When Steve Jobs passed away I, along with millions of others, watched his Stamford 2005 Commencement Address on YouTube. Whatever else you may think of Steve Jobs, his words in that speech were profound and the message strong and important. I have always wondered what I would say to a graduating class if asked. I know the request is in the mail and one day the postman will discover my mail box. I’m right here, see… waiving at you!
An opportunity arose recently for me to write a letter to my 17 year old son, reflecting on the impending conclusion of his formal school education and journey through the books…. and stationery. Let’s not forget the stationery, you’re looking at a HUGE fan of stationary. Stationery porn is so evil and so, so goooood! But I digress.
My son is in his last year of high school and facing the biggest academic test of his young life in November. Unlike the US, entry into university here is usually totally based on the score in this particular exam (called the HSC), which takes place at the end of year 12. There are no individually tailored university entry applications, no essays and no interviews. You are a score, that’s it.
The school took the boys away on a 3 days retreat to reflect. As part of that retreat parents were asked to write a letter to their sons which was to be given to them on the last day as a surprise. This folks, is my kind of homework. At last I had the opportunity to articulate in the written word, my thoughts, hopes, aspirations and gratitude to my offspring.
Let me share a version of what I wrote. The letter is from both the Italian Stallion and I:
We were so glad when the school gave us an opportunity to write this letter to you. By the time you read this your retreat will be almost over and the next phase of your road to the HSC will begin. We hope you have had time to relax after the effort you put in for the “minis” and to think about not only the future, but how far you have come since starting Kindergarten in 2000.
We know that this is both an exciting and scary time for you. Exciting because the end of your school years draws ever closer and come late November you will be able to ditch the uniforms and structure that has been with you for over twelve years. But with the excitement, there must also be a degree of trepidation about having to take responsibility for your academic future, about stepping into the adult world and all the inherent responsibility that those steps bring. You have every right to these emotions – they are a natural part of this phase of your life.
As you contemplate your future, we want you to know that we are proud of you. Whilst the journey has not always been easy, the strides that you have made towards maturity and taking ownership of your decisions over the last 18 months or so have been wondrous to watch. You are becoming quite the young man, a witty, intelligent, sensitive (that’s ok, you don’t need to admit that last one) guy who understands the meaning of family and team. We know that no matter how hard Mum [me] tries, her cooking will never match your grandmothers’, but we truly appreciate how you act towards and deal with your grandparents. Then there is the relationship with your brother, a quirky little brother who looks up to you and for whom you look out for, even it if it is on the sly.
We hope you take with you in life the skills you have learned in baseball. One of Mum’s best memories of recent times has been on the drive with you to [XXXX]. Mum will never forget that you discovered live baseball streamed radio together and that she was with you when Albert Pujols made his debut for the Angels. Your baseball talents are many and whilst it has taken a back seat this year because of study, we know that if you want to pour your energies into it, you will succeed. Whether it is as an outfielder or a pitcher the baseball world is yours for the taking. But above all, we hope that you keep having fun with baseball. Remember, no matter what T-shirts or baseball caps Mum wears, it’s Red Sox forever and we WILL get back to Fenway one day in the not too distant future.
So, as you approach the HSC and the culmination of 13 years of schooling, all we ask of you is that you approach these next six months with a view to doing your best and being the best you can possibly be. The final result doesn’t matter as long as you have done your very best. We say this because whilst the HSC is important, life will throw you bigger tests. The mark of a true man is how he faces these tests – results are always secondary. You should obviously aim to achieve the mark you need in the HSC for your chosen field of university study and put all your energy into that aim. However, the HSC is not the only gateway to achieving your academic goals, there are other less direct ways. The HSC gateway though is the one where you play centre stage, where you receive the maximum support and mentorship and takes the least amount of time. J, the HSC is both a test and an opportunity and we hope you see it as such.
Whatever you decide to do after school, we want you to be happy. Look inside yourself and identify your passions, the things that make your soul sing and follow the path where these shall lead. Live YOUR dreams and no-one else’s. For this, J is THE secret to happiness and fulfilment.
For the journey over the next six months, take with you our (and your brother’s) support, cheering from the sidelines and most of all, our love. Think big and dream large, your options are many. Thank you for being our son, for adding your uniqueness to our family. Thank you for making us laugh and keeping us on our toes. Thank you for being responsible and for (the most part) being a good example to your brother. Thank you for texting your Mum at 12.06am on new year’s eve to wish us happy new year on our first new year’s eve apart. These are the fundamentals that will make you the good man you are destined to be. You rock (even if your music sucks!).
We love you always
And the response? “It was good”. Three little words with such power that had me soaring.
What message would you send in similar circumstances?
38 thoughts on “A Letter To My Son: Reflections On A Journey”
Wonderful letter! I wrote one to my youngest when she was about to be married. It is good to take time and think through all your child has meant to you, and to thank them and encourage them on their way. Thanks for sharing, DAF
Yes, I am not sure why I waited to be asked by the school. And you’re welcome :).
3 words from a 17 year old boy about an emotional letter from his parents…..MONUMENTAL! No doubt that he will fold it carefully (unlike his clothes), put is somewhere safe, read it when he needs encouragement and cherish it forever. Best wishes for success on his HSC!
Thanks Lisa, no doubt it is somewhere safe, like at the bottom of his school bag with all of his other treasured possessions and former lunch components 😉
Hahahaha…so true! We can still dream…dear god the schoolbag is a scary place!
