Open letter to my son as he turns 18

Me and Derek 2005

D and Sula the dog 1997When I was 18, I felt a pressure to do big things. I felt like I needed to make a big impact.

I wondered what success was. Would I be successful?

Now it’s been almost 30 years. I have done a few big things: got married, had a baby, bought a house, graduated from college with my undergrad degree and my master’s.

I see now I need to do small things with the rest of my time here on earth. I thought the big things would be most important. But I can only do a few of those.

Small things, I can do every day.

When someone looks thirsty, I offer him cold water.

When someone looks sad, I make her tea.

When someone seems lonely, I look in her eyes and really listen when I ask how she is doing. I give hugs as often as I can.

I don’t know if I am successful, by most people’s definition. We live in a single-wide trailer. We drive cars from the 1990s. We have enough money for food and yarn, but not enough for big trips or expensive clothes. Our life is simple.

But I feel successful when I look at you, my biggest thing, a whole new person.

I hope I have made a positive impact on your life with the small things I had to offer: a glass of water when you were thirsty, a cup of tea when you didn’t feel good, a hug if you felt lonely.

Your life looks long in front of you now. You might feel like you have all the time in the world.

I felt that way too, when I was 18. It isn’t true. Our lives are short. Our loved ones leave us too early. They always leave us too early.

I don’t have to tell you to do big things. You will. You will get awards. There will be ceremonies and celebrations. The big things will happen.

But your days—your life—will be made of small things.

Be present for the small things. Smile. Listen. Give where you can, as often as you can. Be patient. Be kind.

I love you with my every element, my whole being, my life. As you turn 18, may God bless you now and forever.

Happy birthday to my most beloved son!

8 thoughts on “Open letter to my son as he turns 18

  1. Sniffle. You had me reaching for a tissue, too.
    He IS going to do big things! His parents have set such a good example. Well done, Mom and Dad!

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