Clayton – My Son the College Graduate!
I have written many letters about what I hope for you, advice I want to share, and prayers I pray for you. In a way, this is no different, but I do want to acknowledge my specific sentiments for you on the occasion of your graduation from college! (And, I am sure it won’t be my last letter to you!).
I remember when you started school at Westlake Christian Academy. We walked into the classroom and you held my hand tightly as you shyly surveyed the situation. Mrs. Wright came over and introduced herself and showed you around until you reticently let me leave. It was not long until you made friends with all the “Erics” and enjoyed going. The next year when we walked in the door to Mrs. Need’s classroom and you saw the crayons at each table, you burst into tears because you hated to draw and color! She was quick to give you a different job and soon you were helping all the kids in the class, since you could read and they couldn’t! That was a long time ago. You had some special opportunities in your education both in Illinois and in California; the memory highlights for me include the years I homeschooled you, Project Discovery and the field trips, Destination Imagination, and having the teachers at Beechwood tell me you “talked” too much in class! Then, there was the time your sister did the artwork for your AP history assignments because you hated the drawing part! I love the choices you have made, the friends you have chosen and the laughter and fun that been accompanying you all along the way. One thing is clear: you are ineffable, intelligent and insightful!
You are wrapping up your college years and your formal education for now. While you are busy packing in the last minute adventures and packing up your apartment and coursework, I am packing away my memories and storing them in my heart! Additionally, I am busy reflecting on my failures as your first teacher and cataloging my regrets. So, one of the things that is difficult about parenting is when to step in and when to step back. My responses and over-reactions really have nothing to do with you and everything to do with wanting to make sure I have life under control for you (and your sister) each time you have entered uncharted waters. I regret that I often take my issues and make them yours! I also want to apologize for any times when I have co-opted your successes. I wish I had paid more attention, written down every cute thing you said or did in a notebook, scrapbooked all your adventures and videotaped more of your dad and his magic tricks. I taught you things, sure, but I am sorry for the things I never got to teach you but should have. And no matter what I taught you, you have taught me more. You have no idea what it is like to watch someone grow up before your eyes, and be better than you in every way, but I hope that you get that privilege someday!
Before you cross the tassel over to the other side, I want to be the first to say, “Congratulations!” This is one of the big moments in life and I hope you will always cherish your college experience. I also want to remind you that no one is necessarily grading your work anymore but moving forward one day at a time, taking care of yourself, your stuff and the people you love is still part of your responsibility! Even more, studying God’s Word is no longer part of your coursework but it is hopefully a happy habit that you will continue all the days of your life. Stay in the learning mode; never stop learning and applying that knowledge. Most people do not finish college debt free; it is a rare gift. Learn to live below your means as it creates options, especially for generosity, and additionally it shows that you believe that God will always provide for you. You learned to give 100% as a soccer player and as a teammate who thinks about the needs of others – that is essential all the days of your life! You learned to use your gifts and talents for the Lord and I pray you always will! Additionally, even though attendance is no longer required for a grade, show up anyway! Show up for people. Show up for worship. Show up each day. Be there. Dare to imagine your best self and expect that of others. Be fully present. Be decisive. Play to win (but sometimes let others win too).
It is hard to believe that you will soon be walking across the stage at Biola and receiving your college degree! Maybe every joy carries a bit of sorrow. That is definitely the case when I think about how proud your dad would be and how sorry it is for us that he is not here to witness this event. (I am sure he would have planned something magical as you cross the stage!)
Sometimes it is hard to realize that you are no longer my little boy who always wanted to be by my side (or your dad’s) and that now you are a polite young man who knows how to gracefully deflect his prying parent! Some things are still the same about you – you are brilliant, beautiful, talented, kind and mysterious! You have worked hard and I am unspeakably proud of the man you have become inside and out. More importantly, you should be proud of yourself! It was ALL you! I am honored that God chose me to be your mom. I am blessed by the ways that you are growing to be like your dad (and your heavenly Father too). I am inspired by the things I have watched at which you excel. I know you will go far in life and that you will take others with you!
I truly, honestly, deeply love you Clayton. Always. Never let go of this fact as you brave uncharted waters and bravely bring light into dark places. Life is short and full of wonderful memories and opportunities. Now you begin a new journey and I believe that God has many amazing things planned for you! No matter what is thrown in your path, no matter what happens good or bad, NEVER EVER take your eyes off Jesus!
As you leave home I say, “go with God…” (And you respond…”because God always goes with me!”