Below is a letter I wrote to my son, Bryce, before he left for college three years ago. Since he just recently graduated from Western Michigan University as a pilot, at the ripe age of 20 years-old (okay, I’m totally bragging), I decided to pull out the letter (and tissue box) I wrote him as he entered his collegiate journey.
As if I wasn’t already crying enough, Bryce gave me a letter at his college graduation, reflecting on how my words were crucial during the most formative years of his life.
Parents, no matter your son or daughter’s stage of life—entering high school, approaching middle school, stepping foot into college—I challenge you to write them a letter as something tangible they can refer to when life throws a curve ball. You have more influence over your son or daughter’s self-esteem and self-worth than you think. There is power in positive affirmations and encouragement, you never know when they might need it. This letter’s impact can be that one thing that saves your teen from making a harmful decision. This letter could be the legacy for your children’s children.
Do you accept the challenge?
From the moment I found out you were a boy, I was so excited to be a part of your loud, messy, crazy, gaming, sporty life. It has been an amazing 18 years! I am so proud of the fun, loving, kind, intelligent, beautiful man you’ve become. As I find myself at the crossroads of having to move from being your manager to your advisor, I’m reflecting most on our “real” talks, vacation adventures, and Marvel movie watching. Who is going to show me the funniest, most watched YouTube videos once you’re out of the house? Not to worry, I will still be calling and texting you to make sure I stay in the loop of everything going on in your life. (If you don’t answer, I will come find you.)
As I am preparing to let you go to take on the world, I have a few important reminders for you:
- BELIEVE. I encouraged you to read The Secret when you were younger because I wanted you to understand the power of the words we speak. Anything is possible! Believe in God, believe in prayer, believe in love, and above all believe in yourself! I have seen what you can achieve when you put your mind to it, and it is amazing! With commitment and hard work along with your intelligence and dedication, you will continue to achieve great things throughout your life.
- FAMILY. Family is the very essence of your identity. We love you unconditionally and will continue to support you in everything you do. We are your rock and a safe place to forever lean on no matter what happens in life. You will always be a central part of our family, even now that you are building the foundation for your own. (I want grandbabies someday, no pressure.)
- SOAR. You have the ability to achieve anything you put your mind to—don’t you dare settle for anything less. Don’t let the fear of failing stop you from pursuing your dream. Instead, let your dreams take flight and enjoy the ride!
- OVERCOME YOUR FEARS. I want to share with you one of my favorite quotes from Marianne Williamson. “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us…There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine!”
We have had so much fun over the years, and while I’m sad that this chapter of your life is coming to a close, I am so excited to see what is in store for you next. Have fun, work hard, and enjoy every single day. I am and will always be your loudest cheerleader!
Bryce’s letter to me, three years later (I did get his permission to share it).
The transition from living at home to moving away was one of the most significant times in my life. It was a time of uncertainty, a time of change, and definitely the first time where I felt I was solely responsible for my own life. Having just graduated from college, I am reflecting on the importance of your support during this transition.
Right before I left for college, you wrote me a letter. It was one last thing that I could take with me to remind me that you’re always there to encourage me and that I have someone to turn to whenever I need it. When I received this letter, I remember being immensely thankful for the relationship that we had built. You are never afraid to have the tough conversations, and our relationship is better for it. No topic is taboo, so when something important comes up, I’m not afraid to turn to you.
This trust that we have is rare. I came to learn that not many others have this level of trust with their parents. It always hits me hard when my friends talk about having to hide things from their parents. You and dad are the first ones I look to when I am in trouble or when I need someone to talk to. There are no secrets here.
I am thankful that I get to be the son of a “parenting teens expert.” So many professionals and parents look to you for advice and strategies for connecting with teens. I never felt like your test subject. Before I even knew how to answer the question “what does your mom do for a living,” I knew that you deeply cared about me.
I can never underestimate the value of my relationship with you and dad. Your support directly led to where I am today, a college graduate preparing to start my first job. The letter you wrote to me was just a reminder of what I already knew, that no matter what I do, the support of you and dad is something I can rely on forever.
Can’t wait to share with you the letter I will write to my teens as they enter crucial times in their lives.