My Dearest Daughter,
I loved you from the minute I knew you were forming inside my body. I loved your first kicks and movements, alien as they were. And when you finally arrived with your strawberry-blonde hair and clear, curious eyes, I was hooked forever.
I still love you.
Before we knew it, your dad and I were taking you to your first day of kindergarten. You were excited, and we tried to keep our chins up. Our baby was growing up. Dressed in an alphabet dress, you exerted your independence and got off at the wrong bus stop the first day of school. (Good thing you had memorized our phone number.)
Love can quickly turn into panic.
During your most vulnerable years—right before sixth grade—we moved you halfway across the country. It was your turn to keep your chin up, but it was hard. We struggled through those middle school years together and came out stronger on the other side. Your persistence in communicating your needs to us made our family whole.
Thanks for hanging in there with us.
Today you’re leaving to start the next phase of your life—life as a college student. I could spend several paragraphs giving you parental advice. I could tell you to show up for class, respect your professors (including those who don’t live up to your expectations), get enough sleep, eat lots of fruits and veggies, exercise, get involved in just enough activities, and take advantage of the residential, liberal arts experience.
But you know all that.
I could also tell you that you have one beautiful life, so make it count. Don’t chase money and power. Study what interests you and makes you happy. Be intentional about creating the life you want. Combine your passions with making the world a better place. Know your strengths and build on them. Work hard and play harder. Nurture good relationships and ditch the bad.
I love that you’re on your way to figuring this out.
You don’t need any more advice from me. You’ve had eighteen years of it. And you have witnessed what not to do more than once when my actions didn’t match my best intentions. It happens. None of us are perfect. We’re just doing the best we can in this perplexing world. And that brings me to the point of this letter:
I love you just as you are.
To paraphrase Dr. Shefali, you deserve to feel that you have earned the right to be adored just by being born. This is the most important thing parents can give their children: being irrationally crazy about them—just because they exist.
I am irrationally crazy about you. Always have been. This love doesn’t change with your grades or your accomplishments. It doesn’t decline when you’re grumpy in the mornings or increase when you decide to spend a night at home with your parents. It is constant, ever-lasting, and unconditional.
Now go to college. Make mistakes. Learn as if the lives of others depend on it. Question often. Write every day. See the world. Form life-long friendships. Love freely. Carpe diem.
(I couldn’t help myself.)
P.S. You can take the black shoes—the ones we’ve shared for years. I hope each time you slip them on, you’ll remember my unending love for you. xoxo