A Letter to My Son, the High Schooler


Dearest Firstborn, you are the lucky one.

Your father and I have tried out all of our best intentions on you. The rules, the freedoms, the second-guesses. You are our greatest experiment. And now, here you are, a freshman in high school, and my stomach is clenched because I understand what this means.

We don’t have a lot of time left with you, at least, if things pan out the way nature intended. Baby birds grow up and fly away. The nest will eventually empty. Your brother will linger a while longer, but then he, too, will go. This is as it should be.

But, wow. High school? Really? Weren’t we just watching our favorite episode of The Backyardigans? Didn’t you just learn how to tie your shoes and spell your name and get dressed all by yourself? I could’ve sworn we just enrolled you for Kindergarten and I took that incredibly proud photo of you with your first backpack and a wide smile. I could’ve sworn.

High school is the big league, if you haven’t already figured that out.

The workload is more, the expectations are higher, and, heaven help us all, the peer pressure is heavier. I can see it weighing down on your shoulders already. Oh how I wish to relieve you of that strain, but I know it’s necessary, for this is how you grow. This is how you decide what you are willing to endure and what you aren’t.

I know how you feel, at least partly. Sure, people have unique circumstances and perspectives specific to their lives and personalities, but the bulk of that pressure? The overarching frustration of wanting to be, look, and act one way or another? That’s high school, son. That’s being a teenager. Everyone rides that roller coaster. You aren’t alone on your topsy-turvy adventure, and that, you will learn, is a gift.

There are a few things I can promise you about this time. First, there will be days when you feel completely out of your own skin. You won’t understand or feel understood, and you will likely tell your father and me that we don’t understand. We may all be exasperated at the same time and our home may feel like a pressure cooker, but come hell or high water, we’ll work through it together.

Second, people will disappoint you, and you will likely disappoint others. Therefore, forgiveness is paramount. Make it a habit. Extend grace to others and it will be extended to you.

Third, high school will be over more quickly than you anticipate, so don’t wish it away. Enjoy time with your friends. Work hard, but have fun. You will make mistakes, and that’s okay. I’d rather you make them while you’re still living here so we can help you. (This does not give you permission to take the car without asking.)

Speaking of driving, you get your Learner’s Permit in three weeks. What in the world, son? Didn’t you just learn how to ride a bike?

Your father and I love you — like, crazy love you — to the degree that there’s nothing you can do or say to make us leave. I know the next four years will be fraught with trial and error, but when it’s all said and done you can be confident that we love you no matter what.

Hang on tight, and we will too.  



P.S. If I want to hug you, please let me.


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