Tag Archives: high school

To My Daughter with Learning Differences

Update!!! So excited this  was also shared on Huffington Post! Click link to check it out!


This letter was written and submitted to The Mighty before I posted it here.  It is also posted on www.themighty.com with a few minor edits. I’m so grateful to my daughter for letting me share her story.  I pray it encourages others.  

Dear Daughter,

Thank you for being my child. I need you. Thank you for being you.

Although I never thought I’d say this, I’m grateful for the struggles we have had surrounding your ADHD and dyslexia and sensory issues. While I know for you, this has made school difficult, and it has made life challenging, I want to go on record and say that you have made me a better person.

I spent years wishing you were different. I didn’t want you to have to suffer. I have to admit it and we’ve talked about it before…it’s not easy to parent a child who is struggling. You become a mom who is struggling. You look at all the kids who are “thriving” and you wish they were your children. You start to resent the other moms. You close down and protect and build walls. I did all of that.

But you know what else I did? I fought for you. I fought with you. We stood together and reckoned with the future. Sometimes our fists were up and sometimes our hearts were open but we were in it. We were strong and courageous. Together.

I told you that you could do anything and you listened. You did it. High school graduation is upon us and you are headed to college.


natalie book

I think back to kindergarten and the teacher telling me that you didn’t quite understand the letters. In second grade when you were formally diagnosed with a learning disability, they kept saying, “She understands, she’s so smart, she just can’t decode the letters”. Or “She knows the material, she just can’t get it on paper”.

While often we were focusing on the decoding and the “treatment”, we tucked away the truth, “She’s so smart, she understands” in our hearts and we believed. I hope and pray that’s what you heard.

We had years of doctor appointments and therapy and meetings at school and tutoring and scary trips to the neurologist and so many questions. We fought for extra time on tests and notes written out. The paperwork alone takes up a whole room.

We were blessed with a school district that had resources and teachers who understood. Except for a few losers. Remember the one time we were so happy you got a D- we jumped up and down and cheered? Remember how I called your one teacher an “Asshole who doesn’t understand”? Well, I stand by that. Some people don’t get it. But because of you, I do get it. I am so grateful to be firmly planted on the side of understanding and compassion.

You can always be assured we’ve got your back.

Oh how I worried about you. I sought to understand you. I didn’t understand you. I cried and felt sorry for myself. My sense of entitlement was called into question. That one time when I was complaining to Dad and he said, “It’s not about you” was a moment of truth that changed the way I parent and live.

In an effort to get you what you needed, I called in the experts and I read the books and I prayed in a way that required surrender and trust. You gave me courage and you taught me to ask for help and you brought me closer to God.

You are heading off to college next fall and while I know I am not always a perfect mother, I can honestly say you are the perfect child for me.

I read a quote the other day that said, “Why do you keep trying to change the people God sent to change you?” This hit me like a ton of bricks. I’m sorry for trying to change you.

I think at times I might have justified my desire for you to change by explaining that it would just be easier for you if you were “like everybody else”.

I take it back.

Can I take it back?

You are a gift. You have changed me for good.

This is only the beginning. Now you get to go out and bless the world. I will be cheering you on forever. I’m thankful that I have been close enough to see you…God’s unique, beautiful creation…becoming.

So thank you daughter, for helping me become a better me.

And thank you God.

For knowing what I need and giving her to me.

I’m forever grateful.
©2016 Sue Bidstrup, Great Big Yes™ All Rights Reserved

Letter to My Daughter on Her First Day of High School

This post originally appeared on the blog in 2012 when my oldest daughter started high school. This year my younger daughter starts her freshman year. I’m reposting because  I’d say the same things to her. Of course I would say some different things too.  Because she is different.  And now, so am I. But as I read this again I realized the things we hope and pray for for our kids never really change. We moved to Texas 5 days ago from a lifetime in Illinois so my second daughter is facing some unique challenges. But here’s the thing…Places change, people change, years go by…but a mom always wants these things for her kids…so here’s to this year! And to Mom’s everywhere sending their kids off…blessings to all!


I woke up this morning thinking “Where did the time go?”

I remember the day you were born. Well, actually, I’ll be honest, it’s a blur. After being induced and then going through 24 hours of labor, I was exhausted. And then upon seeing you, I was exhilarated… and scared…and overwhelmed. I felt a keen sense of “everything is different now”. I felt blessed and terrified.

