My daughter graduates from high school in a few days.
I have been working on a memory scrapbook for her for the last two months. I didn't realize how exhausting and emotional it would be, sorting through 13 years of stuff that I carefully saved.
I have laughed. I have cried. I have marveled at how fast a kindergartner becomes a high school senior.
As I attempted to piece together my daughter's school years, I thought about the threshold she faces, and I wondered what bit of motherly advice I might offer on the eve of such a momentous occasion.
One evening, while browsing through the book, it hit me. There were life lessons right here on the pages of her own scrapbook.
For example, in kindergarten, her teacher wrote a note that began, "Dear Anna, you are a very special girl!"
Lesson 1: Remember how special you are, and don't let anyone convince you otherwise.
In first grade, Anna wrote this note: "I love the sun. I love the stars. I love the moon. I love G-d. I love my mom and dad."
Lesson 2: There may come a day when the sun and stars and moon hide their faces and a day when Mom and Dad are laid to rest. But keep loving G-d and know that G-d's love for you is eternal. It is the one thing you can count on.
The summer Anna turned 8, we vacationed in Tennessee. I have a picture of her and her father at the top of the sky lift in Gatlinburg. Later, she expressed how frightened she was being that far off the ground.
Lesson 3: Some people believe you should live with no fear, but a certain amount of fear is a healthy thing. It even might keep you from an early death.
I pasted in this note that she wrote to her fifth-grade teacher: "Sorry everything was crazy today."
Lesson 4: When someone is going through a difficult time, offering a few sympathetic words can make the craziest of days a little better.
Middle school brought many challenges, not the least being turning 13 and getting braces on her teeth. For her 13th birthday, her grandmother gave her a card bearing this appropriate Bible verse: "Be strong and of a good courage." (Joshua 1:6)
Lesson 5: Some years just stink. You feel awkward. You feel ugly. But remember two things: (1) Stinky years can't last forever, and (2) no matter how stinky the year, G-d will be there with you.
In ninth grade, my daughter brought home a weekly form called a "student progress check." It detailed the student's progress and included personal notes from teachers. The one I chose to display in the scrapbook included this note from her English teacher: "Control talking! All else is good."
Lesson 6: You learn a lot more with your mouth closed.
By her sophomore year, Anna was playing sports. There is a picture of her in her basketball uniform, kneeling beside several team trophies all smiles.
Lesson 7: Savor your winning seasons, but know that seasons of loss come to everyone. And sometimes the only thing that gets us through losing seasons are the sweet memories of victory and a hunger to feel that rush again.
As it is, the scrapbook can't be finished until after graduation, since there will be photos and memorabilia to include. But that brings me to the final scrapbook lesson.
Lesson 8: Whatever tasks you start in the days ahead, do all you can to complete them.
As you can see, those are simple lessons. But I believe that if my daughter applies them to her life, she will be just fine. And that is all any mother wishes for her child.