got home and finally learned how to tie your shoes and you looked at me with the biggest grin on your face and said, “Mom! This is such a big day for me! I started school AND can tie my shoes!” It was a big day, and I’m so lucky to have spent so many days with you.

You’re growing up, and each year you’ll experience and learn new things, be put into new situations, and I wish I could be right next to you to walk through it with you. There are some things I want you to know this year, that I hope you learn, and feel, and experience as you walk through the doors on your first day of school. And most importantly, one day, when you find these letters, I hope you know that I continued you walk right beside you, on every important and lonely and happy day of your whole life.

When you walk through those doors today, your first mission is to find the kid who looks like they feel out of place. Look out for the kids who might be new, or who might be sitting alone, or who might look scared… and go and be there with them. Sometimes first days can be scary because they are exciting and new and you don’t know what to expect… but when you can take the focus off of yourself and make it a mission to find the kids who need your big bright smiles, your day will become full of new friends, who are hoping to have someone like you to be there with them on their first day of school. Have the same compassion for them as you hope others will show you.

Homework gets a little harder with each grade, and I want you to know that you can do it! It’s not always going to come easy, because thats the point of school… to learn things that you already do not know. Don’t get frustrated with yourself, and look for the positive things that you excel in… and my sweet babies, there are SO many of those things that you are so incredibly gifted in.

Use your voice. Use your voice to speak positive things. Use your voice to stand up for whats right. Use your voice to say your feelings and opinions. Use it to ask for help, and TO help. Don’t let ANYONE take your voice away from you. Don’t hide away from your feelings, and use your voice.

Stay true to who you are and what you believe in. As you continue to get older, your friends and people in your classes will start making different choices than you. They might even try to convince you that some of their bad decisions are things that you should do with them, too.  Stay true to who you are, and who you are is the brightest ray of sunshine. Make good decisions, be smart about what you choose to do, say, and listen to. Stand firm in your beliefs, even when it’s the hard thing to do.

Be respectful. Help your teacher by being a leader in the classroom. Make it cool to be kind by setting the example to your friends. They watch you, and they’ll follow your lead. Lead them to kindness.

When you get nervous, stand up tall, hold your head high, take a deep breath,  and whisper the words, “I am strong, I am brave, and I can do this.” You never saw us, but your dad and I do that almost every day when we need a little extra strength.

I hope your first day of school is filled with SO much excitement, a safe place to learn, and that your relationships grow. Meet new people, love yourself and don’t be too hard on yourself, and know that no matter what, your mama loves you to the moon and back, and I think about you every second of the day.

And always remember, sometimes 20 seconds of courage is all that you need.



5 thoughts on “A Letter for My Kids, On Their First Day Of School”

  1. Wow, Ashley, that was beautiful and so perfect! I am so sorry for the pain you are feeling and imagine it is more than anyone can understand unless they have been in your shoes. I believe in the part of miracles that God can relay these messages to your sweet children through the spirit and they can actually feel your love and know what they need to do because you have taught them and when we trust in Heavenly Father, he will do what we are not always able to do. I really don’t know what to say, but know that you are loved and I know you will continue to be guided as you take that courage and lead others to be strong. I’m praying for you and Mike to be comforted along with your children and family.
    Love you tons, Kim

  2. I feel such sadness, and joy that they had you and Mike during their foundation years. They will be back one day….. love ❤️ you both!

  3. I cannot even begin to imagine the pain that you and your husband are going through but I want you to know that there are people praying for you and that your children can feel your love. Be strong, you’ll make it though this.
    Lots of love,
    A friend

  4. Ashley, I heard you speak at Yellow. God is going to do such a big work through this pain. I’m so thankful that you let your light shine through even the darkest of times. I loved this letter, it even spoke to me as an adult and made me hopeful on what to say, if and hopefully when I have children. You have so much love that will light this whole world. Keep on shining, sweet friend 🙂

    Ché Elizaga
    @checreates | @spreadjoysd

  5. My sister told me about you because of a holiday event in Lexington Kentucky that she was working. She was so excited to see that your company would be there and was hoping you would be too! Last night I had watched a movie which moved me and she sent me a text this morning of the Podcast you were on where you shared your story and it just touched me. Your personal life story and your company both touched me. You are wonderful and certainly someone to look up too. Your kiddos are with you every day too even if not physically. You will always be their mom and they will come back to you when legally allowed to do so. Thank you for being a bright light in this world to so many people who need you… you are an inspiration!

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