I realize now, that’s what parenting feels like. You alternate between feeling blessed and terrified.

And on your first day of high school, that describes my emotional state.

First, I want to thank you. You have taught me so much. I am certain now that God uses children to shape and form and teach us. You have taught me and you continue to do so. I am humbled and honored to be your mom.

As you enter those halls filled with thousands of other high schoolers there are some things I want you to know. Since you act mortified when I try to sit you down to “talk”, I figured I’d write instead and you can read it when you want to. Plus, I don’t have time to put you in the car and drive around which seems to be the only place we can have a meaningful conversation.

Here’s what I want you to know.

There are days that will be fun and exciting and days that will really stink. And this is okay. It is all part of growing up and becoming who you are meant to be. We cannot enjoy the mountaintop without the climb.

If you are going through tough times, remember, there is always hope. There is a rainbow waiting for you at the end of the storm. Always have faith.

Whatever is happening to you, matters to me and dad and it matters to God. Talk to us. You are never alone.

Sometimes people are nice and sometimes they are mean. This has nothing to do with you and everything to do with them. Stay nice.

Boys that are cute on the outside aren’t always so cute on the inside. Trust your instincts. Character matters. If you feel something’s not right, it’s not. Go with your gut.

Drugs are bad. I say it every day and I know you are rolling your eyes right now but I’m serious. Don’t even try them. Say no. Say it again. Say it louder. You are precious and your body and mind and soul will be destroyed by drugs. Don’t even start. Don’t even try. If you see them in the room, leave. This cannot be emphasized enough. I don’t care if you need to blame me and make up outlandish excuses to get out of there – leave…run. On that note, anyone who offers you drugs is not your friend. End of story.

There will be all kinds of people at high school. This will give you a glimpse of what the world feels like. There will be lots of new faces and you will be tempted to compare yourself to others. Don’t do it. Comparison is the tool of the devil. See, the fact is, there is no comparison. Each person is unique and beautiful and created by God who loves them. We come in all shapes and sizes…we excel in different things…we have different gifts but we are all important and vital parts of this world. We were created for a reason and God has great plans for us. We can’t compare ourselves because our journeys are so different. It’s like a giant puzzle…we all look different but without one of us, the big picture would not be complete.

You have to try. You have to try to get good grades, you have to try to make friends, you have to try to get involved, you have to try. You have to put yourself out there to grow. You cannot wait for life to come to you, you have to go out and get it. This can be scary but the more you do it, the easier it gets. Get out there…opportunities await.

Have fun. There is no rush to grow up. Laugh, meet new people, listen and engage. In every situation, there is some way to eek a little fun out of it…even math class. Life is what you bring to it so bring joy.

Believe in yourself. This sounds trite but it’s true. I believe in you, Dad believes in you, God believes in you but what really matters is that you believe in you. When you believe you deserve great things, the universe will conspire to give them to you. When you pray for good things with the expectation that they will happen, God will hear you and answer you.

I’ve heard it said that we should pray BOLD PRAYERS – that we should not ask for a C, we should ask for an A. So here’s my bold prayer for you.

Lord, I ask for great things for my daughter…I do not ask for her to just “get by” and “do okay”. I ask that you bless her abundantly. I ask that you give her strength and courage and determination. I ask that you give her eyes to see her own beauty and the beauty in the world around her. I ask that you put her in situations that are positive and life affirming and that you give her the right words and the right actions to succeed and to thrive. I ask for good people in her life…good friends, kind classmates, and inspiring teachers. I ask for teachers that can light a fire in her heart and soul and make her want to shine. I ask for teachers that understand and encourage and inspire. Be with her. Give her signs to know you are with her. Burrow deep into her heart so she knows she belongs to you. Protect her. I ask for all of these things with the expectation that you will provide. I trust you.

Oh, and Lord, before I end this…thank you. Thank you for the gift of my daughter. Thanks for knowing I need her and she needs me. Thanks for putting us together.

And while I’m at it…please bless and protect all kids starting high school and all moms. This isn’t easy but it is exciting.

See, we are back to the beginning…blessed and terrified.

©2012 Sue Bidstrup, Great Big Yes™ All Rights Reserved


Alone in a crowded room?


I read a review of a book in the Tribune today.  It’s written by a veteran of the Iraq war.  I read the interview with him and he talked about how it’s difficult when you get back from war and you feel like you don’t fit in, like nobody understands you.

