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Mom captures freshman daughter's first-day-of-school jitters in viral video

by Terri Peters / / Source: TODAY Contributor

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Crystal Alexander says her 14-year-old daughter, J'ia Gladney, has always had a flair for the dramatic.

So when J'ia had a tear-filled meltdown in the car loop on the first day of high school, Alexander pulled out her phone and pressed record.

"My family members are always telling me we need to have cameras rolling 24 hours a day in our house because all of the action that takes place is hilarious," Alexander told TODAY Parents. "J'ia has always been drama and very theatrical...I knew something was about to happen, and I wanted to capture that memory — whatever it was — for her, so that we could have something to reflect back on for years to come."

Alexander's video, which has been viewed by more than six million people, shows J'ia crying in her mother's car, expressing her fears about her first day as a freshman. The young girl says she's concerned about meeting friends and finding her classes, and tearfully asks her mom to go into the school building with her.

Alexander offers tough love, and some solutions. "Ask a teacher!" she says when J'ia is convinced she'll get lost.

But like any mom would, she becomes exasperated.

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"I ain't going to school with you," Alexander says in the video, later telling J'ia's friend on a phone call, "This fool is in this car having a meltdown."

More than eight minutes later, J'ia finally gets out of the car, as her mom yells, "Bye baby, have a good day. Love you."

J'ia with her 8-year-old brother and 5-year-old sister.
J'ia with her 8-year-old brother and 5-year-old sister.Crystal Alexander

But Alexander, who has three other children, says the tough love she showed her daughter in the video had a purpose.

"J'ia called me after every class that day, saying she was lost," said Alexander. "I asked her, 'What do you want me to do, baby, I'm not there?' I wanted her to think and formulate her own plan for what the next step was."

J'ia survived her first day, and has since become the talk of high school due to her viral fame.

The mom behind the camera: Crystal Alexander with her eldest son.
The mom behind the camera: Crystal Alexander with her eldest son.Crystal Alexander

"School has been awesome for J'ia," said Alexander. "Because of this video, she not only has more friends than she thought, but the outpouring of love and assistance from strangers at school has been phenomenal.

"J'ia is aware that the video was posted, and she is OK with that," said Alexander. "She actually had to laugh at herself when she saw it later that night. She asked, 'What's wrong with me?' and I explained to her that she was overwhelmed with emotion and didn't really know how to channel it at that moment."

So what does this Texas mom — who showed that kids can have first-day jitters at any age — recommend parents do to handle their own kids' back-to-school anxiety?

"Pay attention to your children and learn about them. Understand what makes them tick," said Alexander. "Build a relationship with them and be firm, but love them unconditionally and wholeheartedly."

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