“Love, Mama,” A Letter to My Daughter Before Freshman Year

My daughter left for college last August. This is the letter I gave her during our last family dinner at home. We laughed…we cried…and surprisingly, we let her go.

Dear Daughter,

Don’t go.

Love,

Mama

A letter from a mom to her daughter before freshman year
The letter I’m writing my college freshman. (TBKilman)

A letter to my daughter before freshman year

Dear Daughter,

No, of course that’s not my message to you. That would go against every article I’ve consumed over the past year in an effort to gear up for this very moment: the ones that tell me that the healthy way to cope — for me and for you — is to embrace this change in our lives and to make sure to let you know how ready I think you are and how excited I am for you as you embark on this new chapter in your life.

Well, you know what? I call bullshit on all of it.

Listen, I know you have to go, but here’s an idea: Sleep in and never go to class so you flunk out and have to move back home so we can eat brownies and watch The Bachelor together just like always!

Love,

Mama

Dear Daughter,

Wait. That’s a terrible idea. Cupcakes obviously go better with The Bachelor than brownies.

Love,

Mama

Dear Daughter,

OK, fine. So you have to go. I mean, we’ve already paid that first semester of freshman year tuition bill and since the entire family has accumulated quite a wardrobe featuring your college mascot I guess we have to follow through with this, right?

As your mother I know I’m supposed to offer up some pearls of wisdom; to say things I’ve already said repeatedly over the past 18 years. You know, the things that make you roll your eyes and sigh audibly when I say them. Things like, “Listen to yourself — you are the smartest person you know!” and “It’s OK to make mistakes — just don’t make them life-changing ones!” Things you’ve obviously taken to heart because you’re a great young lady. No, you are a remarkable young lady, so I won’t waste my time or yours.

My advice to you? Have fun. Enjoy every moment. These are the best years of your life.

Love,

Mama

Dear Daughter,

Maybe that sounded a little depressing. If these are the best years of your life, then what’s left? I’ll tell you what’s left. Kids and mortgages and taxes, that’s what.

New advice: Promise yourself that these won’t be the best years of your life. How do you ensure that, you ask? Don’t get married or pregnant for at least 10 or 18 more years.

Love,

Mama

Dear Daughter,

“But you met dad in college, got married when you were 24 and had me when you were 26,” I can hear you shouting. Yes, yes, that is very true. And while I adore your father and cannot imagine my life without him, I sometimes can imagine myself at age 23 taking a couple of months to wander around England or imagine living in a cramped but hip studio in San Francisco with uneven floors and creaky pipes where I work as a struggling author and eat nothing but crusty sourdough bread and drink cheap wine for dinner every night.

I mean, loosely.

And although it’s true that by age 26 I was desperate to have a baby and be a mama (and wouldn’t trade that decision for a second), it now seems so very, very young to me. It’s easy to get intoxicated by the teeny, tiny socks at Baby Gap and the coos and gurgles of your friend’s newborn that you get to hold for 10 minutes when he’s clean and calm, but what I wish I’d known then was how much of my life I’d be giving up — forever and ever and ever.

And ever.

I guess my advice then is this: Your college years and your 20s are the only time in your life you might be free to be alone with yourself, so take advantage of them. Be selfish. Take risks!

Love,

Mama

Dear Daughter,

Hold on. When I say ‘take risks’ I don’t mean hook up with a dirty stranger, I mean be adventurous!

Love,

Mama

Dear Daughter,

By “be adventurous” you know I don’t mean move to Africa and join the Zulu tribe, right?

Love,

Mama

Dear Daughter,

I feel the need to clarify. Of course I encourage you to travel the world and follow your passion, unless it happens to be a boy with a guitar who wants you to drop out of college and backpack through Europe.

Love,

Mama

Dear Daughter,

Beware of boys with guitars.

Love,

Mama

Dear Daughter,

On second thought, beware of all boys. Also? Don’t ever have sex.

OK, that’s unrealistic. I know that eventually you will have sex, so you should know some things:

  •   If he doesn’t like you before sex, he won’t like you after sex.
  •   Birth control pills can prevent pregnancy, but they don’t prevent warts…or regret.
  •   Don’t have unprotected sex until after you are married.

