I remember leaving the hospital with you and thinking, as we drove away, “Really? They’re just going to let us take a baby? Shouldn’t someone ask us some questions? What if we’re terrible parents?”
We weren’t. (Right?)
A lot of the time, though, we didn’t actually have the answers. What you got was our best educated guess.
There are things I’m confident we did right: Spending one-on-one time with each of you on a weekly rotating basis. Teaching you to value and respect everyone, including yourself. Serving you more vegetables than candy.
Other times, we weren’t remotely sure.
We practiced love and logic. We spoke your individual love languages. We read — OK, started — “How To Talk So Kids Will Listen And Listen So Kids Will Talk.”
But parenting prep only gets you so far.
When you came home asking what “S-E-X” is — thanks, third-grade lunch tablemates — we knew to be honest, but not give more information than you were able to handle. That, though, was a pretty vague standard.
When you asked to take dance lessons, we said no. Because gymnastics twice a week, plus swimming lessons, was enough. We didn’t want to overschedule you. (Or, to be frank, us.) But did we squash an integral part of you in the process? It’s possible.
When you begged to wear summer clothes in January, we weren’t sure how much leeway to give you to make your own decisions, even mistakes. There wasn’t a clear answer, so we settled on a compromise, one intended to save you from hypothermia at one extreme and helicopter parenting at the other.
You didn’t come with instructions. That gave us freedom, but sometimes we longed for guidance.
And, buried deep, was this eternal fear: What if it didn’t matter? What if we did everything right(ish), and the world still got to you? What if we taught you confidence, but you were derailed by drugs? What if we taught you to trust, but then you were victimized? What if we taught you bravery, but then, one day, you took it too far?
We didn’t have the answers. We just had hope, and prayer, and faith.
We also pretended to know more than we did. We never lied to you. Sometimes, though, we were more forthright than others.
Oftentimes, we said “I don’t know” because we didn’t, and “I’m sorry” when we got it wrong.
But we also faked more confidence than we felt. Why? Because we wanted you try, challenge and explore, knowing that your home, your foundation, was secure, and that your parents would be able to guide you.
Somehow, miraculously, it worked. Today, you arrived at adulthood, happy, healthy and whole.
Now I can show you this letter.
You may be wondering, “Why now?”
Because, dear children of mine, you need to know this: You won’t have all the answers, either. And that’s OK.
Don’t let not knowing stop you from growing.
I started adulthood believing that, one day, I’d have it all figured out.
But that day never comes. No one knows the answers. We’re all just working it out as we go along, hopefully gaining some wisdom along the way.
This letter will probably confirm what you’ve long suspected: Mom and Dad made a lot of stuff up. But please know that we tried our best. Always, always, we loved you, our babies. Still do.
Our safety net is still here if you need it, but I don’t think you will. It’s time for you to jump, fall, fail, rise.
And yes, by all means, wing it.
Because you’ll soar.