I used to count the days until the end of summer, marking the calendar until school would start and our normal routine would be restored. As a working mom, I was filled with guilt for the hot afternoons I wasn’t able to spend with you at the pool. I wished away the long summer days, feeling guilty—deluded that if you were in the classroom like all the other kids, I wasn’t shortchanging you.
Sometimes I worry that I rushed through your childhood.
But now I want to stop time.
To freeze this summer.
Remember how I sobbed your first day of kindergarten? Watching you board the yellow bus to head into the big world outside our neighborhood caught me unprepared for the reality that you wouldn’t be a little boy forever. Your first soccer game was emotional—like a passing of the torch from one generation to another. Even now when the National Anthem is played at your games, I choke up.
And time is running out.
I see the end—and it’s blinding. There are only two more first-day-of-school pictures to take. You’ll have your driver’s license soon. Your lacrosse and soccer games are numbered.
You probably don’t know this, but Facebook (that old person’s social media site) is flooded with middle-aged mommy bloggers writing sappy last this, last that letters to their high school seniors. Each story makes me cry.
And we know I’m not good at milestones.
I am sure your senior year will be filled with lots of my tears.
But you’re—we’re—not quite there yet.
We have a breath before all of the lasts start—your junior year. It will be my last chance to cross my T’s and dot my I’s with you before the emotional roller coaster and frantic pace of next year. So, I’ve made a list of things I’d like you to consider these final weeks of summer as a rising junior.
1. There won’t be any do-overs. This year counts. By senior year it will be too late—the college coaches will have made their offers. Put a little extra effort into your grades, your sports, and your SAT prep. Practice hard—on the lacrosse and soccer fields, in the classroom, and with your test tutor. There won’t be any second chances. It’s crunch time.
2. Be a good example. Younger kids are watching you. You’re finally an upper classman. Your peers like you and they’ll follow your lead. And remember, to your six little cousins, you’re their hero. Don’t disappoint them. You’ve been blessed with natural leadership qualities. Fit the role. Be kind. Be honest. Be humble. Be your best.
3. Put your family first. Right now we seem like the most annoying people on the planet. But we love you. Talk to Dad and me. We’re not as brainless as you might think. We’ll do anything to help you in your journey. Call your grandparents once in a while. They won’t be here forever. They get a thrill when you take the time to include them in your life. Be nice to your sister. She’ll be by your side forever, long after we’re gone.
4. No high is worth the low. You feel invincible. You’re a risk taker—that’s what makes you—you. But be careful. One bad decision can change the course of your life. Don’t drink and drive. Don’t get in a car with someone who’s been drinking or drugging. Make good choices. Never be afraid to call me for a ride. And my God, if you have sex, be safe. Birth control is your responsibility, too.
5. Start thinking about a job. I know it seems like entering the workforce is a long way off. But it’s closer than you can imagine. You’ll spend a huge chunk of your life at your job. Do you see yourself as a businessman in an office? A coach on an athletic field? A ranger in the woods? What do you love now? Hold onto that and figure out how to turn it into a career. Use your gifts to make the world a better place and you’ll never feel like you’re working.
6. Have fun. Enjoy this second to last year of high school. The pressure is on, but it’s not quite boiling. Go to all the football games, hang out with your friends, and eat a lot of pizza at Mama’s. The real world will be here soon enough.
It won’t be too long until you’re not living at home. I hope I was a good enough mother—that you’ve been grounded in a solid foundation upon which to build your life. As you enter your junior year of high school, your childhood trails behind you. You stand on the edge of adulthood. My dear, you’re almost a man.
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In youth we learn, in age we understand.
Marie Von Ebner-Eshenbach