A Letter to My Son
Every mom does it at some point in her child's life: sit down and write a letter encapsulating her hopes and dreams for the future. The unexpected death of Robin Williams a few weeks back spurred MomSpeaker Brie Latini to reflect on her son's showman-like tendency to please and sparked the following letter.
By the time you are old enough to read and understand this letter, you will likely be well aware of your Mommy's love of celebrity gossip. You may have agreed to watch an award show with me, or had to sit through Extra while we get ready for bedtime. I'm not embarrassed about it. Everybody has flaws, your Mommy more so than most.
With that out of the way, you will understand why Mommy was so sad to hear about the passing of Robin Williams today. The news that he had taken his own life was very hard to hear. Just a few nights ago, we curled up on the couch together to watch Aladdin, one of the few works by Mr. Williams that wouldn't be over your head being that you are four. You smiled and laughed as the Genie zipped around the screen, and I was so happy to share the joy of make-believe with you.
Sometimes, though, the people who are the most capable of bringing you a make-believe that you can believe in have the hardest time with reality. I see a little bit of the showman in you, PJ. You love to make people happy, to make them smile and cheer, and I wonder if there isn't a bit of artist, a bit of the ability to bring some make-believe, in you.
I saw a quote by Ernest Hemingway today, and it summed things up perfectly:
"The best people posses a feeling for beauty, the courage to take risks, the discipline to tell the truth, the capacity for sacrifice. Ironically, their virtues make them vulnerable; they are often wounded, sometimes destroyed."
Risk-taking and bravery and truthfulness and a capacity for giving are all qualities I hope you have, PJ. They are qualities to be envious of and come through in the shiniest of souls. Those qualities reap the most reward, but can also leave you the most vulnerable to hurt, disappointment, and failure. It's easy to tell you to not be afraid of those things, but deep down we all know better. The higher the climb, the harder the fall.
It's OK to feel those things, to feel your victories and failures right down into your soul. You learn something from both experiences, and you will have victories and failures as you go through life. Learn from them, and recover from them. This won't be easy. When the lows hurt you, it can seem logical to find the quickest way out. I can tell you that I love you, that Daddy loves you, that your friends and family all love you and believe in you.
I can tell you that I would climb down into the dark with you and help bring you out. But that's not enough. You need to know your value and worth, and know how much the world would lose without you. If you ever find yourself feeling like there is just no way to go on, I just need to you reach as deep down into your heart as possible for that last thread, the one that will remind you of all of the highs you would miss. Grab that thread and hold on. You don't even have to know what to do- it will be enough to ask for help. If you can't come to me, go to someone you can trust. I can't promise that it won't take a few tries to get it right, to find the person with the right directions. But, hold on. You'll get there.
Despite all of this, despite all of the risks, I hope that you will be brave. You have so much to share with the world, and I can already see how happy it makes you doing so. People will know you are amazing, and people will think you are horrible. It's how life goes for everyone. But the people who put themselves out there are subject to the most backlash, the harshest criticism, and you have to be strong inside to face that. And for the times when you're just not strong enough, lean on the people who love you. We'll hold you up.
People who act, who write, who paint and sing and dance change the world in a way that is very gray. It's not something that can be clearly drawn, like a doctor who saves a life or a police offer who protects us. The changes an artists makes are measured in inspiration, in emotion, and can be subject to vicious, relentless criticism. Be ready for it if that's the path you choose. Be ready, but don't bow to it. And when you're the strong one, offer grace to the ones who aren't.
And if someday, no matter what path you choose, your sadness is more than just reaction to criticism, deeper than a failure, or impossible to overcome; if something is really, truly wrong and you can't put your finger one it, just hang on. It can be helped and you can get there. Dig deep.
You are only 4, and this a lesson for well beyond your few years. I promise to do my best, along with Daddy and all of the people who love you, to help you know your worth along the way. We are always here for you.
Also, you should totally sleep until at least 8am tomorrow.
I love you, Sweet Pea.
Brie Latini is a South Jersey writer and mom. This post is adapted from her blog ( . . . a breezy life).