Every year around this time my husband and I trudge up to the attic to sort through the countless, colorful plastic bins and overstuffed cardboard boxes that hold a lifetime of treasured memories. What should we toss, what should we keep? This year I was happily surprised to unearth an essay that I had written in 1972 for a child development class in college.
The assignment was simple. Imagine your life as a parent raising a child. How would you speak to them? What would you want them to know about the world and how to live a fulfilling and happy life? I’m happy to report that I received an A+ for my assignment, along with this comment from my teacher: “I hope you will save this and look at it someday with new appreciation for the feelings you are capable of.”
As I sat down to read the three yellowed composition pages I took a step back in time to my younger self. I realized that not much had changed. My thoughts and feelings from over 50 years ago were brought to fruition as I married and went on to raise, along with my husband, five beautiful children and continue to raise seven beautiful grandchildren.
This simple gift, found right before Mother’s Day up in my attic tucked away in an old cardboard box, was a special reminder of the countless ways our words and our actions can influence the lives of our children each and every day.
“A letter to my child,” Sharon Rinkus, May 1972.
Little one, you are my child and I love you. I want so much for you to have a full, free life filled with much love. When you learn to love, little one, you will always see the good in things and be able to accept hardships more readily. Don’t be afraid of your feelings, for they make you more aware of yourself and your surroundings. When you feel like crying, have a good cry and you will feel so much better, and when you want to laugh out loud, do it also. People are free and we can express our emotions freely.
When you are surrounded by new people and places I hope you will have the courage to face them and be yourself around others and accept new experiences with a sense of wonder and excitement. When I hold you in my arms the warmth of your body feels very good and soothing, and I hope you will always remember that people need others and they need to be held close to each other and show affection to one another.
I want you to know that my ears love to hear your soft little voice, and I always want you to tell me what you are thinking and feeling so I can help you if you have a problem or some special secret to tell. You should learn to ask Why? Where? How? About everything. When you question, you are learning, and when you learn more you become more alive to life.
I want you to run through the rain and the wind and fall in the snow and crunch through the forest. I want you to love and live in nature and be happy in nature. I want you to grow strong and healthy and be able to help others as you grow older.
Always be kind and giving to others, and please try to understand that people are all different and have many different moods. When I am angry at you don’t shut me off forever, it is only temporary anger and my angry feelings are only one small part of my total love for you.
It seems that I have said such a great deal to you and expect such a great deal of you. I haven’t really. I just want you to realize a little more that life is a beautiful experience filled with many ups and downs. If you learn to love and give of yourself to help another person, you will always be happy and peaceful. You will have a great deal of love in your heart, and this is all I want for you, my child.
Happy Mother’s Day to all moms and every person involved in the life of a child.
Sharon Burns is a retired school counselor and art therapist. She lives in Springs with her husband, Richard.