To my daughter, on her graduation day
You are a delicate flower. Omg crap…wait…starting over…wrong decade and century. You are a female…that makes you powerful, strong, and capable of achieving so many amazing things. It also means that you will need to navigate life with your head up and eyes straight ahead, ready to show people that you will move forward no matter what statements are made about you to try to hold you back. What I want for you is the same as most parents; I want you to find happiness, purpose, adventure, and meaning. I also want you to have fun and laughter. Lots of fun, and lots of laughter. Laugh your effing ass off. Laugh at work, at your family, with your friends, at yourself, with your significant other, at your significant other, behind your significant other, in front of your significant other…Just. Keep. laughing.
I could write you a whole novel on how friendships will get you through life. Choose your friends wisely, but also remember that each friend is wise in his or her own way. Appreciate and embrace that wisdom. When a friend upsets you, remember what it is about that person that is special and attracted you to him or her, and hopefully that will get you through whatever it was that upset you. This tactic doesn’t always work, but before you do anything hasty, start there. Be patient with your friendships. But be fierce, also. What I mean is, show every part of who you are to your friends. Cry to them until your eyes are puffy and hard to open. Laugh with them until your abdomen hurts and your cheeks feel like they will never go back to their regular position. Have no competition with your friends. Seriously. I mean that. Contain your jealousy. Build your own life while simultaneously being interested in and supportive of theirs. Seek your own happiness and happiness for others. This is not easy. But it is crucial to actually living a genuinely happy life. You will never be able to be happy while harboring resentment and desiring failure for anyone else (unless it’s someone who harms animals or people, then you can hate the sh*t out of them). Ask questions, but questions that will help them move forward. On the flip side, make sure they are giving you the same in return. When you have a legit, awesome, life-changing friendship, you’ll know. Dedicate your time, energy, and love to it. It just might be the relationship that rides next to you for the rest of your life. Ride it with your arms out, letting the breeze carry you and the beauty of their presence surround you, and take the bumps carefully. Catch each other if you fall. Pick each other up. Hug often, and never forget to tell that person how you feel about him or her.
On PMS and other annoying female issues:
Not to sound like your sex-ed teacher, but once a month, your life might come crumbling down around you. Do I sound dramatic? Yup. Do I have PMS right now? Yup. I’m not gonna sugar coat it. PMS is something that will follow you and lurk around the corner and and jump out to surprise you at the worst moments. Be prepared. Tampons, advil, heating pads, texts to friends and family with curses and middle finger emojis will be your survival kit to getting through. I’m not gonna sit here and tell you we’re blessed, cause in that moment in never feels like that. It just feels like we’re bleeding and we wore those white jeans we’ve been waiting to wear since the start of winter. But I will tell you this: it does unite all women. You are connected to every woman you meet. Maybe you’ll choose to have babies one day, maybe you won’t. Maybe it will be easy for you to conceive, or maybe it will be a struggle and you’ll need all the support life has to offer. But no matter what, never forget that it makes you part of a sisterhood. Help your sisters. I don’t give a crap about race or religion or background or anything that might set us apart on the outside. We all, at least for seven days a month, deal with the same issue (and honestly way beyond this), and that connects us all and makes us understand one another in a way that is innate and beautiful. Feminism, not feminism, I don’t care what we call it. It’s a connection. Treat all humanity with generosity and compassion. But always know that you have a place in the coolest effing pack the world has to offer. Women rock. There’s no way around that. Own it, embrace it, revel in it.
