Rachael Rachael, a mom of two daughters, is a freelance editor and writer who enjoys gardening and dreams of keeping chickens in her suburban St. Louis backyard. In her spare time, she helps to edit her husband’s science fiction books. Read more of Rachael's work at www.rachaelsjohnston.com or contact her by emailing rachael@mumblingmommy.com.

It was my weekend to volunteer in my daughter’s preschool Sunday school class, and the two girls I chatted with were insistent.

“His name is Justin BEAV-er,” one proclaimed, clearly exasperated at having to pronounce his name for me. “It’s not Bee-ber. It’s BEAV-er!”

“I love his music,” the other girl confessed.

I found the entire conversation highly amusing, but then I glanced over at my daughter, Megan, sitting alone at the other end of the snack table, left out of the discussion. In our house, children’s bards like Steve Songs and Raffi reign. She has no clue who Justin Bieber – sorry, I mean Justin Beaver – is.

So here, at 4 years old, it all begins. The pop culture trends. The peer pressure. That feeling that everyone else is two steps ahead. One of the things I love most about being an adult is that I can leave all that behind. Except now I must watch my own daughters navigate the same tumultuous classrooms, playgrounds, and even youth groups, all populated with young people unsure of themselves, still learning, and most of them desperate to not stick out any more than necessary.

My husband and I are just beginning to talk about how we will guide our daughters through their school years. We know they will encounter kids whose values differ vastly from ours. How do we help them manage when the cafeteria lunch table conversation revolves around a television show they don’t watch? Our daughters will likely struggle more because, for personal and financial reasons, we have cut cable television. How do we help them save face when they’re teased for not wearing the coolest fashions? For having the most basic cell phone? For being kind to the unpopular kids?

These are some of the issues we have barely begun to discuss. Our girls are still young, but I have some ideas about what I’d like them to know as they begin school during the next few years:

1.       Pursue your own interests and talents, not what the crowd dictates.

2.      You don’t have to have one lifelong, exclusive best friend.

3.      It is better to be generous than to have the latest clothes and gadgets.

4.      It is better to be kind than popular.

Most adults will freely admit that school years, particularly middle school and high school, are not the best years of life as has so often been preached. Be wary of anyone who tells you otherwise; he was likely the jock who regularly tormented the chubby girl in class. Life gets better and easier, and there are more important things than homecoming court or branded clothes.

I hope to communicate that to my daughters, to teach them life is more than just keeping up with the pack, to encourage them to become the best women they can be. I’m sure I’ll learn plenty along the way. Meanwhile, we still won’t be listening to Mr. Beaver anytime soon.

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Category: Education

Tags: Back to school