A Letter to My Babysitters As They Leave for College

My family has been blessed with two pretty amazing babysitters for the past four years — identical twins.  We found their advertisement on the window of our local hardware store, which happens to be on a major Chicago street.  It was scary as hell to call a number from an ad.  Turns out, it was a great call.  One of the twins was a pediatric cancer survivor and they donated a portion of their earnings to research for childhood cancer.  Amazing, indeed!

Dear Girlies,

First of all, I owe you a tremendous amount of gratitude for being part of my village the past four years.  I’ll talk more about villages and why they’re so important in a bit, but just know that Mary Tyler Son LOVES you both, equally, and is just a wee bit devastated that you are no longer our go to babysitters.  Mary Tyler Baby sends another apology for that poop incident last fall.  Our family was incredibly lucky to have found you both. You have helped us out on countless occasions and been reliable, flexible caregivers to our sons.

All you have done for us is so appreciated.  You will be missed.

I remember my first few weeks in a college dorm room.  It was scary, honestly.  Lonely.  Quiet.  I was a bit of a squirrel at your age, not very outgoing and I think folks can interpret that as aloof sometimes.  Long story short, I get that what you are doing — off on your own, not even with your twin for back-up, must be hard.  Your decision to go your separate ways for college has really impressed me.  Staying with what we know, choosing comfort, is how many folks run their lives.  You guys took a risk in choosing different paths and I applaud you for it.  I know you may miss one another terribly.  Peace to you both as you make this transition.

And college is a huge transition.  Not only is the pace of what you’ve been doing — being a student — accelerated, with more rigorous academics, but you are managing that accelerated pace while learning how to live on your own for the very first time.  You have responsibilities at school that you never had at home.  It’s a lot to manage and might take some time to adjust to.

You will also experience a level of freedom that many college freshmen find intoxicating.  Literally.  A lot of college kids drink too damn much.  Like, way, way, way, alcohol poisoning is not cool and could kill you, too much.  Don’t do that.  I don’t think you would, from what I know of you both, but still.  You will be offered a lot of alcohol.  Moderation, girlies, in all things.  Moderation.

And speaking of freedom.  Woot!  Freedom!  So much freedom.  Like alcohol, freedom can be intoxicating, too.  Not all eighteen year olds can handle the freedom.  It’s not because they’re “bad,” or weak or loose or lack moral fiber.  Nope.  It just means that freedom is heady stuff and being away from home the first time means that you are missing your traditional anchors and are surrounded by other kids missing their traditional anchors, too.  That can lead to feeling easily overwhelmed or falling down the rabbit hole that freedom leads you.

I know you gals have strong heads on your shoulders, cause your Mama raised you right.  Even still.  Be gentle with yourself during these first few weeks of independence.  Know that you are in the midst of a wonderful, confusing, intense phase of life.  I envy you for it, really.

Now for those villages I spoke of.  Each of us needs a village.  A group of folks we surround ourselves with that help us, in any matter of ways, to be the best us we can be.  This concept becomes a necessity when you raise kiddos.  My guess is that for eighteen years, you two have been the most important people in each other’s village.  As you separate, choose your village wisely.  If someone hurts you or puts obstacles in your path, repeatedly, chances are they are not a good fit for your particular village. Cut ’em loose.

As for the school part of school . . .  Oh, I envy you that, too.  I remember some of my professors so well, even 25 years later.  I hope you have a wonderful academic experience.  I hope you are challenged and find yourselves on this side of being overwhelmed.  But sometimes you will be overwhelmed.  It’s the nature of the beast.  It’s okay.  Buckle down.  Pull the all nighter, as needed.  Try and pace yourself.  Search for the study rhythm that works best for you.  It might be slow and steady wins the race, it might be marinate thoughts, but put off the actual work until the last minute, with all nighters and lots of caffeine, it might be a combination. You’ll find your own way, but try different methods.

And never be afraid to explore something, even if it isn’t especially practical.  Some of the best classes I took, the ones that taught me the most about life, were religion and Russian literature courses.  Use some of that new found freedom you’ve gained on the luxury of exploration.  There is so very much to learn and once adult responsibilities set in, exploration often gets put on the back burner.  Explore now.

The other piece of wisdom I would like to pass on might very possibly fall on deaf ears at this stage in your lives, but I’m gonna say it just the same, with the hope that somewhere down the line, when life throws you a sucker punch (and life will throw you many, many sucker punches), you will remember and say, “Oh yeah!  This is what Sheila was talking about,” and you might be just a little bit comforted by it.

What you think is going to happen to you, your plans and life maps and methodical preparations, well, they don’t always lead to the life you thought you might have.  Or even the life you wanted.  We can plan and strategize and try and control what happens to us, but the truth is, we won’t always succeed in that.  Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, the Universe just insists on going a different direction.  Your heart will be broken, you will lack some basic thing you need, people will die, you won’t get the job, or the man, or the promotion, cells will mutate, someone you love will disappoint you, money will come and go, your uterus might work too well or not well enough — so many, many things will happen to you that you can’t possibly even begin to imagine now at eighteen.

It’s okay, though.  It will be okay.  It will.  And even when it’s not okay, you will figure it out.

I am so damn proud of you two.  I am so grateful to have been invited into your orbit and into the orbit of your family.  I wish you straight As and boundless love and energy, and an enthusiastic intellect and strength and peace and love.

Best of luck to you in this college transition.  xox

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