Dear Kids (because you’ll always be my kids even when you’re older than I am now),
On the occasion of our family’s last high school graduation, I’m sharing the obligatory old-person advice to young people on the verge of taking on the world.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before. Or listen again, because I mean it extra now:
Please call home. Texting works, too. Either way, Dad and I want to stay in touch. Tell us the good, the bad, the ugly. Don’t be afraid to be honest. We understand more than you realize.
When the going gets tough — and it will get tough — take a step back to examine the circumstances. Don’t waste time worrying about brokenness you can’t change. Fix what you can, then look forward. When you’re 80 years old, most of the worst stuff won’t matter anymore.
Smile when you’re happy. Cry when you’re not. In other words, honor your feelings. But whenever possible, focus less on sadness and more on joy. You’ll never regret the times you spent being glad. I promise.
Try to choke down some fruits and vegetables. When you can, walk instead of getting a ride. Breathe fresh air. Stay hydrated. Rest when you’re tired. I raised these bodies of yours and I expect you to treat them well for your whole lives.
Treat others well, too. Be kind in your words and actions. Generosity is almost always good.
Books are also good. Read them not just for school but for pleasure. Keep up with local, national, and global news. Be smart and stay informed. Speak up. Speak out. Ask questions. Curiosity is important. You are not cats.
Don’t settle for less when a little more effort could direct a better situation your way. But when you’ve done your best, accept where you land with contentment and gratitude.
I believe in you, always and always. Not because I’m your mother. Okay, Maybe because I’m your mother.
No, but really.
You are capable and authentic and entirely, wonderfully YOU. I’d like to say I never tried to change the parts that didn’t align with my expectations, but that wouldn’t be true. So thank you for being stubborn enough to be who you were meant to be despite me.
On that note, surround yourself with people and things and experiences that fill you up. Drains are everywhere, so step around them. Seek your fountains. They’re everywhere, too.
You will win some.
You will lose some.
When you do lose, allow yourself time to grieve, then celebrate the bravery required to try in the first place.
You will be hurt and you will hurt someone else. Say you’re sorry when you are. Accept apologies with grace. It’s the right thing to do even when it’s hard. Especially when it’s hard.
Because I miss you. I miss the sound of your laughter, the press of you beside me on the couch, your shoes piled by the bench, the smell of your shampoo, your names on my tongue calling you downstairs.
“It’s time to go!”
It’s time to go.
You’re almost gone, so right now I don’t mind folding your laundry or washing your dishes or finding your missing shirt. Much. But I’ll quickly tire of these things when you visit, so don’t quote me on that when you do.
Quote me on this:
You are the greatest gifts of my (already pretty-great) life.
I can’t quite imagine this house emptied of the both of you. I picture myself standing in your packed-up bedrooms listening to the silence. To echoes from your childhood at home with me.
Those voices will be loud. I will soak them up. And in my head, I’ll be whispering back:
Take care of yourselves. Take care of each other.
I love you. I love you.
Julie C. Gardner is a former high school English teacher who traded in her classroom for a writing nook. The author of Letters for Scarlet and its prequel Guest List, Julie lives in Southern California with her husband, two children, and three dogs. To learn more about Julie, visit her website, juliecgardner.com and subscribe to her newsletter; follow her at Amazon: Julie C. Gardner, on Twitter, Facebook, and on Instagram.