As the weather warms (91 degrees in February, for crying out loud) and the end of the school year draws nigh, I must face a harsh reality; my kids are growing up. One more year is all I have left before my family will shift, spread out, change, and ultimately grow. The years that I thought would never end are ending. One year is nothing; a mere drop in the bucket of life.
As I watched Jordan stand at the pulpit and engagingly speak to a congregation of a few thousand people at our stake conference this past Sunday, my heart swelled with a mixture of emotions that was directly related to his impending launch from the nest; gratitude for what he has taught me, worry about whether I have taught him enough, sadness at the upcoming end to this chapter of family togetherness, excitement to see what he will choose to do with the rest of his life.
Outwardly, I was stoic and composed. Inwardly, I was a jumbled mess.
With only a year left with all of my kids under the same roof, I feel the need to gather them together for a little pep talk. I invite you to follow along.
Alright, dear children, gather round and listen up.
These past 17 years have been a good ride; a roller-coaster, if you will, with plenty of ups, downs, and loops that have made our heads spin.
Although some of you joined the party later in the game, you have all been an integral part of this important chapter in our lives that was characterized by family togetherness. Whether or not you have always liked it, we have spent most of our time together – learning, laughing, fighting, working, playing, and growing together. There has been a fair share of whining and complaining (you know who you are), plenty of eye rolls, and more than one exclamation of “Whatever!” and “You don’t understand!” and “I hate you!”
There may have even been a time or two when one or more of you wished to be part of a different family – one who would love you more. However, there have also been days when we could not get enough of each other – when the laughter and silliness were deafening.
OK, maybe just deafening to me, because I have issues with noise. I probably told you to be quiet and stop messing around at scripture time, (Why did Dad think it would be funny to start reading the Song of Solomon anyway?) and then to please pick up all the stuff that you left on the floor (for the fourth time today) because I must be the only one who knows how to pick things up around here. Meanwhile, Dad was probably making silly faces at me from across the room, which I tried not to notice because it is my job to be the serious one in this relationship. Sometimes that is a difficult job.
Yep. That sounds familiar.
We have had good days and awful days that we would rather forget. But through rain and shine, on good days and bad, we have faced life together. And together is a good place to be.
Jordan will be leaving home soon to make his own way in the world, and the rest of you will follow in short order. At that point, it will be much more difficult to gather together in the same place, because life tends to take families in a hundred different directions. We will still have each other, but it will be different.
That is how life was meant to be. Children grow up, leave home and have families of their own.
That is what we expect all of you to do. Living with Dad and I when you are an adult will not not an option. Let me just make that clear now. We will be very busy with our own interests and travels that we have put on hold for a time while raising you, and we will be completely incapable of taking care of you at that point. We love you and expect that you will come visit us as often as you can, but I can assure you that you will be happier and much more succesful on your own. Trust me on that.
In the instance that you contract some major illness that requires home care, we will bend the rules and help you out because we are kind and compassionate that way. Otherwise, we will support you by cheering you on, as we are absolutely convinced that you will be perfectly capable of taking care of yourselves. That is what adults do.
Having said that, here are a few nuggets of advice from your wise (stop laughing) mother as you prepare for your flight from the nest:
1. Be Yourself
Stay true to who you are. Don’t worry about being popular, as you are bound to give away part of yourself in order to fit in with the right crowd. If people don’t like you for who you are, they are not worth your time or energy.
Toxic relationships with people who put you down are never worth investing in. Avoid them like the plague. Break them off. You deserve to be happy.
Don’t be afraid to be different. Differences are a blessing. How boring the world would be if we were all the same. Being different is what makes it possible for you to make a difference.
Never make light of your talents and live small because you think that is how humble people should live. Nobody benefits when you put yourself down or try to hide your gifts from the world. The Lord gave you talents because He needs you to use them to bless your life and the lives of others.
Live big. Shine. Make a difference in your own way. Don’t waste your days (which will become your lives) on things that don’t matter.
Oh, and by the way, I will come hunt you down if you choose to engage in a life of gaming and technological distractions at the expense of real human relationships. You know I will. You don’t want that. Trust me.
2. Be Kind
Kindness is a virtue that will bless your life again and again. Treat people with love and love is what you will get in return.
Do not use the illusion of anonymity that the Internet provides as an excuse to be cruel. You will never be anonymous. You will always know what you have done, and God will always know. Live in a manner that allows peace into your life, where your actions are consistent with your knowledge of right and wrong.
There is enough cynicism and cruelty in the world. Be a light instead.
3. Decide Where You Stand
The Christian values that we have taught you since you were tiny are being mocked and persecuted with greater intensity with each passing year. I only see that getting worse as the chasm between our beliefs and the world’s views grows ever wider.
You must decide where you stand. Will you stand firm in the standards that we have taught you, or will you take a different path?
Of course we hope you will stand with us, but your conversion to the gospel of Jesus Christ must be deeply personal or it will not be enough to keep you grounded when the winds come blowing. And blow they will, with speed and intensity that you can scarcely imagine.
I urge to make this a matter of serious thought and prayer. If you have questions, talk to us and we will do our best to answer them. Questions open the door to greater understanding, as long as you seek for answers in the right places. (Google would not be a good source here.)
Above all, turn to God in humble prayer. If you pray with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, He will manifest the truth of His gospel unto you by the power of the Holy Ghost. (Moroni 10:4) That is His promise to you, and I testify of its truthfulness. Only through Him can you know for sure.
4. Be True
Once you decided where you stand, stand firm in that place. Don’t be afraid to stand up for what is right, even when it is difficult, and even when you must stand alone.
Be a leader, not a follower. Have courage in the face of opposition, as it will be your companion more often than you would like.
At the end of the day, success in life is not determined by your educational accomplishments, your employment status, or the amount of money that you make. Success, at least the kind of success that will result in a happy and fulfilling life, is directly related to strength of character, which is determined by how you treat others and what you do when nobody else is watching.
Choose well, dear children. Daily choices ultimately determine destiny.
I love you more than words can express. I will miss this stage of togetherness, but I can’t wait to see the magnificent things that you do with your lives. You can do hard things and I will be always be here to cheer you on.
This next chapter signifies a new beginning. Let’s make our story count.
All my love,