My son is participating in a leadership conference this weekend. Parents were invited to send letters to their children to be opened as a surprise during the weekend. One of the many stresses of long term unemployment and poverty is that opportunities like this get jumbled and mixed up. His dad can afford to buy/do/provide what he needs – I cannot.
This sets up stress. He walks and lives in 2 different worlds. His father’s, where their home is a McMansion and his archetypal stepmother doesn’t work, has a trust fund and gets weekly massages and manicures at home and mine, his childhood home (still owned by dad), where I live rent free in lieu of child support, and where, since I lost my job, there are no frills and sometimes, not even the necessities.
His father works hard, makes a good living, but has always balked at paying additional child support and I made a decision early on not to put my child through the pain of litigation over that issue. In retrospect, I think it was a mistake, but with only 8 months until he leaves for college, it is water over the dam. I think in not fighting for what could have made my life, and by association his life, better, I think I lost his respect. Without a job, and struggling to keep my car, food on the table and the lights on, sometimes I feel I have nothing to offer him. When he tells me how his dad is spending all this money on college application fees, I die a little inside that I, in spite of all my education and skills, cannot help.
The worst pain is that in the day to day stress of trying to survive, sometimes I feel like all I give him is pain. This letter is my attempt to give him something more.
Open letter to my son.
My darling boy,
It seems I am always running to catch up – last week when the school’s request came to write a letter to be presented to you this weekend, you were unsure about going so I didn’t do it. But here in between breakfast and driving you to school I am stealing a few moments to let you know how proud I am of you.
You are an extraordinary young man – full of courage and heart. You work hard and you play hard. These traits are not new – you have always embraced the challenge and joy life brought to your plate. Never lose your passion for sport – it nourishes your spirit and keeps you safe from the inevitable stress of life. Never lose your ability to savor joy in every moment, no matter how small, because this will keep you optimistic when life becomes challenging.
You are my pride and my joy – I know you are your father’s as well. I am sorry for the troubles that my life and my choices have placed on your shoulders. With deep humility I ask that you not let these troubles make you bitter or hard, rather open your heart so that within the pain you feel and see every day, you grow in compassion and strength.
You do not have to be cold and dispassionate to get things done. The truly strong are not afraid to really see the pain and struggles of their fellow human beings. When you know and feel what those around you are dealing with, you have the opportunity to lift them up, and in lifting them up, you create strong relationships. This is true in family, business and community.
Honey, you have all the qualities of a great leader. As you continue to mature and grow, don’t ignore any aspect of who you are. Your spirituality is just as important as your physical strength. Your compassion is just as important as your intellect.
I am so proud of you – I love you very much.