Wow! Truly poignant, profound and REAL! Kudos to you for this letter to your son. I’m sure it’ll be kept by him forever. He is blessed to have such loving parents who have guided him in a good direction and stand behind him every step of the way.
Thanks Lee – it’s great to see your comment on my blog! Parenting is so not easy, but it does have its moments :).
It’s the best job in the world isn’t it? No job compares to it.
You’re right. The satisfaction you get is undescribable.
Honey that was a wonderful letter and choked me. I have known you for most of my adult life and I remember when you were carrying your eldest and the dreams and aspirations that both you and the ‘Italian Stallion’s’ aspirations for him. Your enduring faith in the world, passion and outlook has given both of your children an amazing road map to life and has always given them a grounded and viable path in life.
You are a wonderful mum.
Thanks’s Cheryl, I appreciate your sentiments. Sometimes I feel that it’s all trial and error, but parenting does have some great moments.
What a wonderful opportunity to talk to your son from the heart to support him in whatever his endeavours will be now and in the future. I think you are an awesome mom!
Thanks Tess, I’m hoping my sons will say the same in a few years time 🙂
Think big and dream large – sage advice for all of us! Thanks for sharing your beautiful letter.
LOL, sometimes I need to take my own advice and thanks :)!
Hey Judy, Beautiful letter and with Tyler graduating last year i can totally relate. We are now at the stage of trying to get a US College spot and I was just saying to him the other day, that the thing about growing up in Baseball it teaches determination and tenacity, how to deal with disappointment and what seems like others being given opportunities that you have worked hard to get but don’t..It teaches respect for others and a work ethic. He is having to bring all of this to the fore now as he strives to realise those “big dreams”. Good Luck to Jamie and yourselves for the next 6mths and beyond.
I agree with you Baseball teaches a whole lot of life skills quite apart from the technical baseball skills. Good luck to Tyler with his college applications, he was always a terrific ball player, not to mention fine young man. I’d love to talk to you about the application process one day soon as we may be going down the same track. And thanks for visiting the blog and leaving a comment.
As with the pool room in the movie ‘The Castle’, we send sentimental letters and notes (such as your fabulously written one) straight to the undies drawer! I especially loved “The mark of a true man is how he faces these tests – results are always secondary.” 🙂
Thanks TSL, the undies drawer is certainly a special spot for us too :).
Wonderful post, thank you for sharing!
Thanks Tawny, loved your conclusion to the Fear series today :).
Brilliantly done! I’m sure whether he admits it or not this letter will be something he cherishes for a lifetime. Thank you for sharing such a heartwarming life experience.
P.S. Yes… loved the Red Sox part too 😉
Thanks Wendy. I copped a lot of flack from my son for buying a Chicago Cubs cap and shirt, a Mets hat and Yankees T shirt when we were over there. But I really wanted to a buy a momento from every ball park we visited. I came back with a whole case full of Red Sox stuff, a lot of which is proudly hanging in our rumpus room and on my person :).
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This was very touching….I’m getting ready to write a letter to my daughter who is getting married next weekend. Oh the pains of letting go…………
Wonderful letter, and I do love the three little words your son offered, oh the joys of a teen boy 🙂
Yes, teen eloquence at its best :)!
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We have the same system here in Denmark – we get a score/grades at the end of our highschool years and we use that to get entry to university, though there are also other ways of obtaining enough “points” to try and get in.
For me, highschool was joyous and easy. I have always had an easy time at school when it comes to books and tests. I think my parents expected that I would get very good grades – and I very likely also expected that myself. And so it went 😀
My parents have always supported me and told me, that if I did my very best, then that was all they expected of me. They have supported me with spoken words and actions and when I read your letter, CurtainRaiser, I so wish they would have written it down too.
In fact, all parents should write a letter like that to their children 🙂 When things get going and things get rough at university (and things WILL get rough and tough at university) then it is time to re-open that letter and find that it will ease the mind and calm the senses.
I agree, I’m glad I have the vehicle of this blog to put my thoughts down about these matters. It will be good to look back on in a few years.
How wonderful that your parents provided you with this level of support. These days we tend to hear more bad experience stories than good.I also had a fun time with academics. It’s why I’m doing it all over again 🙂
Keep us updated about your new adventures at university Judy 🙂 In recent years I have also thought about going back to academia, I can see that there are areas of research that I would like to investigate again and I am also sure that the knowledge of my fields of interests have been updated since I graduated 🙂
What an absolutely wonderful letter to your son. I think that for a teenage boy three little words speak volumes.
Pauleen at Tropical Territory
A to Z 2013
What a beautiful letter , and how true that your son is now responsible for his own academic life from here on in. my daughter flipped flopped for over a year on what course to take I was just so relieved she got out the door. I know I’m very proud of her , but you managed to articulate exactly what lies ahead for a young person in this stage of there life. Your son must be a very wonder person with parents like you !
This is one of the greatest letters I have read. It touches me to the core, because my son is also at this point in his life – transition from high school to college, from being a carefree teen to an adult of a thousand and one responsibility. Thank you for sharing this letter to mothers like me. God bless your beautiful heart, beautiful MOM!
that was a really nice letter, I’m sure your son must’ve really appreciated it. I especially like the part where you told him to find and follow his passions. That really is so important and so many people seem to forget that and chase after just money and status.
Thanks you. I think he’s finally getting that point. It’s tough to suddenly be in charge of your own destiny after so many years in formal education.
yeah, it’s kind of scary, but very liberating too. 🙂
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