Since my son will be turning 3 this weekend, I thought it a good time to republish a letter I wrote to Mr. Carter just before he was born:
We are just days away from your arrival into this world. Hard to believe the moment is almost here, even though you would think I’d be ready for it. Your other mother and I have spent the majority of our near decade long relationship wishing, trying, and preparing for you. But I’m not sure anyone is ever ready for the intense responsibility of being the caretaker of another human being. Whatever kind of mother I become, I wanted to take this opportunity to share a few things I hope you learn in this life.
Making mistakes is a good thing. It means you tried something new. But the key to mistakes is what you do with them. Don’t strive for perfection and allow mistakes to make you feel bad about yourself. Make sure you instead pay attention to when the mistake was made, without worrying about what anyone thinks, and find your solution. When you fall down, get up. Keep trying. Eventually you’ll get it right.
Life is a potluck dinner. When I grew up our church held dinners where you could eat a massive feast, as long as you contributed a covered dish to the table. You should treat your life the same way. Enjoy the fruits of your labor and don’t be ashamed to treat yourself, whether it’s to a nice car or an exotic vacation. But before you do, make sure you have done something to make another’s life enjoyable. Just like my church family taught me, you can’t take from this world until you’ve given to it first.
Write your plans in pencil. There will be goals you’ll want to achieve and you will—sometimes. But many other times you won’t be able to, and you’ll need to be adaptive and take advantage of the unexpected opportunities that come your way. Remember you are not the only one who walks this Earth, and everyone wants to do great things. Life is a team effort, never a solo performance. Accept help and give help along the way, and don’t be frustrated if your initial goals have to change.
Be a gentleman. You are the child of two mothers, so I expect you to understand that women are your equal and deserve to be given the same respect and rewards as men. That means terms such as “bitch,” “whore,” and “slut” should never, ever be in your vocabulary. Also make sure to open the door and give up your seat for others.
You belong. Faith in yourself will be tested. Much like the pressure on coal makes a diamond, negative experiences can be useful tools in revealing what you’re truly made of. But no matter how vulnerable or desperate you ever become, never feel like wasted breath. A team of people worked very hard to get you here, and both your mother and I learned being born means beating the odds. If you’re alive, you are meant to be here.
I’ll do my best to be a good Mom. I pledge to love you for who you are and not for what I envision you to be. Your goals and desires in this life will be your own, and it will be my job to give you the tools to recognize them. Son, I got to hear your first heartbeats and you will hear my last. Between those human bookends I will cherish all the time we get to have with one another.
The next few weeks will be traumatic for you. You’ll be cold, learn how to breathe air, vomit almost as much as you eat, and heal from a circumcision. All that will soon work itself out and your curiosity about this place will take over. And I’ll be there the whole time, ready to hold your hand.
I love you,
Article originally published in Georgia Voice.