My first-born son, Joey, recently celebrated his 10th birthday. I have been the mother of a young-man-in-the-making for ten years….one full decade…3,653 days. In eight short years, he will be leaving the nest, flying the coop, heading off to college.
Here is how I see this going…
The time: August 2023, drop-off day at college
The setting: My 18-year-old son sits quietly on his neatly made bed in his perfectly clean dormitory room accented by family photos, including an 8×10 of his first love….his mom. He is taking a break from studying (even before classes have started) to read a letter I slipped on his nightstand after a mutually tearful good-bye.
My dear son,
As you are ready – dare I say eager – to say goodbye and start the next chapter of your life as a college freshman, please know how much I love you and how proud I am of you – especially for receiving a full, four-year scholarship to one of the finest universities in America [This is my letter and I just dropped my son off at college – let me have this!]. I think back on all of the years mothering you, preparing you – and myself – for this moment. Guess what? I’m not prepared. But I have prepared these thoughts for you. Please never forget them, and never forget how much you are loved, how much you will be missed while you are away at school, and how important it is to change the sheets on your bed. Seriously, change your sheets.
Looking back, I remember the greatest moments, the most fun times, the snapshots of your childhood. And of course, I am reminded of just how much you love amusement parks – the whole experience from the rides to the games to the junk food we would share. These are such wonderful memories that I will forever cherish.
That said, I will try and convey these bits of advice in a way you might appreciate. Let’s go on a little ride I call “Mother’s Wisdom:”
- Life will always have ups and downs; twists and turns – it’s a roller coaster of sorts. Always buckle your seat belt.
- Sometimes it will seem like life is dizzying and you are spinning around and around – like you are on the Tea Cups. Always know where the closest bathroom is in case you get sick. (And, always wash your hands after using the restroom.)
- You will often have to wait to get where you want to be – remember standing in line for more than two hours for a two-minute ride at that park with all the mouse ears? Good things come to those who wait. Patience is a virtue.
- Funnel cakes, cotton candy and snow cones are delicious – but there is such thing as too much of a good thing. Don’t overindulge – in anything.
- You may want to win a girl a $2 stuffed animal that will cost you $20 – in other words, you will want to impress her with a gift. If she is worth it, do it. If not, save your cash and buy your mom something special.
- While you are too old for the face-painting booth, if you are suddenly interested in getting a tattoo, you need to remember it will not wash off – no matter how hard you scrub. Don’t do it. (But, if you must, can I recommend the word “mom” with a nice heart?)
- Do not focus solely on physical appearances. Think of it like the House of Mirrors – what may look a little odd on the outside does not represent the person within. See people for who they really are – not just what they look like.
- Sure, you can kick butt in the water gun game, but sometimes it’s better to save some glory for the underdog or the child sitting next to you. Think about your little brother.
- This is a big one – perhaps the most important of this list: Treat women as you would want your sister to be treated.
- The flashiest Roller Coasters are not necessarily the best use of your time. Remember to enjoy the simpler things in life.
- The Bumper Cars are a ride – only a ride. Always drive responsibly.
- Never underestimate the simplicity of the Merry-Go-Round. There is always something different to see each time you travel – even on the same path. Keep your eyes open for the things you never realized were right in front of you.
- Even when you feel like you are on top of the world – like when you ride a Ferris wheel – you will, eventually, be brought down to reality. Enjoy your successes, but remember life has its share of ups and downs.
- Do not waste your time playing games that are designed not to be won. Reach for the stars, but don’t set unrealistic goals. Know your limits.
- Don’t live on the edge. Tightropes and trapezes are for trained performers. Don’t gamble with your safety. Ever. EVER. E-V-E-R!
- Do not hang out with a bunch of clowns. Pick your friends wisely. They can be fun to be around but make sure there is more to the company you keep than the ability to make balloon animals.
- You must be “this many inches tall” to ride. OK, you tower over me now. You are tall, dark and handsome – I get that. But you are still not old enough to drink alcohol.
Much like an amusement park, life can be exciting, thrilling, awesome, amazing and astounding. But it can also be scary, nerve-wracking, overwhelming and terrifying. Don’t be afraid to try new things, but always remember: 1) use good judgment and 2) if you need me, I will always be here to hold your hand – oh, and share your funnel cake.
I love you. Now, go study. Or, call me. Yes…call me – I miss you already.
(I miss him already)