Dear E, M, A, P, S, and A,
I was looking at pictures of you all this morning and realizing that y’all are growing up mighty fast (I know, I know, people tell you that all the time and it is so lame). And it occurred to me that there are some things that I want to say to you–that I want to make sure someone has said to you–so I’m going to do that here. Hope that’s ok with you. Ready? Here goes.
1. Please know that we love you more than anything in the entire history of ever. Seriously. We’ll say “I love you” again and again, but I want to make sure you know what that means. To me, it means that if I had to choose between chocolate and you guys, I’d pick you without even having to think about it. If there was a meteor hurtling toward the earth and I had a spaceship with only 7 seats on it, I’d pick you 6 (plus a pilot–y’all are pretty young to be steering spaceships) without even having to think about it. I would punch an alligator in the face for you. I would give you my last piece of cake. I love you so much that I would trade everything I will ever have in life, just to see you smile. That’s how much we all love you.
2. Read everything. Even if your Mom and Dad aren’t completely sure it’s appropriate, and especially if your Mom and Dad aren’t completely sure it’s appropriate. Read books, read newspapers, read labels, read comics. Read Calvin and Hobbes, and commit parts of it to memory. Read the things your teachers assign, even if they’re kinda boring. There’s a whole huge world out there, and reading can help you see all of it–even the parts you don’t have time to go visit in person.
3. Question everything. Sometimes grownups will do and say things that make no darned sense. Regardless of what we may say at the time, I tell you now that it is absolutely your right–your obligation, even–to question it. You’ll notice I didn’t say “backtalk”–that’s just rude. But you always, always, always have the right to stop for a minute and wonder about why we might be telling you to say or do a certain thing. Sometimes you’ll be able to figure out the answer on your own; but if not, you can always call Auntie Buffalo and Uncle Moon, and maybe we can help you sort it out.
4. Know that you are a superhero. Superheroes can change the world–that’s the whole point of superheroes. They do what is right, even if it’s not popular and even if it’s kinda scary; and they stand up for other people so that the world becomes a better place. You don’t have to have a cape or a mask to be someone’s hero (though let’s face it, capes and masks are pretty cool), and you don’t have to beat up any bad guys. But when you see the opportunity to do something nice for someone, go for it–that’s what makes you a hero, and that’s what changes the world.
5. Stand up for yourself. We grownups like to think that we can prevent bad things from ever happening to you, but the sad truth is that we can’t. Fortunately, you are smart and capable and strong, so you can fix things yourself. If someone is doing something to you that you know is wrong, tell somebody. If someone is doing something to someone else that you know is wrong, tell somebody. If someone is doing something and you kinda think it might maybe be a little bit wrong but you’re not sure, tell somebody. And as you become grownups yourselves, remember that you still have the right to stand up for yourself. You will always have that right.
6. Be patient with us–we’re doing the best we can. Sometimes grownups can seem a little bit dumb. We know that, whether we want to admit it or not. So cut us a little slack, please; we don’t actually get a handbook that tells us how to do everything exactly right on the first try, so sometimes we’re going to goof up. We’ll try to make it up to you when we do.
7. If you must run away when you get older, please run to our house first. Uncle Moon and I promise to be way cooler than your parents. There’ll be rules here, sure, but at least they’ll be different rules; and at least this way everyone will know where you are, and know that you’re safe. And that’s the most important thing in the world to all of us. Also, I promise to make you a cake when you get here and tell you that everything is going to be ok, even if we all know that’s kind of a lie.
8. Be the best you that you can be. Your parents are going to have some hopes for you; that’s part of being a parent. And those hopes aren’t always going to line up with your own hopes; that’s part of being human. So if chasing your dream means disappointing your parents, that’s ok (as long as no bail money is involved. Anything that requires bail money is not ok, with very, very few exceptions that we’ll talk about when you’re older. Hint: think “peaceful protest”). We’ll still love you even if you don’t become President of the United States. We’ll love you if you don’t marry the person we had in mind. We’ll love you if you don’t get perfect grades. Heck, we’ll even love you if you go to K-State, and that’s saying something.
The bottom line is this: you were perfect when you got here, and we’re all going to try very, very hard not to screw that up. But we’re going to make mistakes, and you’re going to make mistakes, and that’s all ok. Just remember that we love you, and we’re trying, and we’ll remember that you love us (even when you’re pretty sure that’s not true), and that you’re trying (even when we sure as heck can’t see the effort), and we’ll all come out of this just fine. Because we’re family, and we’re all in this together.
Now if you’ll pardon me, I have to go exercise my alligator-punchin’ arm. Y’know, just in case.
Love you more than we love any of your parents,