because life doesn’t fit in a file folder

Letter to My 12th Grade Son, 3 Months Before He Graduates High School

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Dear TechSupport:

You used to shout at your friends before playing Capture The Flag.

“No burying the flag.”

“No jailbreaks.”

“My house. My rules.”

My son, you love rules.

But over the last few years, you’ve had to accept that man-made laws are not perfect.

Because people are imperfect.

Each night, you watch the news and shake your head.

Now you understand people create laws that can lead to atrocities of human suffering.

Know the question to ask yourself is always: “Would I want this to happen to me or someone I love?” Know also that the answer to this question connects you to the deepest place in your heart as well as all of humanity.

I remember you, slim and long, holding a saber in your hand. Moving with a sense of purpose, you lunged and parried and reposted. This sport – a maddening game of mental chess — requires patience, athleticism, chivalry and grace.

Know that you possess all of these qualities.

That you are able-bodied and strong.

Even if you never fence again.

Know the question to ask yourself is always: “How can I use my strength to help others?”

I’ve always known you’re wicked smart. I’m not bragging. I’m just quoting from the comments that your teachers have made over the years.

Student is a critical thinker.

Student asks important questions.

Student is a leader.

Though I’m forever encouraging you to go with your gut, you’re a scientist, analyzing situations from every viewpoint and trying to make the best, most rational decision you can.

Dude, I don’t understand how you got 100% on the Integrated Algebra Regents.

I mean, I know that you did it.

But you know how I feel about numbers.

To me, numbers are the enemy of words.

But you see magic in numbers.

You love the number 8 because it’s even.

Because it is divisible by 2 and 4, both of which are even numbers.

Because the number is made of two circles. And circles have no sides.

And infinite sides.

If you tip over the number 8, it becomes a pair of glasses.

And the symbol for infinity.

You love how infinity goes on forever.

Like Pi.

Believe me, I’m over the moon that you’ve made friends with numbers.

Please, just don’t become obsessed with 100.

Know that greatness is not about always having the right answer or pleasing others. That greatness is about asking important questions and doing what is right and good, even if you have to stand alone.

{That said, it’s okay to let other people hide the flag in a non-obvious location during Capture the Flag. Seriously, Bubba. It’s a game. Not the time to take a stand. Pick your battles.}

At the end of this academic year, you’ll be heading off to summer camp.

And then to college.

I’m already grieving losing you.

I’ve hardly had time to make sense of it.

I think it started the day I realized you are taller than I am.

Of course, I’m here for you.

But you’ve gotten quieter, less interested in sharing your words with me.

You hand me a Rubik’s cube and tell me to mess it up.

Your fingers touch mine for a nanosecond before you pull away.

I get it.

You’re expending your energy elsewhere these days.

These days you’re probably thinking about that girl and how she uses a green headband to keep her hair off her neck.

Stuff like that.

How did we get here?

Wasn’t I just cleaning up spilled Goldfish crackers and taking care of ouchies.

Explain to me how we got here, my number loving son.

And tell me that I did a good enough job.

That all the formulas worked.

You’ve been on this earth for 6430 days.

I’m paying close attention because I get it now.

This time won’t last forever.

I want you to know that you, my son, have been my greatest teacher.

But can I tell you just one thing?

People don’t ring the doorbell asking you to hang out because they want to see me. They don’t cheer your name when you walk into a room because they like the shirt you’re wearing. They do these things because you are that guy: the one who builds people up and makes them feel accepted and loved. You make weird card games fun.

You win with humility and lose with grace.

Except when it comes to Capture The Flag.

Dude, that game is your undoing. Cut people some slack. Seriously.

I know that’s more than one thing.

Do me a favor and cut me some slack, too.

Love,

Mom

9 thoughts on “Letter to My 12th Grade Son, 3 Months Before He Graduates High School

  1. May only the very best in life come his way.

  2. This letter is a rare jewel of a gift!
    Remember…our children may grow up and leave home but they live forever in our hearts. Eventually they return and truly appreciate. My first born is 31 this week; with his own little growing family he is now starting to ‘get it’.
    Watching them become adult humans is a journey that covers every emotion known to peoplekind. Certainly not for the faint hearted.
    One thing I learned is I was the one that had to give THEM some slack sometimes. The world they have had to grow up in is vastly different from the one I walked in as a child.

    Mxx

  3. You’ve raised a strong young man. Strong in many ways. And you’re right. Sometimes we learn the most when we get less than 100% and aren’t perfect. I hope he goes through life succeeding at most things but learning when he doesn’t succeed the first to pick himself up and try again. And he already knows you’ll always there for him when he needs you.

  4. Beautifully said!

  5. The slack will come when it is time. When we grow we can connect and try to understand things we never could before. You raised a wonderful young man. Slack goes both ways… love you!

  6. I remember reading about his escapades when i first began following you in May 2011. I received a referral from a parent who’d met you the previous summer in Arizona…. I read you post about The Giver and I was hooked…. then a few years later the letter writing campaign you orchestrated……. and I wonder does your son have any of those letters or postcards in his memorabilia? He certainly has a wonderful mom and like all sons, he’s turned out well. Good luck to the both of you as he moves on to college this fall. Peace.

  7. […] I hope my son knows that – just as my parents before me and their parents before them – I have done my absolute best to give him what he needs to put his own house in order, that he may always find a balance between logic and emotion, passion and calm, body and mind. (And if he ever needs a reminder, he can look HERE.) […]

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