On careers (or lack thereof):
Ugh, why can’t we all just hang out and enjoy life without the stress of having to make money?! Yeah I know, so many people love their jobs and do such good and meaningful work, and the world would end if we just had a giant frat party and held each other up on a daily basis while we did keg stands and held each other’s hair back while we…wait this is my kid I’m writing to. But how fun would that be? Really? And how bonded would we all be? Look, I’m not an expert on career advice. Actually, I’m not an expert on anything which is probably why I don’t have a career in the first place. But I do know that your life is made up of seven days each week. Each of those days is broken into hours. Hours into days into weeks can feel long, and slow, and wasted if you don’t find something to do that makes you feel happy, and useful, and that surrounds you with people you want to be around. Rich, poor, average…we all experience the same amount of time in each week. How do you want to feel during that time? I’m not saying you have to decide right now. You might decide eight different times in your life. Just don’t waste it. Use your talents and your strengths. Find ways to make the money you need doing things that make you smile and keep you growing and helping and thinking and wondering and feeling. But more importantly, don’t make your work rule your life. You rule your life, with goals in your mind and love in your heart. And you live it up on those weekends, girl. Unless, of course, you have to work. D’oh!
On yourself and your partner:
Choose a partner in life (just not yet). Not one who defines you, but one who helps you explore and find yourself. Finding yourself is a lifelong process. Life is a lifelong process. Getting through it with someone who is as dedicated to finding your happiness as you are makes it so much more enjoyable and takes some of the pressure off. In order to find an awesome partner though, you need to know what’s important to you. Unfortunately and fortunately, this will also be a lifelong process that will change and morph and feel like somewhat of a maze that takes turns in the wrong direction but will hopefully lead you where you want to end up. So, choose a partner who will take those wrong turns with you and always try again and again to get you both back on the right journey in the right direction. Admit your mistakes and choose someone who will admit mistakes as well. Work hard and choose someone who is a hard worker. Play hard and choose someone who also loves to play. Play nicely together, and even when you’re mad at one another, remember never to run with scissors. Travel, read, dance, sing, face your fears (unless they’re dangerous, then just keep being fearful…kidding…sort of). Be active; spend all day in bed; talk all night; be silent for hours. Be informed on what’s happening in the world and in your community. Have uncomfortable conversations that end in a disagreeable or an agreeable way, depending. But be informed and hold your ground, unless what the other person says holds enough weight to change your mind. Then take it in, think about it, and make a new informed decision. Make a difference, even if it’s not on a global scale. Be charitable with your time and your money. Choose a partner who is generous with his or her love, time, and patience. Everything else will follow. Be passionate about yourself and your partner and choose someone who is passionate about you and your life together. Always choose happiness, even if it means picking up and completely readjusting your life. And always, always, ALWAYS call your mother. I love you.
Danielle Silverstein is the mom of three awesome kids and two rescue dogs. She keeps it real while laughing all along this crazy journey called motherhood. You can find her at Where The Eff Is My Handbook?
Today you have taken a step that you will remember always, the day you made the final crossing from childhood and into the realm of adulthood. It is not because of your age or the fact that you’ve met the qualifications mandated by the state to achieve this status. The issuing of the diploma is merely symbolic. Those who know you can attest to the fact that you have made this transition over a period of years with little assistance from the state or my pathetic attempts at parenting. Your maturity and grace come from a higher source, and only by your own ability to surrender to His guidance.
You have shown a level of faith that most never achieve well into their adult years. It is for this reason that I can watch you enter the world with full confidence that you will not be swayed by all the temporary pleasures that the world will thrust your way. It is this faith that you will carry with you to college and beyond. And it this faith that will carry you through all that life has to offer– the good and and the bad.
I wish I could say to you that all those you meet will be charmed and fall immediately in love with you. But you and I both know better. The world doesn’t respond well to those who don’t conform to its rules. You will be tempted beyond anything you’ve experienced so far. And when you resist these temptations made to you by those who call themselves your friends, they will quickly turn against you. Remember, those who live in the darkness fear the light. The light shining from you will offend them. It will illuminate all that is dark and ugly in their own lives. A precious few will turn to your light and embrace it. Most will curse you and the light, then flee back into the darkness.
No, this is not the usual upbeat graduation card. It is nothing you will find in a Hallmark store. This is the reality of who you are–God’s precious child.
