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This one’s personal…a graduation letter to my daughter that I never intended to post. But then it occurred to me that these reflections and recollections (some of them found in an old journal) might inspire you to record some of your own.
Such a monumental time in the life of such a monumental girl (funny, I kept typing “momumental”), which must be why this letter has been hard for me to write. I meant to write to you for your 18th birthday! The thought has been overwhelming – so hard to face the depth of my feelings about my little girl growing up.
“I love you aalllll the best.”
I discovered this in an old journal. Apparently, you said those words to me regularly when you were 2. You were certainly mirroring the love I had for you then, have now, and will always have.
But I don’t just love you — I have never admired anyone more. I would be proud to call you a friend or even an acquaintance. Honestly, I’m a little thrown to be the mother of a person like you. You deeply inspire me. And make me look really good.
You are a loving daughter, friend and teacher. You are unforgettable to anyone who has ever come in contact with you. Every moment with you is etched on my heart. These come to mind…
What baby loves restaurants? You did. Our once-a-week (at least) dinners together were some of my most memorable times with you. We talked. We joked. You always rose to the occasion, and we were at our best together — buddies. Strangers were impressed by the joy and intimacy they observed between a mom and her baby and often told me so. We had traditions. One was repeatedly playing our two favorite songs on the jukebox at the Coral Beach Cantina: “La Bamba” and “Here Comes the Sun.”
Music was always a mutual high for us. One of the first songs that I remember soaring to with you besides “La Bamba” and “Here Comes The Sun” was “We Three Kings” from one of our Christmas tapes. We listened to that zillions of times and not just during the holidays. There was a glorious instrumental bridge that always inspired me to scoop you up and dance with you in my arms. I remember when Dad’s Cousin Tom had been visiting us once and was just leaving, and after he walked out the door I turned on the music, picked you up and started dancing. Then he returned having forgotten something and caught us. He looked surprised, smiled, made a polite and hasty exit.
There were many other songs we rocked to over the years. Whether we were at home or in the car I’d always crank up the volume. “She’s So High Above Me”, “Ironic”, “2,000 Miles“, to name a few. A year or two ago, I remember you telling me that you looked forward to having your own car so you could blast music on the stereo. Wonder who you got that from.
Asking my advice and sharing your pain
I hate it when you’re hurting, but I’m incredibly touched and flattered when you share your difficulties with me. I don’t have the same access to you I did when you were small, and that’s okay, but when you let me in once in a while I feel reconnected and realize again how completely I adore you — how proud you make me.
Wow. You may not even know how much you helped me when I shared a painful professional situation with you and you said, “You should be angry.” By being so clear and perceptive, you gave me access to a feeling that I don’t easily recognize or allow myself to feel. In that moment you were not only a great friend but like a parent to me.
Another wow. When you were asked to get up at church in front of everyone and share your plans and hopes on High School Senior Day, how did you get the idea to spend most of your time thanking all the parishioners for being so welcoming all these years? Where do you get these incredible instincts, this amazing poise, graciousness, spirituality? Even Ms. Bowles said to me afterwards, “She will never disappoint.” No kidding!
I had forgotten these secrets you told me when you were 2 and was excited to find them in the journal…
“In my bed, when I close my eyes, I see angels and they protect me… You know what?” Charlotte asked conspiratorially.
“They sleep in beds.”
“Yes”, she answered, suddenly whispering. “And do you know what color they are?”
“No, they’re purple,” she said with quiet conviction, “and their covers are purple, too.”
“Their covers. Everything is purple. And the angels in my room, they protect me…so I don’t get lost” She paused and then asked, “Do your angels protect you?”
“Yes…yes, they do.”
Since I know you’ll continue to be in close contact with angels, I won’t worry about you in college…much, but I’ll think of you constantly.
And I’ll do whatever it takes to keep you loving me “all the best”. I’ll feel blessed, honored to be there whenever or however you might need or want me. Those will be high points of my life. So, please, keep them coming.
I made another discovery in the journal, yet another thing you told me often when you were two…“I want to keep you.” Charlotte, those are my sentiments…exactly.
In order to dance La Bamba
In order to dance La Bamba
You need a little bit of grace
A little bit of grace
For me, for you, ah up, ah up
Ah, up, up
For you I will be, for you I will be, for you I will be…
While I was writing this, Charlotte happened to be out buying a graduation dress in a color I haven’t seen her wear since she was small. Guess.
Ahhh yes… those wonderful early memories. My son and I had a thing about Billy Joel and Brahms. And I still remember him sitting in a very posh Sydney restaurant with me at about 2 years old, happily chewing on the breadsticks and being precociously polite to the waiter, who was totally charmed after the initial shock of seeing me arrive with a child in tow… thanks for reminding me of all that!
