Pablo Picasso, Mother and Child (1922)
Today, I sit here wondering why it is so difficult to send our children out into the world. Is it because we can’t bear parting with their daily presence in our lives? Is it because they have so much more to learn before they believe in and understand their full potential? Is it because the world can be cruel and you won’t be right by their side to protect them? Is it because we are afraid we might lose them to others? Is it because we are simply not ready for them to grow up? The nagging questions are endless.
I remember one of the many late night conversations I had with our eldest during her senior year. Her studies for the night complete, she stepped out of her room, sat down next to me and started sharing her wish list of all she wanted to do before she went off to university.
Growing up overseas, she understood she wouldn’t be traveling back home for 4 day weekends and holidays, nor would she have the opportunity to get together with her friends more than once a year (if lucky). Panic was starting to seep in as she realized what the adult realm entailed.
As she rattled off the items on her list, I began to panic. Had I taught her everything she needed to know that would prepare her for what is to come? Mentally, I started running through all that we had discussed over the years, searching for gaps, and adding advice that still needed to be shared. The look on my face must have given me away because she stopped and asked with some annoyance, “Mom, are you listening to me?” To my surprise, emotions overwhelmed me and my answer came out in a strangled voice, “I am not ready for you to leave. I have so much more to teach you.”
The conversation ended with her reassuring me that she was ready and that my advice would be sought over our lifetime together. As she hugged me, I understood she was ready; it was me that was struggling. Over the past four years, we have watched her blossom into a confident young woman who will be entering the education arena alongside her parents. She questions the world around her. She searches for answers. She faces challenges head on. She cares. My worries for naught.
And yet, once again, I struggle, as we face sending our son off to university this fall. Again, I run through the mental list of what advice still needs to be shared before he leaves. I turn to F. Scott Fitzgerald. When his daughter was 11-years-old, he wrote her a list of what to worry about, what not to worry about, and what to think about.
As I reflected on Fitzgerald’s list, I began crafting my own list for all three of my children. Here are my thoughts…
Things to worry about:
Worry about showing compassion to all.
Worry about persevering through life’s challenges.
Worry about taking good care of yourself.
Worry about finding balance in your life – work hard, but play hard as well.
Worry about remaining loyal to good friends.
Worry about the greater good.
Worry about pursuing your passions.
Worry about standing up to what you know to be right and good.
Worry about taking care of your body.
Worry about loving yourself.
Worry about finding the courage to take risks.
Worry about remaining true to commitments.
Worry about doing your best.
Worry about apologizing when you make a mistake; we are all human.
Worry about laughing long and often.
Things not to worry about:
Don’t worry about your self-worth; your worth is abundant!
Don’t worry about whether or not you can do something; you can.
Don’t worry about our love for you; we love you wholeheartedly, without question.
Don’t worry about disappointing anyone other than yourself.
Don’t worry about failure; it makes you stronger.
Don’t worry about your ego; life is more than you.
Don’t worry about the little things, whatever they may be.
Don’t worry about insecurities; they can eat away at you and take you places you shouldn’t go.
Don’t worry about conforming; remain true to who you are.
Don’t worry about making mistakes; you learn valuable lessons from them.
Don’t worry about whether you are making everyone happy; if you are happy, so are they.
Don’t worry about things you can’t control; instead figure out how to cope.
Don’t worry about whether others are proud of you; find the pride within yourself.
Things to think about:
Am I happy? Am I pursuing my dreams?
Am I compassionate – willing to place someone else’s needs ahead of mine?
Am I making a difference in someone else’s life? in the world?
Do I seek to understand before I judge?
Am I a forgiving person?
Although, I wonder about Fitzgerald’s use of worry as it carries the connotations of weight and angst, I do like how he twisted its use to send a positive message. We can’t eradicate worry from our world, but we can shift our viewpoint of its place in our lives.