Every year, my kids attend a school sanctioned recollection. I have always enjoyed watching this part of my children’s spiritual formation, because when I was younger and attending public school, my spiritual formation came in the form of catechism classes that I would attend only once a week.
My siblings and I would attend these weekly classes under the tutelage of Sister Rose. Sister Rose was stern but loving. She set limits for all of her students with the help of her volunteer catechism teachers. She expected much of us, and demanded the respect that she knew we were all capable of giving, even if, as a children, we didn’t know it, ourselves.
Years later, when I would sign Gia up for the same catechism classes that I would volunteer to teach. I knew that Sister Rose was proud that one of her former students came back to teach in the very same classrooms where I sat in Sacred Heart School. I was proud to be one of the chosen teachers to volunteer my time for the first graders who would enrich their understanding of Jesus and Mama Mary. I remember asking Nino if he wouldn’t mind teaching the students, side by side with me. He was happy to help, and happy to be part of this new volunteer endeavor which would shape and mold the spirituality of these young six year olds.
Because my children are older and attending private school, I am grateful that their education includes spiritual formation. Often times, I have found myself studying with them to further my understanding of of my spirituality as a mindful Roman Catholic. Their yearly recollections/retreats are something I look forward to, so they can learn and grow in their love and faith for Papa Jesus. I also look forward to this time because I am offered the ability to share a little bit of what I have learned, in my years of being their mom and the faith that I have developed on my own.
I was not able to write a birthday post for my eldest this year because I was in transit. I spent some time abroad attending a Best Buddies Leadership Conference. I was also gifted with some time with my family. My siblings and I had not been all together for more than 10 years. I was also able to reconnect with some old friends and sorority sisters on the east coast before coming on Gia’s seventeenth birthday.
Instead of writing a birthday post for her this year, I have asked her if I can share what I wrote for her on the eve of her recollection. She read this palanca letter during her recollection with her classmates and while I haven’t really asked her yet what she thought of the words that I shared, I would hope and pray that there was something in my letter that spoke to her soul.
I share it with all of you here, on the blog, in the hopes that maybe it would resonate with you as well. I don’t think you have to be of any religious denomination for these words to apply in raising your own daughters. I would like to think that if you replaced a few certain words that it could relate to motherhood and the parenting of your daughters who will one day (God willing) become strong independent (maybe even wives and mothers, if that is their path) women who can become role models for other young girls.
I have edited my letter just a bit, so that some things still remain just between Gia and me..
My Dearest Daughter Gia,
My. I can’t believe just how time flies. I write these letters for you every year and still, I’m amazed when the time comes around yet again for me to try and put into words some form of spiritual advice or guidance for my first born child. You are already a young lady standing right before my very eyes.You know that the past few months have been very challenging for me. I know this because you are not just my daughter, you are also my friend. And for this I am thankful. Thank you, my love for being there for me and picking up the slack when I needed your help.I want to share that even though these few months have been challenging, I have been fully aware of just what a blessing you and your siblings have been in my life. Whenever I’m down, I just have to remind myself of just what a gift it is to wake up every morning and to be your mother.You are amazing. Intelligent. Beautiful. Courageous. Endearing. Generous. Forgiving. Understanding. Athletic. Centered. Grounded. Funny. And KIND.While I love all of these characteristics and virtues equally, I do want to focus on a few of them to expound on, so please bear with your mother, if this palanca letter might be a bit longer than usual.Intelligent.You are a straight A student. You always have been. Your studious habits have paid off in more ways than one. The scholarship that you recently secured to go to Indiana and attend the Best Buddies Leadership Conference? Concrete proof of just how intelligent you are! Your grades will surely get you into the school of your choice next year. But here is something that I want to reiterate. I know have said this before. Beauty fades. Brains don’t. Whatever your career path is, make sure you base it on something that you use your brain for. Even more so, you can never go wrong if you use your intelligence to make the world a better place. If you choose a career where you will help people who need it most? You’ll make others feel good and feel good for yourself, in the process.Beautiful.Ok. So I wanted to focus on intelligence first because I always want you to think things through. Approach problems with a critically thinking mind. But I must say something about beauty as well. Yes, you are extremely beautiful and can command the attention of any young fella you come into contact with. I can see how young boys (even some men) look at you, and surely they will agree with me that you are a sight to behold. However, please remember that beauty is skin deep. Your beauty radiates from within and is obvious to anyone who meets you. People want to be near you. They feel good when they are around you. Your inner beauty just adds to your already pleasing physical appearance. Remember, it’s what’s on the inside that counts…Courageous.Now. Courage is something you can dig for, deep within your soul. In your life, there will be times where you might be full of fear. Because of your strength, your faith in God, and your family, I want you to know that you can face whatever will come your way with a bravery that can only empower you each time you tackle a difficult set of circumstances. Just like you did, when you flew all the way to the United States by yourself.Generous.It is my one hope that you have learned by my example on just how important it is to be generous. If you look closely you will see that I am generous with my time, myself, my resources, my love, and my faith. Dad and I were talking about the gospel from last week’s Sunday mass. Last week’s gospel was all about generosity. Love, please remember, you must always be GENEROUS.Forgiving.Ah. Forgiveness. This has been a recurring theme of the year for our family. We have learned how we can forgive one another. I think if I share anything that I have learned about forgiveness, it would be this: If Jesus can forgive. So can you.Grounded.You will experience so many successes in your life my dear. So MANY. I know this to be a truth even before it happens. But here’s the thing about your successes: You will learn that no matter how successful an individual is, their successes do not define them. What defines a person is how true to herself she is, once she experiences that success. Remaining grounded through your success shows true character. How do you remain grounded? By always remembering where you came from. As your mother, it is my job to give you wings to fly and roots to come home. My dad told me many years ago something to this effect as well. He said “You see the same people on the way up, that you do on the way down.” What does this mean? It means that no matter what personal success you achieve in your life, it is all about how you treat others. Treat others with the same respect and dignity that you want to be treated with, and I know you will not go wrong.Funny.
My dear daughter. Life needs laughter. I fell in love with your father when he finally cracked a smile while he was courting me. When we laughed together? When we could be silly? That’s when I knew he was “The One.” Life is too short not to have some fun along the way. In college, my sorority sister named Maddy was the one that taught me I could laugh at myself. Don’t take yourself, (or life) too seriously. Life is too short. Live. Love. Laugh. This is a universal #truth.
Kind.Be kind to yourself most of all. I see how you hard you are on yourself. You have high standards. You expect others to adhere to the same standards. But here’s the thing I have learned as a woman, as a mom, and as a wife: Sometimes, something’s gotta give. You don’t have to do it all. You just have to do your best. And sometimes, if you can’t do your best. THAT’S OK TOO. Be KIND to yourself first and foremost. The second part of this virtue is “Be Kind, for everyone you meet is fighting their own battle.” Remember, you don’t need a reason to be kind to someone. Just be KIND. You learned this with the many random acts of kindness we have offered to others. Right?So, how do I summarize the importance of all of these qualities or characteristics that I want you to continue to develop as you grow into the amazing woman that I know you are going to be? Live your life with Jesus in your heart. If you lead with your heart, I am sure that you will be able to grow in your faith and devotion to Him. If you lead with your heart, you will be loved by all who know you. If you lead with your heart, you will not have to doubt any of the decisions you will make, even when you’re much older, and maybe a momma, yourself, because you will be leading with LOVE.I love you Gia,Mom