In a few weeks, Catherine Kraemer's eldest daughter, Emilia, will start kindergarten.

The countdown is on. In a few short weeks, our oldest will start kindergarten, and the changes that lie ahead are only now really beginning to sink in — for all of us. Having a kindergartner means new experiences, new friends, new lessons and ideas — and new schedules to adhere to.

As a parent who likes to write and loves to impart unsolicited wisdom, I suddenly feel compelled to send Emilia off with some form of inspirational advice, but I don’t even know where to begin. Things have changed a lot since I muddled my way through kindergarten in 1988. Are the sinks and toilets still really low to the ground? Is the towel dispenser still one long, continuous loop of faded blue fabric? Are there still melted crayons and coloring sheets and celebrations over lost teeth and books about steam shovels?

I guess we’ll find out.

But while we wait for everything to get underway, I think I’ll step back a little. Instead of overwhelming my daughter with my desperate need to ignite her love of learning (it’s already burning pretty brightly) or inspire her to accomplish great things (she’ll take care of that herself), I’ll just get back to basics.

There’s a song by The National called “Baby, We’ll Be Fine” with a chorus that rings true always, but especially right now with Emilia standing on the precipice of childhood’s next phase.

“Baby, we’ll be fine. All we gotta do is be brave and be kind.”

So, Emilia, be brave.

New things are scary, but they’re also really exciting. Be brave in the face of newness. You can dive in, or wade gently, but keep moving forward. Each challenge you face head-on is another chance to learn, grow, make a friend, discover what you’re capable of and feel proud.

And, Emilia, be kind.

Act thoughtfully. Speak kindly. Listen patiently. Apologize when you need to and forgive even when you don’t want to. Talk to the shy kids. Include the lonely kids. Treat the people around you with compassion and respect, and everything else will follow.

On top of these things, any other accomplishments will be icing on your kindergarten cake. Just be brave, and be kind. And report back on that towel dispenser. Do that, and baby, you’ll be fine.


Catherine Kraemer writes twice a month for Momaha.com. She and her husband, Matt, are the parents of three young girls – Emilia, 5, Grace, 3 and newborn Phoebe. Originally from St. Louis, Catherine lives in Omaha and works at a local advertising agency.

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