Tomorrow you’ll climb into your car and back out of the driveway, headed to school one more time to finish what you started 12 years ago. I remember that day like it was yesterday. The lunchbox, the backpack twice the size of your back, the velcro sneakers, that messed up hair you wouldn’t let me fix.
I remember feeling my stomach drop when I saw that big yellow bus turn the corner and head towards us. How would I ever be able to let you climb inside and ride away; some stranger driving you to a place full of new, wonderful, but unfamiliar experiences. There I was, just standing there wondering why I can’t come along to watch and make sure you’re ok.
I remember checking my phone to make sure the batteries were working, in case the school needed to call. Wondering if you ate your lunch. Wondering if anyone was being mean to you, or if you had anyone to sit with. I don’t want to admit it, but I may have driven by the school trying to get a glimpse of recess.
I remember walking to the bus stop way too early that afternoon, because I was anxious to see how you were doing. The complete relief that washed over me as your lit up, grinning face appeared, always the last one off the bus. You bounded down those steps and started running toward the house without me– oblivious to my worry.
But tomorrow, you end this portion of the journey. I have only a summer before I face a much bigger goodbye than that yellow school bus that carried you back to me after only a few short hours. And so, as though I could travel back in time, I made myself a list of advice I wish I could go back and give myself 12 years ago.
1. Let him crawl in your lap more, he’ll be bigger than you before you know it.
2. Almost everything you think is direly important right now can wait. Go read that story 3 more times.
3. Let him figure it out himself, he doesn’t always need help just because he’s frustrated. He just needs confirmation that you believe he can do it.
4. It’s ok if the cupcakes are ugly, the spaghetti is overcooked, and there’s flour all over the floor. Let him help. The memories are worth it. Let go of neat and tidy and embrace the fun. Its ok if the house is a mess. There I said it.
5. Let it go. Don’t battle and fret over what color socks he’s wearing or anything trivial. Save your focus for those life and character building moments and embrace all the others as part of his unique personality. What other people think doesn’t matter at all.
6. Ask more questions, listen more than you advise.
7. Go to every game, you’ll want them back.
8. If he doesn’t want to sign up for that extra activity or sport in an off season, don’t sign him up. He needs unstructured play time and all those pressures in the youth sports world are mostly based on made up info to get your money. Don’t believe what they say. He’s playing in college and he didn’t have to play on a single travel team to get there.
9. He doesn’t have to be the best (athlete, student, genius) If he’s exploring, trying, figuring out where his strengths are, gaining confidence and knows what values he stands by, then you’re doing it right. Let some of the constructive criticism go and instead, tell him every chance you get how proud you are to be his mom.
10. Don’t blink. Not for a second. Don’t complain or fret over any small season for the next 12 years, because you’ll want all of it back. That toddler waddle, that day he dropped the cake you baked all day on the floor, that time he hid in the laundry basket for two hours and you couldn’t find him, the kitchen cabinets he colored with crayons. In the big picture, all those catastrophes are the best stories you’ll have to cherish.
I spent too much time worrying about things that worked out just fine. I wish I’d let more of the world’s urgent demands slip away to get a little more time with you. But I’m grateful for every second, and though I’m sad at this chapter closing, I’m incredibly proud and excited for the journey that lies ahead for you and the man that you’ve become.
May your next chapter be challenging and not easy. May your struggles lead you to opportunities, wisdom, and strength of character. I pray you let yourself lean on friends when you feel weak, and have the courage to be a leader when those around you falter. May your values and your faith lead you through the dark times and your light lead the way for those around you.
I promise not to drive by your college and peek in your classroom windows, but I will be at your homes games, a phone call or short drive away, and I will always be –
Your loving Mom.
Happy Graduation Michael!