For girls, middle school is often a tough age. It’s a time when bullying and peer pressure really kick in for the first time, and self-confidence can be very low.
It’s also when kids start to outgrow their parents’ care and become independent, and it can be difficult to communicate with children at the time they might need help the most.
But when Skye Gould was at that age, it was an especially rough stage.
In 2003, after Gould finished the 6th grade, she relocated from Lima, Ohio to South Florida with her family.
“Before this move, I was extremely shy,” Gould recalled. “Being a confident young woman was never something that came naturally to me.”
But during this awkward transitional period, Stephanie Skylar, Gould’s mother, found a perfect way to communicate with and encourage her daughter at school:
She packed positive notes in her lunch box!
Skylar was working full-time, and sometimes couldn’t see her daughter throughout the day, so the notes became a way to impart some motherly wisdom.
“It’s kind of an age where a lot can change going into preteen to teenage years,” Skylar told ABC News. “I really wanted to have a touch point with Skye every day in some way, shape or form that might give her pause to read something without her mother hovering.”
The letters included both encouraging words and little bits of life advice, on how to handle everything from the stress of everyday life to other kids in her school.
“It was an easy way to interject her voice into my every day life without being overbearing,” Gould told Today. “I’m sure they helped me through those moments of self-doubt or bullying that every kid goes through.”
“Compliment each girl in your class you want to get to know better,” one note reads. “Think of something that would make you feel good and say something that important to each girl.”
“Don’t be quick to judge the other girls at school,” another reads. “It’s up to you to look for something good in each one.”
“Smile, even if you don’t feel like it.”
They were just simple words of advice—but the daily letters meant a lot to Gould at the time.
“It was important to me and I loved getting them,” she told ABC. “I think my sense of confidence comes from them.”
“At the time my mom wrote these, she didn’t think she was doing anything heroic or life-changing for me,” she told Today. “She was just trying to make some sort of small impact on my daily life.”
But 11 years later, Gould rediscovered the notes—and they changed her life once again.
In 2015, Gould, now living in Brooklyn, suddenly remembered the notes her mother used to write her.
“I had forgotten they existed, and I came across a book about handwritten letters and I had an epiphany where I remembered about them,” Gould told ABC News.
“I called my mom and she still had them all.”
So Gould got the idea to do something incredible with the old letters.
On her mother’s birthday, Gould sent her a link to a website called “Advice from My Mom.”
Skylar was stunned by the surprise:
Gould had published all the letters online!
Cataloguing all the notes into “lessons,” Gould made the site as a tribute to her mother’s daily wisdom, and a way to inspire others to do similar projects.
“Words impact us this way; sometimes they resonate with us beyond what we even thought was even possible,” Gould wrote on the site.
“I want ‘Advice From My Mom’ to help others reflect on their own parental advice.”
Skylar was so happy to know her letters had such an impact all these years later:
“I burst out crying; I was so thrilled and touched,” she told ABC News. “It was amazing she did this.”
But the site wasn’t the only thing Gould made out of the letters.
She used them as the basis for her thesis project.
“My actual thesis question was, ‘Can my story inspire others to share their own,’” Gould told Today. “I’ve gotten a lot of amazing feedback since I posted.”
“I’ve gotten so many emails from mothers telling me that they either do this for their child, or they are going to start doing it.”