Here & there: A letter from Mom

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FEATURE – My mother drove from California to Utah last week, the cargo section of her SUV piled high with various items whose tenancy should have been long revoked from her garage.

Most of the dust-caked items were mine and evoked nostalgia and sneezing in equal measure: a notebook with graded work from the semester I spent at Santa Barbara City College in between my years at BYU; a pink floral jewelry box with a dried rosebud and a thin, black leather braided bracelet; a Prince/Graffiti Bridge cassette tape; and 150-some odd meticulously folded handwritten notes from friends dating back to junior high.

The notes have been a fascinating window into my adolescence. The pressure to maintain friendships with needy people, true connections with others, not-so-subtle manipulations and boy drama. Apparently more of it than I even remember.

My 8-year-old asked to read a particularly interesting looking note with meticulous yet flowery printing and two sections of bright color coding. But after five minutes with it, he pronounced with mild hostility, “I don’t even know what this thing is talking about!”

To be honest, neither do I. The note is stream of consciousness at best and absolute gibberish at worst. Either way, it’s not worth keeping.

None of them are, really.

But even still, the notes got me thinking. This Mother’s Day, instead of talking about the joys or pains of motherhood, I should dust off my note-writing skills and share a few important things with the people who have made me a mother – my boys:

Dear boys,

Your dad and I joke that we are actually trying to work ourselves out of a job. We don’t want to be your parents forever. Although we do love you fiercely, we want you to grow up to be kind, loving and independent men. For the latter to happen, you have to learn lessons now that will equip you to be that:

  • Cleaning a toilet is ALWAYS your job. Cleaning the toilet was the first job you learned in my house – I taught you each by age 3 – and this was on purpose. It’s an essential skill. Everybody poops; therefore, everybody is worthy of cleaning it up. You are worthy of cleaning it up. No matter how old you get or how important you get, this will still apply.
  • I want you to fail. You read that correctly. I want you to fail. I do not want you to be a failure. That’s entirely different. But I do want you to fail – and then I want you to realize it’s not the end of the world and pick yourself back up and try again. That’s why your dad and I don’t solve all of your problems with friends. That’s also why we give you a debit card and a budget at age 13 – it’s a lot better to misspend a $20 budget now than a $20,000 one later.
  • Getting lost is good for you. I don’t want you to stay lost, of course. But I do want you to become lost from time to time because that tells me that you are venturing far enough from our home – and from your comfort zone – to be challenged. When you are challenged, you have to problem-solve. Problem-solving is key to independence. How are you ever supposed to do that if you don’t leave our yard and always have your dad and me to help you? At age 5, I was riding my bike 2.6 miles each way to 7-Eleven with my 9-year-old sister. Some of my best childhood memories are from those bike rides. Even when someone fell off her bike or we felt afraid.
  • Not everyone is going to like you. The sooner you accept this, the better. And it’s OK. But I know it’s not easy. I spent half of my youth in “friendships” with people who didn’t want good things for me or were mean. My time would have been better spent honestly assessing what I needed and investing in friendships that met those needs. Now all of this isn’t to say you can be mean to people who don’t like you or to people you don’t like; you can’t – see below.
  • You are a marvel. You are unique. In all the years before now and in all the years after now, there has never been and there will never be another exact you. You have the capacity for anything. And you are a marvel. I want you to know that. And I also want you to know that other people are marvels too. Treat yourself – and them – as such. And if you ever need a reminder of this, Google “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” and spend some time watching him in action. In fact, do that anyway. We should all watch Mister Rogers.

If you remember even half of these things, I’ll feel like I’ve done a decent job as your mom; and I will count that as your Mother’s Day gift to me – now and always.

Love, Mom

Kat Dayton is a columnist for St. George News, any opinions given are her own and not representative of St. George News.

Email: katdayton@gmail.com | news@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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