As I write this letter, you are finishing your first summer in New York City. Your summer internship has been marked with excitement, learning and new experiences. As you prepare to return for your junior year of college, my heart is swelling with pride and affection. I loved our telephone chat this morning and the obvious passion you felt when talking about some of your future job opportunities.
Forgive me for harkening back in my mind to a simpler time when the most important decisions we faced together were what costume to wear for Halloween or what book to read before bedtime.
My, how quickly you’ve grown, and what an amazing young man you are becoming!
I’ve been invited to share with you a few thoughts about your future. As we sit perched near the eve of your 21st birthday, I often ask myself if I’ve done all I could to prepare you for the life you so richly deserve. And while I’m tempted to say, “No, not even close,” the truth is that my greatest responsibility as your Mom has always been to pray with and for you. That’s a duty I’ve treasured and one that will be my privilege for the rest of your life.
In partnership with your Dad, I’ve always endeavored to share with you the same rich, happy and loving home life given to me by your grandparents.
When I look at their marriage, now spanning more than 50 wonderful years, I see the role that their mutual faith gave them through all of life’s various ups and downs. It was a glue that bonded them not only to each other but also to their five children and now each of our families. That bond, that full reliance on a God who loves each of us so unconditionally despite our flaws and failings, has been such a tremendous blessing for your Dad and I too, and it’s what I deeply desire for you as you move forward in life and towards a family of your own.
I marvel when I think that I was about your same age when I met and fell in love with your dad. It seems hard to imagine, but it could be that the person with whom you’ll share your life forever could already be one of your very best friends. Or perhaps she’s somewhere out there, yet unknown to you personally, but praying for the man with whom she’ll one day create a family. Or perhaps you’ll discern a different calling, a vocation to the priesthood and service to God’s family. (Sorry, but I wouldn’t be a good Catholic mom if I didn’t at least put that out there!)
I thought I’d share just a few words of dating advice. Some of these were passed along to me by your grandparents, and a few of them I’ve learned the hard way:
- Always be a gentleman and expect to be treated with respect too. Open doors, wait for your date to be seated first, and pick up tabs (for items within your budget, of course!). Treat your date like a lady and with the respect she deserves.
- As your grandparents taught me, “Never leave one good party in search of another.” If you’re in a relationship, be true to your partner and don’t look at what others have with an envious eye.
- Know when to call it quits. If your relationship is not feeding your soul or is counter to your values, be a man and end it compassionately.
- Dates don’t have to be expensive. Some of my favorite dates with your dad were walks around the lake at campus, hours spent browsing in bookstores or even to Mass!
- Be a good listener. Conversation is the basis for friendship, and friendship is the bedrock of any marriage.
- Keep God at the center of your life. In your relationship, as in your studies and your work, let all you do be pleasing to him and a sign of your love for him. With that as your benchmark, you can’t go wrong!
You enter a world far more complicated than the one I knew at your age. And while in some ways that frightens me, in other ways I feel a sense of assurance knowing the goodness of your heart and the caliber of your character. I know that the soul you’ve nurtured through your commitment to your faith will help you make choices that are right, just and true.
I know that when you are ready to commit yourself to a path in this life, that the God who loves you so richly can’t help but light your path and guard your steps. In all of your life choices, but especially in your relationships, turn to Him and share Him liberally with those you meet, loving Him more through the goodness you share with each person you encounter.
Treat this life and your loved ones with every ounce of dignity and respect in you, and your choices and decisions will be worthy and blessed. I wish for you a life of happiness and love, now and always.