Janet that was so beautiful. Thank you for sharing and congratulations on this huge milestone. Your daughter is wonderful and you helped her grow! So it’s an accomplishment for you too.
So beautiful, Janet. It’s so apparent how much love you have for her. It must be such a confusing mixture of sadness and pride when your baby is at last ready to fly on her own. I, for one, am not surprised you have a daughter with so much grace, poise and wisdom; look at her mother. 🙂 Congratulations to you both on the graduation. Oh, and I LOVE the story about the angels. Love it.
This was so beautiful and honest, it brought tears to my eyes! My son just turned one and it is bittersweet to think of his high school graduation day! Thank you for taking a risk and sharing your lovely words with us.
That was beautiful, I hope she keeps her copy forever! I cherish every moment with my 2 yr old and reading this makes it more real how fast time moves everyone along. Congrats to you both!
This is such a beautiful letter – I have tears in my eyes. Thank you for sharing.
Janet, thanks for sharing and making cry a river. i am going to write Ben a letter that he can open later in his life so we can remember when he was 2. i don’t think any photo can replicate those feelings that words can.
Thank you for sharing such a personal note with us. What a gift you’ve given to your daughter (and now to us). Warm hearts all around.
i’m misty eyed! i have a wee little 5 month old, and it’s letters like these that change my whole perspective. i need to spend less time obsessively tracking her naps on my spreadsheet, and more time writing down all the beautiful and hilarious things that happen from day to day. thanks for sharing this with us!
Yes, you won’t care about remembering the nap spreadsheet when your lovely one is 18, but you’ll wish you remembered all the amazing, silly, wonderful things from babyhood.
Janet, this is such a tender and loving letter to your daughter. I am inspired to take note of my daughters funny sayings (and sometimes profound statements). They really can be our teachers, I’m sure that’s why they chose us! Sounds like you both work together perfectly with your own grace as a mother daughter team. You both make each other look good, and it’s no wonder really, you seem to approach mothering from such a mindful, compassionate, purposeful, spiritual and loving place. You have given your daughter many gifts that she will carry within her, and now that she is emerging into the world on her own she will soar to great heights, I’m sure!!
Teresa, you are so kind. Thank you! And, yes, our children are wonderful teachers.
Love this, Janet! Thank you so much for sharing it! I look forward to writing a letter like this to London one day.
Oh Janet, what an absolutely beautiful, honest, and intimate letter to your daughter. Thank you so much for sharing it with us.
Congratulations to you both. You inspire me to strive for this closeness with my own daughter, who is only 3. I can already feel how fast time flies.
This is just so lovely. “I want to keep you”. I just love that.
Melissa, thank you. The love you have for your children is always evident in your wonderful blog!
Ok, Janet. You have inspired me to start keeping a journal. Even though my first baby turned *five* yesterday, it’s not too late, right?! Thank you!
Love, love, love from Spain!
Oh, it’s definitely not too late!!! We missed you in class today, but hope you’re enjoying Spain. Sending LOVE!
Thank you to all of you for your beautiful, loving comments!!!
Thank you for sharing this with all of us. I read it, with tears in my eyes. My daughter is but 15 months old and I can’t even imagine how my heart will break when she leaves for college. How happy I will be for her and how sad that she will be off into the world.
You’re an amazing mum, Janet. <3
Awww, thank you Ophelia. Your heart probably won’t entirely break because you will know in your heart that she’s more than ready… It’s wonderful to hear from you.
Janet, I just discovered your blog by way of Kiyah’s guest post…(we went to college together and my husband knows her on facebook). I have an 18 month old little girl and when she was just a baby a friend gave me a RIE book — the principles seem so “right” and “innate” to me I was almost surprised to realize it was an actual parenting philosophy — and yet with the craziness that is life and work, I often forget to live them myself.
This was a lovely post. Charlotte was a student in my 7th grade homeroom. I left the School after 2 years to begin my own cooking school for kids, but I often think about my former students — especially as they graduated high school this spring! How wonderful it was to read that Charlotte is the lovely, caring, funny, whimsical girl I adored 6 years ago!
Delighted to have found your blog and connect with you — an added bonus that you are Charlotte’s mom!
Hi Samantha! What a wonderful small world! Thanks so much for connecting with me here… I’m going to check out your site… My middle daughter (soon to be 10th Grader) is interested in cooking and we were talking just yesterday about finding classes or an apprenticeship for her. 🙂 And yes, we’ll be saying goodbye to Charlotte in a couple of weeks. She’s excited to begin a new chapter.
I’ve been reading your FB posts for some time but haven’t commented before on your web posts. I recently found a diary of sorts that I started when pregnant with my daughter (she is now three). It was such a lovely find for me – and one day I hope for her too.