Dear Child

Cath says write to your children. So let’s do this. At this stage in the parenting game, it’s probably a bit late to be providing rules on how to be a human. With a son of 20 and a daughter of nearly 13, parenting right now resembles the last 10 seconds of a MasterChef challenge. Anything not on the plate by now ain’t getting presented to the judges. It’s way past time to be trying to teach humanity and respect, manners or responsible choices. If I haven’t taught it by now, it’s really too late. Nevertheless, some things may bear repeating. So here goes.

Dear Child

I see you.

I see you as you are. I have known you all your life. I’ve watched for clues to who you are. That’s my job, as far as I can tell. Spot those clues and use them to help you find your way, whatever that turns out to be. Looking back, the clues I’ve spotted from the day you were born, now all make sense. Everything fits and falls into place.

When I’ve thought of who I’d like you to be, it’s never in pictures, only in words. I’ve never pictured weddings or degrees, houses or cars or careers. I only have ideas like happiness, courage, fulfilment. Joy, purpose, love. Contribution, learning, conscientiousness. Rightness.

I don’t know what those things look like for you, and thankfully, it’s not up to me to decide. It’s only ever been my job to give you the words. You make your own pictures.

You know I’m never going to give an arbitrary age at which you’re allowed to do XYZ. Because I don’t know before you get there, that you’ll be ready. I don’t know until it’s time. This has served us well so far.

There’s an enormous list of things I don’t care about.

I don’t care how you look or what you wear. Does it make you happy? Yay. If your fashion choices were dictated by anything other than that, then I’d care.

I don’t care who you love. Do they make you happy? Do they love you well? Do you love them well? More excellent.

I don’t care what you choose to study or what career you choose. Does it make you fizzy in your brain? Does it suit your personality, your strengths, your talents? Are you willing to do whatever it takes to make it work? Then go for it.

I hardly ever care about the WHAT. I care about the WHY and that’s where my job has always been. To find the why and fix it, if it needs fixing.

I care about what makes you angry. I love that you get angry about the right things. I love that you see what’s wrong with the world and it makes you cross. You’ve made good choices so far. I’m sure that won’t always be the case. But that’s okay. We will deal when it happens, as we always have. We’ve done everything this way, through conversations and freakish science-y osmosis. I guess we won’t always agree on everything and that’s also okay.

I want for you what you want for yourself. I’ll cheer you on and give you a kick in the pants if you get lazy like I do. I’ll be there when it sucks and you can climb in my pocket and cry. I’ll be there when it’s amazing, to say “See, I knew you could do it”. I’ll try to bite my tongue when I see you making what looks like a mistake. Sometimes I’ll be able to, sometimes I won’t. Anytime I say something, it will be after much internal debate. My words to you are never spoken lightly. Sometimes I’ll say the right things, sometimes I won’t. Sometimes what I say will make you feel better. Sometimes it won’t.

Oh, I know it’s hard to be yourself, when yourself isn’t like the others. I know that feeling of wishing you could be like everyone else — just to let go for a second, to join in and be silly and loud and adolescently obnoxious. I know how awkward and painful it is to try. I know that you’ll go through phases of trying and then stopping. I know that feeling of not being able to speak, when you know you have so much to say.

You taught me this though: “It’s not that I wish I could be more like them. I wish they could be more like me.” Words I wish I’d learned far earlier than I did — and I needed you to teach me. Your courage in remaining true to yourself, despite the cost, is something to be proud of. It hurts sometimes, no question. It’s lonely sometimes, that’s true. Sometimes it takes long to find your people. You’ll pick some who aren’t right. That’s okay, because you’ll soon discover your mistake and let them go, probably having learned to listen to yourself the first time.

I wish I could tell you it will be easy. Mostly, it won’t be. But it is survivable. It is possible to find your place here.

Be good, be kind, be gentle. Think about why. Question yourself all the time. Do not suffer fools for very long. I know you already know these things. Eventually, you’ll discover that it’s all you ever needed to know. Being you can hurt sometimes. But trying to be someone else hurts forever.

Dear Child, I see you. As you are, who you are. I like who you’re turning out to be.

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