As you know if you read this blog yesterday (or Monday) my daughter graduated high school last night. And though she won’t go off to college until August, I’m already shouting last-minute instructions.
But as every parent knows, a retreating teenager even less bandwidth for advice than the rest of us do, so we’ve got to make the most of our dwindling teaching moments.
I’m indulging this process publicly, because I think a lot of other Writing Boots readers around my age and near my situation might be feeling the same way.
This is from a book my dad wrote when I was a little kid, called A Child to Change Your Life.
I read this at his funeral, and it is close to a sacred text for me:
It seems to me that I must tell my children that the happiness of human beings is too often measured or referred to in unrealistic lengths of time—in happy years, or a happy life.
I want them to realize that life is not lived in lifetimes or even in seasons, but in sunny mornings and snowy afternoons, in picnics in the yard and on Tuesdays with the flu and in hours and minutes and in waiting for a child’s fever to break and sitting quietly with your husband or wife on a Wednesday night or picking up her dress or his suit at the cleaner’s.
That if they can’t find happiness here they won’t find it next week or next month somewhere over the horizon, in the excitement of flying an airplane or climbing a mountain or accepting the honors of their fellow men or of kissing a strange new mouth.
I am going to tell any child of mine what I believe—that the clearest indication of a happy life are happy days and happy nights, that the clock, and not the calendar, will always tell her truthfully whether happiness is truly hers.
Maybe I’ll tuck that into her soccer bag, or as my more sardonic mother would say, “Have it laminated for her wallet.”
I had a few other sticky bits of advice from my parents (and one, actually, from my little sister) that I’ve actually put to use in my life to make good decisions—or at least, used as a guard rail to prevent rollover crashes. I’ll share those tomorrow—along with some of yours, if you’d like to contribute.