High school graduation is such a monumental moment for parents and for the teens that walk across the stage wearing a badge that stands for pride, independence, and a sense of accomplishment. It’s a time for joy, new beginnings, and newfound freedom.
For me personally, it represented a time for reflection, mixed emotions, and a review of what I could have done better. I’m in awe over her ambition, her intelligence, and her unique gifts. Her grace, sense of style, and natural beauty are amazing. I also admire her honesty and the way she stands up for herself. In spite of all there is to be proud of, I just hope I did enough. Many questions have stirred up doubt and fear that I had to force from my thinking, What did I not tell her that I should have? Did I sacrifice the right things at the right time? Did I provide enough words of wisdom? Is she prepared for the real world?
Like Maria Shriver in her best-selling book titled And One More Thing, I decided to put together my own sort of “crash course life lessons” manual, hoping it would provide some insight and refreshing thoughts while selfishly desiring that it would eliminate my feelings of doubt and inadequacy. If only we could rely on an expert manual to refer to … While very familiar with Ms. Shriver’s book, I never had the opportunity to read it. My life lessons are based on my personal struggles and experiences and I’d bet that Ms. Shriver’s advice stems from her own experiences. I also believe that each mother (and father) can pull from his or her unique trials and tribulations and share their own words of wisdom. Perhaps we can draw from each other to create the ultimate “parenting guide” to ensure that we raise the most balanced, well-adjusted, and successful children anyone could desire—perhaps we’d still leave something out. Deep down I know I did a good job raising my daughter, but here are a few thoughts just in case I missed something:
1. When someone does wrong by you, move on. Forgiving them frees you and you’ll ultimately have more room in your heart for peace to reside, for love and growth. Forgiving them does not mean they’ve won; it just means you’ve gained your freedom.
2. Create an ongoing to-do list and a specific set of goals. Reprioritize it and update it daily/weekly/monthly and check off anything that you complete or accomplish.
3. Continue to read, study, and continually increase your knowledge; increase your vocabulary and stay abreast of news/current events.
4. Develop an appreciation for something outside of your comfort zone; learn a new language (not just to satisfy your curriculum), or explore a new culture and what makes it special (the food, the arts, the traditions).
5. Get to know and be proud of your own heritage; develop a sense of pride in your own lineage while growing in appreciation of yourself; celebrate the differences in how God made each of us.
6. Save and spend something from every paycheck; small savings can add up and small spending can make your work feel more worthwhile. It’s okay to reward yourself, but save for emergencies.
7. Take time for yourself no matter how hectic your schedule is; make time for relaxation and reflection, nurture yourself (mind, body and soul), find a hobby, pursue your passion, make the most of even small blocks of time.
8. Set moral standards for yourself that you will not compromise—no matter what. Be a person of integrity.
9. Never accept abuse of any type—emotional, verbal, mental, physical, or spiritual; you don’t have to take it from anyone!
10. Keep your skills sharp; develop more than one stream of income in case you ever need something to fall back on. Learn the basics in a variety of competencies; for example, you may not want to work full-time as a proofreader, but if this is something you do well, sharpen that skill and use it for back-up project-based work. Keep detailed accounts of all duties, responsibilities, accomplishments, accolades, and awards. Gain proficiency in a variety of areas.
11. Respect the opinions and beliefs of others. Treat others the way you want to be treated—not always the way they treat you. This is Biblical. While I’m not trying to preach, this is a good way to live.
12. Rest well; don’t allow problems to interfere with your well-being. Losing sleep over an unresolved issue will not make it go away.
13. Avoid negativity and eliminate negative influences from your inner circle; while you can’t control the actions of people you encounter, you can control how it affects you and their influence on your life.
14. Respect your elders and draw from their wisdom; their stories are not boring and in many cases can impact your own life in a positive way. Some elderly people share some of the most intriguing stories you’ll ever hear.
15. Think outside the box; don’t be afraid to share ideas and remember that it’s okay to be different, but equally important to respect others’ differences in thinking and their differing opinions.
16. The simplest, least expensive beauty advice I can offer: 7–8 glasses of purified water daily, 7–8 hours of sleep each night, natural, non-synthetic skin care with as few fillers and preservatives as possible, daily exercise (more strenuous exercise 2–3 times per week), avoid alcohol consumption and smoking, limit caffeine intake, soak up some sun (don’t forget to use sunscreen), eliminate stress through prayer and meditation, deep-breathing, relaxation, laughter, and any of the above.
17. Pursue your dreams until they become a reality; nurture and develop your gifts; if you end up along a career path that does not “embrace your being,” pursue a part-time activity that will enable you to get on the right track and eventually make the transition into fulfilling your purpose.
18. Grow closer to God and seek Him for guidance. Make fervent and focused prayer a regular part of your life; take any and all of your problems to God. He already has the answer.
19. If anything seems unbearable, challenge yourself to press forward.
20. Challenge and question anything that doesn’t make sense. Do your own fact-finding. In short, use your head.
She’s now in her third year of college, and what I‘ve come to realize is that whatever I forgot to share, discuss or encourage her to seek answers for … it’s not too late. Just because she’s gone away to college and is making more decisions on her own without my approval or even my input, it doesn’t mean that I won’t continue to have a place in her life. The mothering doesn’t end—in some ways, it’s a new beginning, and I am learning to embrace this progressive phase in our mother/daughter relationship.