I also read a blog today that talked about the high school lunch room – a mom was writing it and talking about how when she walked into the lunch room as an adult, she described it as “terrifying”.  Meaning, now, as a mom, it’s still terrifying.

Then I was at my son’s football game and a mom came over and started talking about how her son is from out of town and he doesn’t know “a soul” on the team.  She didn’t put any judgment on this – she didn’t say it was good or bad but I could feel the underlying anxiety.

Those examples are just from today.

Every day holds its own capacity to make us feel alone.  Separated.  Unknown.  Every situation requires us to show up, step out, and hold our head up.  It’s exhausting.

What comes up for you when you are reading this?

Put yourself in the position of walking into that lunch room or that party or the PTA meeting or the open house or the new job or the football game or the new class or the new church group.  How do you feel?  How do you show up?

A friend told me to pay close attention to what comes up for me in these situations because that is what I need to wrestle with and uncover.

Here’s what comes up for me.

I want to be known so I get super talkative and friendly.  I want to be heard so sometimes I get loud.  I want to be liked so I don’t say anything remotely important.  I want to fit in so I dress nice and clean up that day – sometimes I’m literally uncomfortable with too low jeans or too high heels or spanx that make it hard to breathe but I look relatively good and I fit in with all the other ladies (who I’m guessing may also be uncomfortable).

So…In summary, I want to be known, I want to be heard, I want to be liked and I want to fit in.  (Geez,  I’m trying not to judge myself but that looks really sad in writing.)  The problem is sometimes these things get in the way of me being what I really want to be which is honest, real, vulnerable and connected to others in an authentic way.

I’ve been paying close attention to this stuff for a while now because I’d say a few years ago, I became aware of feeling “not good” sometimes when I was out in groups.  I couldn’t put my finger on it but I felt not like myself.  Not supported.  Not real.

I’m sure many of us have felt alone in a room full of people.

I got sick of the conversation.  I got sick of hearing about how everyone else’s kids were “thriving” while I felt like mine were just struggling to find their way.  I got sick of hearing about the Ivy League college scholarships that were being pursued while I was still dealing with speech therapy and trying to get my kids to brush their teeth.  I didn’t want to talk about traveling soccer or the 20 camps other people’s kids were in.  I didn’t want to complain about how much I was driving and how much it all costs.   It felt like a competition I did not sign up for.  I was bored and kind of irritated.

This is not an indictment of other people.   I could make it that.  I’ve tried to make it that.  I’ve tried to complain that the problem is this town and its affluence or this culture and its shallowness or this world and its lack of direction.  But none of that is true.

The first step to real transformation is truth.  And the truth is I wasn’t living authentically.  Nobody made me go to those events or have those conversations or wear those jeans.  Those were choices I made even if they didn’t make me feel good.  And sometimes, truth be told, a lot of those times were fun and I did feel good.  It worked until it didn’t.

As I’ve gotten older, I have felt the need to regroup and reconsider and redirect.  I have had the nagging suspicion that there was more to life…that there might be a more genuine way for me to show up.  I’ve realized I can make choices that lead me to live the life I really want…the one with honesty and vulnerability and authentic connection with others.

All of those feelings that come up…those are promptings from God…little holy nudges…asking us to bring awareness to how we feel and to make changes if they are warranted.

I’m not saying we will never again feel lonely in a crowded room but maybe we won’t feel that way as often.

The good news?  This is not Junior High or High School.  You do not have to do what everyone else is doing.  You do not have to change in order to find a seat at the lunch table.  You can create your own lunch table…your own life.  And when you create a life from a place of authenticity…people will be lining up to sit with you.  And that will be a lot more people sitting together, feeling less alone.  And that’s a really, really good thing.

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On that note…Flourish starts this week!  Woo-hoo can’t wait!! It’s not too late to join us! 

On another note…I’m sorry I’m not including audio each time like I said I would.  It’s too difficult to find quiet time to record it!  You would be hearing dishes clanging, children talking, tv noise, music, the washing machine… who knows what!  I will just have to include audio when I can find some quiet time to record. (This is just until my husband buys me that farmhouse with a renovated barn/office/ yoga studio) 🙂 .  Thanks for understanding. 

©2012 Sue Bidstrup, Great Big Yes™ All Rights Reserved
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