This issue on parenting could not have come at a better time! In less than a month, I will be sending my firstborn off to college in another state. It is slowly breaking my heart ☹. And, yes, I realize there are mothers that are making much bigger sacrifices; when I was at my son’s graduation, they announced the kids’ names that had chosen to serve our country. God bless those brave men and women, and God bless their parents. While I recognize it is not off to war that I am sending my firstborn (far from it—pretty sure The Princeton Review named it the number one party school for the last three consecutive years!! ), it is still bittersweet.
My 18-year-old son, Dylan—who is handsome like no other, who towers over me, who is oftentimes the silently smartest guy in the room, and who has trouble keeping his own room clean—is about to spread his wings and fly the nest. He is about to leave this 18-year journey, in which we walked hand in hand, behind and begin a new one, hand released. I share with you my letter to him.
It is only a few weeks away before you take a journey that brings you so many growth opportunities. I trust that my 18 years of loving you, teaching you, shaping you, and slightly obsessing over everything from your oral hygiene to your moral character, serves you well on this new phase of your life.
This letter is not about how much I will miss you, because no letter can ever explain the feeling of sending a piece of my heart away. Instead, it is to remind you to always stay true to yourself! And to also remind you of what we both always say: You only regret the things you don’t do (please do NOT correlate this with standard college risky behavior—drugs, risky sex, blackout drinking—because, trust me, I have lived to see that those activities lead to much regret).
Instead, when you sit in your dorm room and ask yourself such things as, “Should I join that club?” “Should I say ‘hi’ to that cute girl in class?” “Should I sign up for study abroad?” I hope you hear my voice in your head saying, “Yes, yes and yes!” and that when the little voice in your own head rattles off reasons to stay in your dorm, that you think of me. I am in your corner saying, “Yes! Do it! Engage!”
This college opportunity can be amazing, but you must (YOU MUST) pick your head up (yup, away from the phone) and engage. It will be scary at first; I remember being the most bubbly person at my high school, but those first weeks at college in Alabama I felt alone, nervous and unsure. Yet, the combination of both time and engagement is what will make for an amazing four years (yes, four, you deadbeat—your father and I ain’t paying for more!!! ).
Back to those “college life” activities that I would rather you say “no” to. I am not naive, and I know there will be parties and there will be temptations. I just want to warn you that when you are under the influence, it impacts your ability to make clear decisions and it is harder to remain true to yourself. That’s it—that is the only other piece of advice I have.
The last part of this letter is NOT advice; it is an open invitation. That invitation has always existed between you and me, but I want to remind you that NO MATTER what you do, I am here for you. I will help you and guide you should you find you are EVER in a position that is over your head. Call me. Don’t wait. Don’t worry about my reaction. Just call me, my sometimes close-to-the-vest son, and your father and I will be there for you.
I love you, and while my heart is breaking at the thought of my baby boy leaving, my heart is equally bursting with pride for the man that I am sending away. (SEE YA PARENTS’ WEEKEND—WHOOP, WHOOP!!)
Kelly Martinsen, Publisher