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A letter to my son as he heads off to college

College Male


Cerith Gardiner - published on 08/30/17

As my heart breaks a little, here's the last-minute advice I gave that I hope he takes to heart.

As my son prepares to head off to college and the start of his adult life away from home, my stomach is doing flips, and as for my heart, well … it’s kind of breaking (although I don’t want him to know that). While I’ve tried to teach him life’s fundamentals, I feel he’s only half done — and as for his cooking skills, they’re limited to toast, pasta, and takeaway pizza — you know, the carb diet. So like any anxious mom I’m trying to crib the essentials into a letter that I’ll hope a) my slightly lazy son will read, and b) he’ll actually take heed of — if only just a little bit.

My Dear Son,

I know just how exciting, and a little daunting, it can be to leave home. I also know that you know everything, and you don’t need any advice. However, being the bossy and concerned mom that I am (yes, I know, I know, it’s my job), I want to give you some little tidbits that will hopefully help you in times of need.

Read more:
7 Ways a busy dad can bond more deeply with his kids

I’m going straight for the practical and boring stuff first. After all, who’s going to do your laundry?! Speaking of which, remember to separate colors from lights and wash on cold. Simple. Bedding should be changed weekly and washed on a high temperature. (Note: I bought you sheets and covers all the same color so can be thrown in the same wash.} Please don’t leave pungent sports clothes brewing in a bag; it’s tricky to get rid of those odors, so wash pronto. You can always call if you have any questions. As for ironing, I’ll save that for when you’re home next. I’m a realist!

Food. Oh yes, food. You cannot live off ravioli. I know you think you can, but you shouldn’t. Even if it means just chopping up carrots (which are cheap) and shoving some cucumber and pepper chunks on a plate, at least you’ll get some vitamins into you. Then there’s the ‘f’ word: FRUIT. Eat some! I know it’s a pain to peel an orange or a banana when it takes just two seconds to open a Snickers bar, but it’s worth it and it’s a million times better for you. Remember when boiling water to keep the handle over the stove, and if you heat something up in the microwave remember to take it out and actually eat it. I’ve written out your favorite recipes with a simple step-by-step guide; give them a go, it’s not too hard.

So now you’re fed and clean we need to move on to more emotional matters. While I know you are going to be crazy busy working hard (hmmm or should I say, playing hard), you might have times of feeling homesick or lonely. Just because you’re surrounded by people doesn’t mean you can’t feel alone. It’s not always easy to find people who get you, and you’re used to being with a large family and childhood friends who know you inside out. Be open to people and you’ll never know what might develop. However, if you are feeling lonely I have the perfect remedy …

I appreciate how going to church will not necessarily be your priority (I know you’ve been going to Mass begrudgingly during the last couple of years, but I’m confident that as you mature this will change). However, in times of loneliness it should be your first port of call. You’ll have a ready-made community ready to welcome you, and more importantly there will always be someone to listen to you, whether it be a priest or the Man Upstairs Himself. Also, you never know who you might meet … perhaps the perfect girl!

Read more:
Lessons on Motherhood from St. Zelie Martin, Mother of Thérèse

Again, I know I’m not allowed to talk about girls. I’d say speak to dad but there are a few things you need to know that come from a woman’s perspective. Yep, I may be your mom but I’m also a woman who used to date. So firstly there is one word to consider permanently: RESPECT. Always show respect for any girl, which means respecting her wishes, her boundaries, her body, her beliefs, her family. And respect yourself too. Ask yourself what you really want. If you don’t want a serious relationship, don’t give a girl any false hope. Likewise, if you do, let the girl know. Let her know what she means to you.

While still on the subject of girls (I’m nearly finished), there is another thing you really need to know. A girl needs to be wooed but this doesn’t mean overspending on her (although a thoughtful gift is always welcome). To really impress a girl just be thoughtful and attentive. Be considerate and spend time with her. At your age there are plenty of fun things to do that don’t cost the earth. If you’re with a girl who expects the earth then she is not the girl for you. (That’s it, I’m done on the subject of girls!)

Finally, while there are a million other things I feel I need to tell you I suppose there is one thing you really need to know; never be too proud or scared to admit you’ve made a mistake. I’ve made millions. If you need help I’m just a phone call, Skype, Facebook message, text message, email, or even a letter away — you see, there are no excuses. I love you, for the good and the bad, and I won’t judge you. Just know I’m always here.

Now go have some fun, learn (that’s what college is all about!), and be happy. Contact me only when you want to, I don’t want you to feel obliged to call me (Note to reader: this tactic always works with him. When I tell him not to call he calls all the time). Remember, all I really want for you is to do the best you can while being the best you can. Remember that life is beautiful and this is just the start of it. Enjoy!


Your mommy

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