LatherRinseRepeat--Yeah right

Ramblings of an over-worked, over-tired SAHM

Sunday, June 05, 2011

An Open Letter to my Son on his 22nd Birthday

I know I haven't written here in forever and I'm not going to bother explaining much but things are not good between A and I so I'm putting this out here and maybe someday he'll stumble across this.

June 5, 2011

Dear A.,

There is so much I want and need to say and yet I’m not sure you’ll even ever read this. But I’ll say it all anyway and maybe someday you’ll understand.

First of all, happy 22nd birthday to you. I hope it’s a good one. You are now the same age I was when I had you (OK, I was 22 and a couple of months, but close enough). Looking back, I thought I was so grown up but I had no idea of what I was about to take on. I didn’t know anything about babies. I’d never been around a newborn except through the glass at the hospital when my cousin was born when I was 11. But I read all the books, took classes on baby care and breastfeeding, and got advice from all the mothers I knew. I thought I was ready.

In truth, I guess I had a lot of growing up to do. In a way, I almost feel like you and I did a lot of growing up together. You are my first child, the one I learned with and made all the mistakes on. The one who taught me it was possible to love someone you just laid eyes on for the first time more than you thought you could ever love anyone. I hope someday as you hold your firstborn in your arms, you get to experience that love and understand that I’ve always loved you that much. I’ll always love you that much.

I’m sorry that I’m not the mother you need me to be. I did the best I could to give you the best life possible. I hope you remember that. I gave you the best start in life that I knew how to give, I’m sorry if you feel that wasn’t enough. I made sacrifices for you and I will never regret those. They were made with a loving and giving heart. I’m just sorry you can’t see that.
But I guess I always knew that my job as your mother was to work my way out of the job. I’m sure I made mistakes and I’m sure that’s what you’ll choose to remember, but I also gave you love and a love of learning and a sense of right and wrong. That’s what I would want you to remember if you ever think of me.

I have a few bits of advice to give you as you go out and make your way in the world. I don’t know that you’ll ever want or listen to them but I’m putting them out there anyway.

Friends – There is a HUGE difference between people you know and friends. Do not mistake the two. It’s easy to have a lot of people who will be your ‘friend’ when things are going well. When you are the life of the party and you’re buying the drinks, you’ll always have a lot of people around you. These are not necessarily your friends. Think about the 2 or 3 people who would still care about you if you had nothing and were living out of a cardboard box. Think about the people you would want to sit around with quietly and share your thoughts and feelings with when something really bad happens to you. Look for those people in your life. Maybe they aren’t the ones you see all the time, but they are the ones that you can go 2 weeks, 2 months, or even 2 years without talking to but when you see or talk to them, it’s like you were just with them yesterday. Those are you true friends. Everyone else is just people you know.

Relationships/Marriage – Your girlfriend seems really nice and you two seem to have a good relationship. If you really love her, work at it to make it work. But regardless of who the other person is in your life, make sure it’s someone you can talk to. As you get older, physical attraction and passion become less important, and if you’re going to spend 30 or 40 or more years with someone, it had better be someone you like to talk and listen to. Listen to each other and always treat each other with respect. Fight fair. Trust me when I tell you that every relationship has its ups and downs. You’ll annoy her, she’ll annoy you. Dishwashers, air conditioners and water heaters will break. Kids will get sick at inopportune times. Cars will break down. You might leave the toilet seat up and she might forget to buy toilet paper. You WILL disagree and fight about little and big things. It’s part of life. But it’s how you fight that will make or break your relationship. Don’t say things in anger that you can’t take back. Don’t bring past mistakes into current arguments. If you can’t talk about things right away to resolve things, then agree to do it later when you can attack the problem without attacking each other. Last but not least, when you do decide to get married, don’t just PLAN the wedding; plan the marriage. Put everything right out in the open. Be honest with each other about finances, decide who will pay the bills, decide how major purchases will be handled, discuss whether you both want children and when. In other words, plan how you’re going to live your lives together. A wedding, no matter how spectacular, is just a few hours. A marriage should be a lifetime.

Sex, Drinking, Drugs, Gambling, Money, Power, etc. – All these things can be very exciting and seductive. DO NOT MAKE THE MISTAKE OF GETTING SUCKED INTO ANY OF THEM. What I mean is that none of these things are inherently good or bad per se. It’s when you want any of them to the exclusion of all the other wonderful things in life that they become a problem. The path to addiction is a very slippery slope and when you’ve got a genetic pre-disposition to it, that slope can be very steep. So be careful. If you’re going to go out and drink, have a designated driver or take a cab. If you find that you have to drink at a gathering to have a good time, watch out, you’re on that slope. I probably should have put money and power separate from these other things, but in the end they aren’t much different. Money and power can be especially seductive and can make some people think they are important if they have them. Make no mistake; having these things does not make you better than anybody else. Being rich and powerful is not the key to happiness. True happiness comes from within. It comes from knowing that you are who and what and where God intends you to be in this life. You can have more love and joy and fulfillment in life from helping others with a generous heart than you can ever have by having the newest car, the biggest house, or the largest bank account. Look carefully in the mirror each morning when you shave and make sure you don’t see all the things you hated so much about your father when you were growing up staring back at you from that mirror. Samuel Johnson said it well when he said, “the true measure of a man is in how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good.” Don’t ever forget that while it’s nice to be important; it’s also important to be nice.

My Family – I really wish you had really gotten to grow up knowing my parents. You would have loved my dad’s sense of humor and he would have loved playing chess with you. You probably don’t really remember my mom, since you weren’t even 3 when she died, but she loved you more than life itself. You were really mad at me when she died because I couldn’t make you understand that we couldn’t just get in the car and go get her. You two were very close and it makes me sad that you don’t remember that. As far as the rest of my family goes, I know you’ve pretty much cut off all contact with them and that’s really unfortunate. I know you’re angry with me and don’t seem to want much to do with me. That is what it is and I hope that will change someday but it has nothing to do with the rest of the family. You still have a sister and a brother that love you and don’t understand why they never see you. You still have an uncle and cousins that love you and want to be a part of your life. Don’t make the mistake of shutting people that really care about you out of your life to spite me. You’re only hurting them and yourself.

Me – I just want you to know that I love you. It doesn’t matter where you go, what you do, what you become, or who you are. You will ALWAYS be my son and I will ALWAYS love you. I want to leave you with that thought and with my biggest secret. The truth about me is that I was never as strong as I let you think I was. Inside I was scared and easily hurt a lot of the time. I guess I should have let you see that instead of pretending I was OK. But I was only strong because I had to be. I didn’t have the option of falling apart on the outside, no matter what I was feeling on the inside. A big part of me wanted to curl up into a little ball and cry forever when my mom died so suddenly, but I couldn’t, because I had you and grandma and grandpa to take care of so I had to bury my grief deep down just to get through the days. The down side of burying those feeling is that I became really bad at letting people see how I really felt about them. I’m sorry I didn’t tell and show you how much I love you.

You – I know I don’t say it enough but I am really proud that you are my son. I’m proud of what you’ve accomplished and I know you will go on to do great things. I don’t know if I ever told you this but your name was chosen not only because of your two grandfathers. Your first name means noble and bright and your middle name means honor and victory. I wasn’t crazy about naming you those names at first, but finding the meanings of your grandfathers’ names is why you were given those names. I know you will live up to those.

That’s most of what I want you to know. Happy Birthday, A. I love you.



  • At 10:38 PM, Anonymous debra grove said…

    This is such a beautiful letter, from a mom to her son! She covered all the bases so elegantly.Thank you!


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