Dear MonkeyMan (I will call you this as long as you allow),
Yesterday, you “graduated” from kindergarten. I used to laugh when I’d see all the pomp and circumstance that surrounded this graduation. Of course, now that I’m in the shoes of the parent of a kindergarten graduate, I get the significance. Not only was this your foray into “real school,” but we had not prepared you for it. Now that we know that kindergarten comes with more than nap rugs and finger paint, your brother will be ready. Sadly, though, you weren’t quite there. And finding this out hit me to the innermost core of mommy guilt. We worked so hard, though. We pushed you harder than we would have even liked at times, but you stuck with it. And you soaked it all up like a sponge. And now you are on to first grade, and I just wish I had some sort of machine to slow the whole aging process down.
In the end, I know your grades will be fine. You are so smart and savvy. You will go on to high school and to college and likely get a great job and a family. I want all of that for you, of course, but I want so much more. I want you to enjoy the process, soak it in, and smell the roses until your nose is numb. I want you to forge lasting friendships and create indelible memories. Granted, I’m a female and female friendships are often thought to be on a deeper scale but guys can have that, too, and I want that for you. I want you to have someone who has your back no matter what. He may take you out and watch you drink too much but he’ll be also be the one to make sure you don’t do anything *too* stupid. You’ll stay in touch and stand up at each other’s weddings. Your kids may even be friends, and it will start all over again.
You wear your heart on your sleeve, and that scares the hell out of me, but I wouldn’t change a thing. Life is going to throw lots of crap your way because of that but, heartbreak be damned, I still want you to be willing to give your heart away. I give mine away each day that you walk out that door and, yes, it’s downright frightening but it’s part of life. You will be cut from a team. You will have your heart broken. You will be bullied. And all this will build a character that will help you to emerge a stronger, more compassionate person. Please don’t change.
Speaking of that, remember that everyone else is going through some sort of struggle, too. Don’t be a bystander. You might think you are in the right because you are not the bully but that doesn’t matter. You need to intervene when you see something that isn’t right. Your uncle once got in a fight defending someone with learning disabilities in high school and, while I never advocate violence, I don’t think I’ve ever been so proud. I see this side of you already. Don’t lose it. Put yourself in other’s shoes. Stand up to the world’s injustices and, trust me, there will be many. I know you can do it.
Embrace the differences you see in people you meet. Of course, birds of a feather flock together and that’s completely natural. But don’t get pigeon-holed. I know you love sports with all of your heart and soul but try other things. Hang with different sorts. Take the road less traveled, as it truly will make all the difference. Robert Frost knew what he was talking about. This may involve taking some risks. Do it! A life without risk is a life without reward, and I want you to have so, so many rewards. Know one thing, though. You will fail. It’s okay. Your family will be there to catch you when you fall, as my family has done for me (far too many times, if I’m being honest). That’s what family is for, and unconditional love is the greatest gift life has to offer.
On to love. Your mother is a hopeless romantic so, most of all, I want you to find a beautiful love. I won’t say “one, true love,” as I think there are likely many out there for us. It’s a big world, after all. But I hope you find someone who makes you breathless with adoration. I hope she has a beautiful brain like yours, as looks do fade. I want long walks on the beach for you, hand in hand. I want for you to enjoy heated debates and passionate lovemaking, although I don’t ever need to hear about the last part (ha!). I want you to face life’s inevitable turmoil together as a united front — so strong that not even the worst could cause you to crumble. I want you both to have that moment when you look at your kids and then at each other with a knowing look that says, “WE MADE THAT.”
As a mother, I’m both terrified and thrilled for you. You have so much ahead of you. The protective part of me sees the news of school shootings come fast and furious, random crimes, and a world that can be terrifying at times, and I want to lock you up and throw away the key. But what kind of life is that? So I’m going to choose to embrace the excitement instead. Like everyone else on the planet, you’ll have your iPhone in hand along the way but make sure to take plenty of mental photos. The ones that live in our minds are the ones that are the most special, as no one can take those away from us. And I wish for you a head filled with them, along with a life filled with love, laughter, and all the good you deserve.