Wednesday, May 29, 2019

To The One Who Made Me The Parent Of An Adult

I really haven't been stalling writing this entirely. I have been actually busy, I swear. I have also been stalling, because let's be honest...this is the birthday letter I have been the least excited to write since I started writing them all those years ago. Terrible idea, that was, by the way. Great way to make me cry in a predictable fashion, anyway.

So, you're officially 18 years old. Officially an adult. Responsible, at least in the eyes of the law, for the things you do, even if you still can't do a lot of stuff like drink or rent a car. Ah, our bizarre system of tiered adolescence.

I was thinking for a long time about what I was going to write. I could go on and on and on about all the things that have happened in the last year, and there are a lot of them. Instead of dwell on that stuff, I figured I would just do it quick and dirty style, then get to what I really wanted to write about this time.



You made drum major and had an absolute blast, doing your trademark dance up on your perch every time the marching band performed their field show. It earned you a few nicknames, that dance did, and I'll never be able to listen to Take On Me without seeing the butt shimmy in my head. You joined the jazz bands, as in plural, and made combined league honor jazz band on your first try, playing an instrument you'd barely even touched before this year. Which is crazy. You made district honor band too, played snare in the winter drumline and won another first place medal...although to be fair, this year, you all were only competing against yourselves, having gone up to a more difficult classification in competition, albeit one in which there wasn't any.

You went with the band to Disneyland, and although I know that you were disappointed that you didn't get to march in the parade there, you did eat the cheapest food you could for the entire trip to save up so you could buy yourself the Indiana Jones whip you've been dreaming of since you were about 9 years old. And you still haven't figured out how to use it without whacking yourself in the face, Dr. Jones. (Inside joke bahahahahaha)

You finished the year by winning both the Spirit Award and the John Philip Sousa Award, which is pretty freaking amazing when you really think about it since the Spirit award is nominated and voted on by the students, and the Sousa award is chosen by the faculty. They all really do like you. A lot.

You're still probably getting your name spelled wrong half the time, though. And while we're at it, it's going to be mispronounced most of the time, even by people who know better. At this point, though, I am sure that you're used to that.

You graduated from high school on Saturday, already planning the future at college. Away but not too far away. Close enough to come home if you really had to, but far enough that I know you won't do that very often at all. I told someone yesterday that this summer was a bittersweet one, because you are absolutely the kind of kid who goes away to college and might never actually come home. I could see you traveling and doing summer programs and getting jobs far away just for the experience...whether I would want you to come home or not. It isn't about what I want. It never really was.

You can always come home, though. Always. I'll be cooking enough food to feed a small army for a while after you leave anyway, most likely, since I'm conditioned at this point to feed you.

You've accomplished a lot, and like I said, we could go on and on about that, but I don't want to. You've never really cared all that much about that stuff, and we never expected any of it, so even if we live in a society that only rewards certain things, they often aren't the things that really matter.

Let's talk about the things that do matter, then.

Like how you know that you can come to me and quietly ask for help. Still. That you trust me enough to help you navigate this process, knowing that you'll be going away in just a few months. That makes me so proud that I can't really even describe it in detail. I'm glad that you are mature enough, self aware enough, to recognize when you need to lean, and that you know that if you aren't sure how to do that or where to go, you ask.

I cannot overstate the importance of this life skill, my dude. I cannot. It is enormously huge, and in this world there are millions of people my age who 100% have not figured this part of life out. Just imagine how much of an advantage that gives you in the department of shit that really matters.

You learned to let go of the things that weren't meant for you, even if it hurt, without resentment or anger. Yet another life skill that most adults haven't nailed down yet. You saw that those times were opportunities for growth, not just another door slammed in your face. And let me tell you...the real world really fucking sucks sometimes, and there are going to be a lot of doors slammed in your face, especially in the career universe you seem headed towards. You're almost always going to hear more nos than yeses. How you cope with rejection will shape you far more than the times someone said yes.

You have kept your kind heart and open mind and you've kept on telling people that you love them and that you care about them. You scream it at them sometimes, which is gratifying for me, the parent who has often yelled things like "make good choices" out the window at you. It's hard, loving people as much as you do sometimes. Don't let any one person dim that light inside you. Don't let heartbreak or false friends or betrayal change who you are. Who you are is pretty freaking amazing, and unfortunately, there are people out there who will take advantage of that truth. And when they do, you have to make choices about whether to forgive, about whether to allow them to remain in your life...just don't let them dim that light. It's yours, and it is rare and beautiful. I wish that there was a way to protect you from the awful things that people will do, but I know that I cannot. I have already failed at doing so.

I can't keep your heart safe, but I hope that I have taught you resilience. I hope that I have taught you that listening will always teach you more than speaking. I hope that I have taught you to defend those you love, to stand up against the things that will harm them, and to do so with honor and integrity. I hope that I have taught you to keep an open mind, and to always always always consider the perspective of others before making up your mind about anything. I hope that I have taught you to advocate for the rights and interests of the most marginalized person in the room, and if everyone in the room looks the same, you've got to find a different room or make the one you are in inclusive. I hope I have taught you to follow your passions, to ignore what other people say when they believe they are being helpful but are actually trying to control you. I hope that I have taught you to be patient and kind to yourself, to learn from your mistakes, to apologize without reservation when you've harmed someone else, to grow and do better. I hope that I have taught you to allow yourself time to mourn, time to cry, time to scream, time to run, time to heal. I hope that I have taught you to force yourself to find downtime, and then to make sure that you make yourself a priority.

I hope all these things and so much more, just as I have spent the past 18 years hoping that I was making the right decisions, that I was doing the right thing for you, that I was giving you the tools you'd need someday.

Because the honest truth is that I had no idea what I was doing. I was winging it the whole time.

I was.

And I think we did okay. I hope we did okay.

As a parent, I have always tried to be consistent. I've always tried to make my choices out of love, not fear. I have always tried to keep my mom's advice in mind, because she told me when you were very little that if it wasn't going to matter in ten years, it shouldn't matter today. And although she was wrong about a lot of things, she was absolutely right about that. I've always tried to keep my focus on the long game, not the minutiae in the present.

And you've already shown yourself to get it. You even chose to forgo a year of drumline because there were other things you wanted to accomplish. So you did them, and you found your way back. Then you drug your sister along for the ride.

They all look up to you so much. They really do.

And if I'm being completely truthful, so do I. You're so much more mature than I was at your age. You've accomplished so much more. You are far more self aware than I was when I was twice your age. You know what you want, but have never once been willing to harm someone else to get it. You are kind and considerate. You are always the perpetual older brother, checking on your friends.

I asked too much of you over the years, with your siblings, with your friends, with so much. I asked too much of you, and it wasn't fair.

And you were always there, ready to help, ready to scoop up a baby, ready to be my eyes and ears on drives to school and home. You were always there.

I hope you know that I will always be here for you too.

I'm so proud of you, and I love you to infinity and beyond.

Go do amazing things. Well, go do more of them. And do some fun stuff along the way too.

Love,

Mom

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