An Open Letter to Parents

By Michelle Rose Gilman

Dear Parents,

Let me introduce myself. I am the mother of a beautiful and wise 20-year-old boy. Over the course of the last three years, my son survived 18 hospital visits due to severe Crohn’s Disease, 3 hospital born infections that he will have forever, countless pain pills, IVs and shots, a surgically removed colon, a colostomy bag, an intestinal resection surgery, and just recently a skull and brain injury accident. Do I have your attention? Good. Not that I wanted your attention this way.

A few moments of your time are all I ask.

I know you think that all of your actions are in the best interest of your child, but I want to share some lessons learned in the hope that you stop doing some of those seemingly, well-intentioned things. I was forced to stop. I hope you choose to.

Please stop over-scheduling your child with tennis lessons, piano lessons, karate, and the other activities that all your neighbors’ kids are doing. Kids need time to explore, create adventures, play, and imagine. They are only little for a few, short years. Allow them to build their natural curiosity on their own schedule.

They have time.

Please stop preparing them for college starting in the 6th grade. In fact, please stop preparing them for college at all. If college is in their future, they will prepare themselves with their natural born gifts and talents. They will not need you to write their college essays for them, and they will not need you to force them to volunteer, take AP classes, work a part-time job, and take every honors class they can so they can have one hell of a college application and attend a prestigious university.

They have time.

Please stop inserting the story you have in your head about how your child should progress in life. Your children are not an extension of you. They each have their own road to travel complete with joyous celebration and heart-wrenching failure and loss. Don’t save them from failure. Allow them to travel independently and arrive into life perhaps a little scraped up and beaten down, but with a smile on their face from the lessons learned and the wisdom that you cannot give them.

They have time.

Please stop rushing them into adult life. Allow them the beauty to linger awhile and enjoy the freedom of a fading childhood. They will soon have all the same issues, responsibilities and demands as we do. Why rush them into that?

They have time.

And lastly, we live in a world that is totally made up! Complete with arbitrary rules and timelines and age definitions. We live in a world that dictates to us when and how and where our kids must be at any given time. Who made up this world we live in? Where did these rules come from? Our children should be prepared for the most important of life’s lessons— to find happiness and love in a world riddled with uncertainty. And if we stop doing some of the things I mentioned above, they have time to do just that. They have time.