Love, Mama ~ Words of advice for my graduating daughter

Two years ago my daughter was about to leave the nest.

The soft, feathered, built-painstakingly-by-hand nest I’d created for her since the moment I knew she existed.

Fine, her father helped…but still.

I knew I needed to tell her all the things before she left, but didn’t feel like I needed to write one of the typical letters of advice. I mean, I’d been giving her more advice than she ever wanted (or probably needed) every chance I got for the past 18+ years.

Our nest is barrels of fun.

But I couldn’t let her go without saying some things I knew she knew. (That’s what one of our jobs as mamas is, isn’t it? To beat the damn horse until it’s dead?) I had to tell her what to look out for, what (and who) to beware of, and most importantly, I had to tell her—for the 87 millionth time—what she meant to me.

So I didn’t write one letter.

I wrote 20.

I gave her the letters at our last family dinner together the night before we took her to college, and because we’re not only loving parents but a slightly evil ones as well, we made her read them out loud.

We laughed … we cried … and in the end, we let her go.  

Love, Mama


Dear daughter,
Don’t go.

Love,
Mama

 

Dear daughter,
No, of course that’s not my message to you. That would go against every article I’ve consumed over the past year in an effort to gear up for this very moment: the articles that tell me how ready I think you are and how excited I am for you as you embark on this new chapter in your life.

Well, you know what? I call bullshit on all of it.

Listen, I know you have to go, but here’s an idea: Sleep in and never go to class so you flunk out and have to move back home so we can watch The Bachelor together just like always!

Love,
Mama

 

Dear Daughter,
Okay, fine. So you have to go. As your mother I know I’m supposed to offer up some pearls of wisdom; to say things I’ve already said repeatedly over the past 18 years. You know, things that sometimes make you roll your eyes when I say them, like, “Listen to yourself you are the smartest person you know! and “It’s OK to make mistakes just don’t make them life-changing ones!”  Things you’ve obviously listened to because you’re a remarkable young lady, so I won’t waste my time or yours by repeating myself.

My advice to you? Have fun. Enjoy every moment. These are the best years of your life.

Love,
Mama

 

Dear daughter,
Maybe that sounded a little depressing. If these are the best years of your life, then what’s left? I’ll tell you what’s left. Kids and mortgages and taxes, that’s what.

New advice: Promise yourself that these won’t be the best years of your life. How do you ensure that, you ask?

Don’t get married or pregnant for at least 10 or 18 more years.

“But you met dad in college, got married when you were 24 and had me when you were 26, I can hear you saying. Well, yes, that is very true. And while I adore your father and cannot imagine my life without him, I sometimes can imagine myself at age 23 living in a cramped but hip studio in San Francisco with uneven floors and creaky pipes where I work as a struggling author and eat nothing but crusty sourdough bread and drink cheap wine for dinner every night.
I mean, loosely.

And although it’s true that by age 26 I was desperate to have a baby and be a mama (and wouldn’t trade that decision for a second), it now seems so very, very young to me.

So I guess my advice then is this: Your college years and your 20s are the only time in your life you might be free to be alone with yourself, so take advantage of them.
Be selfish.
Take risks!

Love,
Mama

 

Dear daughter,
Hold on. When I say “take risks” I don’t mean hook up with a dirty stranger, I mean be adventurous!

Love,
Mama

 

Dear daughter,
By “be adventurous” you know I don’t mean move to Africa and join a tribe, right?

Love,
Mama

 

Dear Daughter,
Of course I encourage you to travel the world and follow your passion … unless it happens to be a boy with a guitar who wants you to drop out of college and backpack through Europe.

Love,
Mama

 

Dear daughter,
Beware of boys with guitars.

Love,
Mama

 

Dear Daughter,
On second thought, beware of all boys.
Also? Don’t ever have sex.

OK, that’s unrealistic, so here’s a couple of things you should remember:

  1. If he doesn’t like you before sex, he won’t like you after sex.
  2. Birth control pills can prevent pregnancy, but they don’t prevent warts…or regret.

Love,
Mama

 

Dear Daughter,
Speaking of sex, let’s talk about alcohol.

I know you have a good head on your shoulders and have promised yourself you won’t partake in the next few years, but once you find “your drink” that will most likely (read: definitely) change. I speak from experience. So here’s some advice for when it does:

  •  Don’t let those tiny cups of jello fool you. They are not dessert.
  •  Surround yourself with people you trust — which is a good rule of thumb in any    situation — but especially if you decide to have some cocktails. Drawing a mustache on your friend’s face is kind of funny; rape is kind of not.
  • Don’t ever take an open bottle or cup from anyone. If you don’t want to seem rude, walk around with it for a while and then quietly toss it on someone who’s already passed out. Trust me, they’ll never notice.
  • Steer clear of “Sex on the Beach.” Both kinds.
  • Remember the alcohol rule: Beer before liquor, never sicker. Liquor before beer, never — oh, it doesn’t matter. Drink too much of anything in any order and you will still end up puking your guts out.

Love,
Mama

 

Dear Daughter,
All this talk about alcohol makes me think of another important piece of advice: Use Citron vodka instead of regular vodka in an Appletini.

Love,
Mama

 

Dear Daughter,
Seriously, regardless of whether you are tipsy or stone sober, be aware — of your surroundings, of your friends, of yourself. Put your screen down every once in a while and live in the moment. It will not only help you appreciate your life, it just might save it.

Love,
Mama

 

Dear Daughter,
Oh, dear. I’ve scared you now, haven’t I? Listen, don’t forget to carry your pepper spray and walk with a buddy, but don’t be overwhelmed by fear. In fact, break out of your comfort zone every once in a while and do something that scares you!

Love,
Mama

 

Dear Daughter,
Except bungee jumping or skydiving.
Please, please, please don’t ever do that.

Love,
Mama

 

Dear daughter,
I can hear you rolling your eyes at me, but hear me out.

For the past 18 years it’s been my job to keep you safe. When you came into this world, I looked into your impossibly big brown eyes and promised you I’d keep your nest feathered with the softest down and high away from every predator who even dared to come close.

And I have.

I have protected you, comforted you, played with you, listened to you, laughed with you, been your biggest supporter and your most trusted ally. You, in turn, have been my light, my joy, my heart. We’ve created a warm nest, haven’t we?

But now they’re telling me it’s time to nudge you out and watch you fly. What they’re not telling me is how much my breath will catch as you teeter on the edge, and how much it will feel like all that breath is ripped out of me as you drop down — before your wings catch the wind, which I know they will.

Oh, you’ll soar, baby girl, of that I have no doubt. But old habits die hard, and for awhile (like the next 20 years or so), I’ll still be doing my best to make sure you stay up.

“But Mama, flying is sometimes scary,” I can hear you say. It’s true. Sometimes it’s smooth and calm and you get to where you’re going without a care in the world. But sometimes it’s a bit turbulent, and I agree: that is scary. Just know that it’s okay to be scared. It’s okay to worry. It’s natural to wonder if you can handle all the bumps that come along with the ride.

You can. 

You’re ready. You’ve been ready.

It’s just like Flik says to Dot in A Bug’s Life, which we watched a million times together when you were just a tot: “Everything that made that tree giant is already contained inside this tiny little seed.

Your tree is already strong and mighty, and I have no doubt it will continue to grow and flourish.

Love,
Mama

 

Dear daughter,
I almost forgot the most important piece of advice —
Call your mama.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~ 

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Love, Mama letters to my graduating daughter


*A version of this post first appeared on Grown & Flown

 



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