Dear Cooper,

I hope this letter finds you well.

Since you are currently scooping up fistfuls of mac n’ cheese from your bowl right in front of me like a bear while I write this, I’ll assume things are good.

Summer still has a few more moments to reveal to us, but all-in-all, we are arriving at a time of year that will become quite familiar: back to school season.

You’ll soon be surrounded by autumn leaves, cooler air, football and an endless barrage of ads to convince you they alone have the best superhero backpacks in existence.

Don’t worry. You’ll have a cool one.

You are now a full-time student.

Let that sink in.

Actually, that direction is more for your mom and me. Please disregard our poetic waxing for the next few decades when we continually say, “I can’t believe Cooper is old enough to be [stage in school/life]!”

You successfully navigated your preschool year, but now you move on to the first, all-day step in a multi-year process of learning, discovering and building yourself socially and academically.

Welcome Kindergarten.

You might be wondering how to prepare yourself for such a landmark occasion. You might have questions like, “What is it like?” or “What did you do in Kindergarten a million years ago, dad?”

My experience started in the fall of 1987.

It’s funny, the things you remember about school when you are young.

I remember walking into Mrs. Logan’s Kindergarten class at Northwest Elementary School in Leominster and gazing around at the layout of the room—mostly where the really cool toys sat.

There were the small, yellow pieces of lined paper to practice the alphabet.

I remember thinking the gym we had physical education in felt like a cavernous warehouse (and years later, upon returning, remembering it being much bigger than I remembered).

My mind’s eyes can still see the wide and bright bunny ties I handcrafted (you’ll never find a finer one, no matter how hard you look on eBay) for Easter that I then marched into the room during our parade.

There are a handful of other colorful images that snap-fire around in my brain every once in a while.

I can’t say I remember the exact color of the walls (though they were surely caked in student project samples and learning manipulatives). I don’t remember vividly the first time I correctly counted to 20 or glued together my art project without sticking myself to it.

Side note: Pretty sure they may have enlisted a classroom aide at one point just to help pry us 5- and 6-year-olds from the ponds of Elmer’s Glue forming on all the desks.

I remember the people: the teachers and the other kids. I would graduate with many of these peers several school years later, but always remember the first few times we ran around Mrs. Logan’s classroom without a care in the world.

It’s where I made my first few friends without the help of mom and dad and where I had my first authentic girl crush (she colored in those activity sheets like an angel).

I realize I’m lucky. Most of my memories were very positive.

However, my Kindergarten experience was mine, and you will have yours. As you step into your Kindergarten classroom for the first time, know that I will never force your experience to be like mine. Life just doesn’t work that way.

You’ll have your fair share of experiences I never had. I doubt classrooms still push in dusty, 100-pound video carts with a small TV/VCR combo on those special occasions right before vacation to watch instructional videos like one I vaguely remember about polar bears.

And honestly, if you have kids, they’ll probably be able to take field trips—teleporting back and forth from the Arctic Circle.

I know how daunting a full day of school sounds on the surface, but relax. Here is what you should do…

Have fun

Listen to your teacher

Make friends

Make mistakes

Admit when you are wrong and give an honest effort to try better

And here is the only thing you need to know…

You’ve got this

You’ll have days where you feel like you don’t “got this.” It happens. When these days come by, try and remember my grandmother’s favorite story about my first day of Kindergarten:

I came off the bus feeling excited but maybe just a touch overwhelmed by everything. In moments, any angst was squeezed into oblivion when my little brother sprinted out to greet me and hugged me like I had moved away several years ago.

In other words, as Grandma Farnsworth would remind me, if whatever happens seems to go wrong until 2:30, you’ll have a proud, little brother, waiting for you at 2:31.

You got this.

Sincerely,

Dad

P.S. If your classroom needs a “glue remover guy,” you can volunteer me from time to time. It’s only fair.

Josh Farnsworth is a husband, father of goofballs Cooper and Milo, goofball himself, and award-winning writer and columnist living in Worcester. He can be reached for column ideas at josh.farnsworth@yahoo.com.