But I will not leave it there. I will tell you how honestly proud I am of you. Your diploma, honors, and awards only make up for a portion of that pride. I am mostly proud to see that you have become a young woman, fully prepared and fully confident to take on the next challenge. And the next. And whatever God has planned for you. I do not need to offer any more fatherly advice than what is required for you to keep a car running, eating decent food, and filing taxes (which your mother will actually handle). I know that you possess the knowledge and even the wisdom to survive when you are well past the boundaries of our little town. It will be more of an adjustment for me, knowing that I’m not there to protect you, than for you, who needs no protection.
I know, I promised no advice, but allow me this one, then I’ll trust you and God to handle it from here: Your faith must come before everything in your life. Before career. Before school. Even before family. Because it is that faith that will guide you in every aspect of your life, even career and school. Especially family. Find the believers wherever you end up. They are your closest family. Then nurture one another in your faith.
Enjoy the journey, my daughter. The destination often comes far too soon.
I am a husband, dad, Christian, and writer. Not necessarily in that order. It took me thirty years to turn my life over to my Redeemer. It’s taken another ten to figure out what it is He has in store for me. My first novel, Now I Knew You, will be released in March, 2015. I pray that God will allow me to write many more before calling me home.
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The presents are put away, the cake is eaten, and the graduation cap displayed. I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl eighteen years ago. She was our second child full of promise and hope. We lost our first child Kaitlyn at the age of two. I was only twenty-five years old. We certainly weren’t trying to replace Kaitlyn, but we’re ready to love another. A poem my aunt wrote says it best about my daughter’s graduation day.
“Gone before you knew her,
She sends her guiding light .
One sister reaching the other-
invisible, yet not to us.
In reverence we remember her.
Your parents’ dream departed.
From their despair they named you Hope
in memory of her empty place.
You took a new path-
daybreak of things not seen
You nurtured your gifts-
focused and faithful-
a daughter’s dawning light.
On this graduation day
you carry her with you
in the seeds she has sown
You bloomed her in beauty
we now see displayed.
Her presence flows softly
in your life made new.”
We named her Hope Elizabeth because of the hope and promise she held. I fell in love with those chubby cheeks and bright eyes. Her smile could light up a room. Two years later I watched her become a big sister to her brother.
Through the years I watched her grow in height and maturity, wise beyond her years. She always strove to do her best. When your children are little you think it will last forever. Diapers and sippy cups soon give way to book bags, and piano lessons. You take their picture year after year not noticing the changes that are taking place until someone says, “My how much she’s grown!”
Little by little you try to let go, giving them their independence. But how do you let go of eight-teen years with someone who has shared your heart and home?
I am excited about what’s ahead in her future. She’ll be attending a four year University near my hometown. I know she will do well. I can’t wait for her to see all the possibilities that lie before her. My mom gave her an adapted poem from Marian Wright Eldeman. Here is an excerpt,
“Don’t be afraid of taking risks or of being criticized. Be honest. Never give up. Be confident that you can make a difference. Don’t ever stop learning or improving your mind. Slow down and live. Choose your friends carefully. Try to live in the present. Be reliable. Be faithful. Finish what you start. Remember you are never alone.”
Even though I will always be her mother I feel like our relationship will never quite be the same. Her brother will still be at home, but the family dynamics will shift a bit with her missing. I know the day we pack her up will be an emotional time for me. I want her to know though, that it’s okay to grow up, to become an adult. I want to give her permission to test her wings. I just hope she never forgets she has someone who loves her dearly, who will be there for her in the ups and downs of life.
I know I have made mistakes in my mothering. What mother hasn’t? I hope she can forgive me for those mistakes. I hope I can forgive myself just as graciously as God has forgiven me. I hope she will also remember all the good times we’ve had as a family, making memories, and I hope we can make many new memories as she grows into adulthood.
I love you Hope!
Have you gone through a child graduating yet? I’d love to hear your perspective and thoughts.