Many of you have been following me for years, which means you’ve essentially watched my children grow up. I started this blog when our oldest son, Everest, was five and half years old and Asher was just a newborn. They’re now 18 and 13.
I’ve written about their fears and the challenges/gifts of being highly sensitive people in this tenuous, uncertain world.
I’ve shared their triumphs and milestones, and talked about my own grief as they’ve grown up: the painful and inescapable awareness of the passage of time.
I’ve shared our birthday ritual where I read a letter to them the night before their birthday as a way to make room for the grief so that we can welcome joy on the actual day.
This year, with Everest’s permission, I’d like to share the letter that I read to him.
Truth be told, I could barely read this letter to Everest. The grief was bigger this year: him turning 18 and officially entering adulthood; knowing that this would likely be our last year celebrating his birthday in person (the military path begins earlier than civilian college); the overwhelming pride in who he is and the joy for the paths that are clarifying and unfolding before him. We sat in the sand on a warm Florida evening, the almost full moon gazing down upon us, waves lapping, ocean glowing, and I cried from word one. I paused when the grief overcame me and allowed it to course through. I reminded myself of the countless mothers who have stood on these shores and had to let their sons go. Slowly, with a full heart, with my solid son sitting beside me, I read him these words.
And the next day we celebrated: seeing dolphins, eating sushi, exploring islands, swimming in the ocean.
May this letter inspire you to make room for your grief in life as you remember, always, that grief and joy live in the same chamber of the heart.
My dear Everest,
Tomorrow you turn 18. I’m thinking about how many birthday letters I’ve written to you over the years. I’m remembering when you turned 15 and we sat on a beach in Vancouver and you told me that you wanted to be an astronaut. I’m remembering when you turned 16 and you were about to take your check ride for your pilot’s license. And last year: sitting on the beach in Marina del Rey, talking about your path in life and your clarity that you wanted to join the military. Now we’re sitting on a beach in Daytona, at an ocean that you will likely become very familiar starting next year.
All blurry things become clear eventually. With time and information, we wade through the discomfort of murky waters until they dissolve into clarity and we see the next choice. Just a few days ago we didn’t know where you’ll be next year at this time – and we still don’t know for sure. It’s hard not knowing. But soon enough we will know. You’ll get the “go-for-go” or “no-go” inner and outer signals – the yes or no – and the path will materialize before you.
As you step officially into adulthood on this 18th birthday, I want to tell you that I couldn’t be more proud of you. You’re the best of humans: honest, moral, ethical, kind, compassionate, hard-working, smart, focused, determined. When we walked through the Heroes and Legends exhibit at Kennedy Space Center I took a photo of the attributes that define astronauts and you embody all of them: inspired, clever, original, excited, motivated, visionary, principled. You are destined for this path. You’re reaching for the stars and I have no doubt that you’ll get there.
Tomorrow you become an adult. As always on your birthday, we feel both the sadness and the excitement: the sadness that you’re further away from childhood and the excitement for what’s ahead. I know I’ve shared this with you before but I have such a vivid memory of holding you on my lap when you were just a few weeks old and bursting into tears because I would only have 18 years with you at home. Well, as it turns out I get to have 19 years, but it still has passed too quickly. I will cherish every single day we have with you living at home. I know you’ll be back for breaks, of course, but it’s not the same.
And… I’m so excited for what lies ahead for you. When we were taking the tour at Embry-Riddle I could feel my rising excitement that this college exists and it feels like itwas made for you. The engineering department looks phenomenal. The campus is YOU to a tee. The flight line! The astronomy and sailing and sky-diving! I think it’s going to be the right balance of rigor and fun – and I think even the rigor and challenges are going to feel fun. In many ways, you’ve been ready for college for years. I have a feeling you’re going to ease right in like a boat in the water.
Everest, as you launch into this next stage of adulthood, I want you to know that I have complete trust in your competence to navigate your way in this world. I trust you totally in every way. I trust you to choose well for your body and physical health. I trust you to choose your friends well. I trust you to love a partner well and treat her with honor and respect and kindness and thoughtfulness. I trust you to do the right thing. I trust your ethics and morals. I trust that you will stand up to injustice. I trust you to make this world a better place.
I trust you to rise to challenges and seek help when a challenge is too big to manage alone. You will stumble. You will make mistakes. You will hurt others unintentionally and you will get hurt. This is part of life. But I trust you to rise back up, to make repairs, to communicate responsibly and vulnerably, to learn from your mistakes and let your insatiable growth mindset continue to hone you into your best self.
My heart overflows with pride in the young man you have become, the young man who will soon be entering the world, the young man who is now an adult.
I’m the luckiest person to be your mom. And wherever you are in this world – or on the moon and Mars – I’m with you: cheering you on, celebrating your triumphs, holding your struggles, and believing in you every step of the way.
I love you so much. Happy 18th birthday!