Love,

Mama

Dear Daughter,

You know what? I was right. Just stay away from all boys and don’t ever have sex.

Love,

Mama

Dear Daughter,

Speaking of sex, let’s talk about alcohol.

I know you are firm about not even wanting to drink and are convinced you won’t in the next few years, but once you find “your drink” that will most likely (read: definitely) change. Here’s some advice for when it does:

  •  Don’t let those tiny cups of jello fool you. They are not dessert.
  •  Surround yourself with people you trust — which is a good rule of thumb in any    situation — but especially if you decide to have some cocktails. Drawing a mustache on your friend’s face is kind of funny; rape is kind of not.
  • Don’t ever take an open bottle or cup from anyone. If you don’t want to seem rude, walk around with it for a while and then quietly toss it on someone who’s already passed out. Trust me, they’ll never notice.
  • Steer clear of “Sex on the Beach.” Both kinds.
  • Remember the alcohol rule: Beer before liquor, never sicker. Liquor before beer, never — oh, it doesn’t matter. Drink too much of anything in any order and you will still end up puking your guts out.

Love,

Mama

Dear Daughter,

All this talk about alcohol makes me think of another important piece of advice: Use Citron vodka instead of regular vodka in an Appletini.

Love,

Mama

Dear Daughter,

Seriously, regardless of whether you are tipsy or stone sober, be aware — of your surroundings, of your friends, of yourself. Put your screen down every once in a while and live in the moment. It will not only help you appreciate your life, it just might save it.

Love,

Mama

Dear Daughter,

Oh, dear. I’ve scared you now, haven’t I? Listen, don’t forget to carry your pepper spray and walk with a buddy, but don’t be overwhelmed by fear. In fact, break out of your comfort zone every once in a while and do something that scares you!

Love,

Mama

Dear Daughter,

Except bungee jumping or skydiving.

Please, please, please don’t ever do that.

Love,

Mama

Dear Daughter,

I can hear you rolling your eyes at me, but hear me out.

For the past 18 years it’s been my job to keep you safe. When you came into this world 11 weeks early, weighing all of three pounds and as tiny and fragile as a broken bird, I looked into your impossibly big brown eyes and promised you I’d keep your nest feathered with the softest down and high away from every predator who even dared to come close.

And I have.

I have protected you, comforted you, played with you, listened to you, laughed with you, been your biggest supporter and your most trusted ally. You, in turn, have been my light, my joy, my heart. We’ve created a warm nest, haven’t we?

But now they’re telling me it’s time to nudge you out, hold my breath and watch you fly.

What they’re not telling me is how much my breath will catch as you teeter on the edge, and how much it will feel like all that breath is ripped out of me as you drop down —  before your wings catch the wind, which I know they will.

Oh, you’ll soar, baby girl, of that I have no doubt. But old habits die hard, and for a while (like the next 30 years or so), I’ll still be doing my best to make sure you stay up.

Love,

Mama

Dear Daughter,

“But mama, flying is sometimes scary,” you say? It’s true. Sometimes it’s smooth and calm and you get to where you’re going without a care in the world. But sometimes it’s a bit turbulent, and I agree; that is scary. Just know that it’s okay to be scared. It’s okay to worry. It’s natural to wonder if you can handle all the bumps that come along with the ride.

You can.

It’s just like Flik says to Dot in A Bug’s Life, which we watched a million times together when you were just a tot:

“Everything that made that tree giant is already contained inside this tiny little seed.”

You’re ready, and you’ve been ready since you were all of three pounds. Your tree is already strong and mighty, and I have no doubt that one day it will be the tallest and most breathtaking in the forest.

Love,

Mama

Dear Daughter,

I almost forgot the most important piece of advice —

Call your mama.

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About Michelle Newman

Michelle Newman spent 23 years as a stay at home mom to two daughters and most of the past seven writing about them. Even though they’re both now grown and flown, she’s learning that life in an empty nest is still full and the material just keeps coming. She tells stories on her blog,youremyfavoritetoday.com 

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