A Thank You Letter To My Daughter As She Graduates From College

Dear Riley,

Well, baby, here we are. Tomorrow, you graduate from college. So, I’m sure it is no big surprise that I’ve got a few things to say. And because you know how I’m wired on the inside, you know it’s apt to get a little drippy, so bear with me.

Now I know you’re happiest when you’re not the focus of my column and I totally understand why you feel that way. Privacy, anonymity, and all that. I get it; I really do. And that’s why I’ve always tried to respect your request to stay under the radar until today.

Today, the day before you graduate, a columnist-mom’s gotta do what a columnist-mom’s gotta do and pour it all out into a Word Doc for all the world to see. Cause, if I don’t unload some of these big, overpowering feels I’ve got filling up my chest cavity, mommy’s gonna s’plode. Plus, we both know I won’t be in any condition to talk to you tomorrow. And here is usually where I do my best thinking.

female graduate
What I most want to tell my daughter at her graduation is simply “thank you.” (TB Kilman)

Now, there are dozens of things I could talk about here, I know that. And it’s been a challenge to think of just the right way to explain what I’m feeling as a mom, watching my first child toe the line at the start of her true adult life.

Like, I could talk about all the pride I feel about everything you’ve accomplished academically while at school. But I won’t. That would be too predictable and a little too braggy, and you’d kill me in my sleep if I did that publicly.

I could share how beautiful it’s been to watch you strike out on your semi-own and live and thrive and manage your time and your life and your relationships like a bonafide grownup. But I’m not.

Or, I could tell you how proud I am of all the ways you’ve reached out and connected with your college community and found your people and your path and your passion because that’s some inspiring stuff. But I’m not gonna go there either.

There’ll be no long, drawn-out soliloquy about how I just don’t know where all the time has gone. Or how it seems like just yesterday you took your first steps in our D.C. apartment. Or smeared your first spaghetti dinner all over your face. Or slept through the night that very first time and scared the @$%! out of me thinking I slept through your cries. Or how it feels impossible that the cap and gown I just ironed last night is really yours. Nah. I’m not going anywhere near any of that.

I’m also not interested in talking about the grades on your transcript how many endorsements you have on your LinkedIn page, or how well-positioned you are to land a job right out of school. I mean, yeah, ok, those things are essential, but they’re not what’s really on my mind.

What I’m most focused on now is who you’ve become as a person since you left for school freshman year — what you’re walking away with on the inside. That’s what’s filling up my heart today and making the tears fall. And it’s what’s giving me the greatest sense of pride.

It’s all about your willingness to discover your best self. How tirelessly and deliberately you’ve learned how to engage with everyone around you to find your own unique place in the world.

It’s about the leaps of faith and risks you took by experimenting with things like majors and friendships and politics and social justice, and the pivots you made when you knew a direction didn’t feel right. Those are the big takeaways as far as I’m concerned and the reasons why we know you’re ready for what comes next.

So, as you get ready to walk the walk tomorrow, all I really want to do here is say thank you. Just thank you. Thanks for taking all these chances on yourself and believing that the sky is definitely the limit. Thank you for being willing to fall and fail and screw it all up before you got it right. Thank you for doing exactly what any parent hopes their kid does with this experience. Just. Thank. You.

Now go do all the same stuff for the rest of your life.

I love you,

Mom xo

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About Lisa Sugarman

Lisa Sugarman lives just north of Boston, Massachusetts. She writes the nationally syndicated opinion column It Is What It Is and is the author of How to Raise Perfectly Imperfect Kids and Be Ok with It--Real Tips & Strategies for Parents of Today's Gen Z KidsUntying Parent Anxiety: 18 Myths That Have You in Knots—And How to Get Free, and LIFE: It Is What It Is, available on Amazon, at Barnes & Noble, and at select bookstores everywhere. Read and discuss all her columns and books at lisasugarman.com. Or, find them on GrownAndFlown, Thrive Global, Hot Moms Club, LittleThings, MommingHubb, More Content Now, Wickedlocal, This Mama Wines, and Care(dot)com. She's also the founder and moderator of The Vomit Booth, the popular Facebook Group where parents can go to bond, share, and connect over the madness of raising kids in today's world.

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