Dear Jackson: A Letter to My Charge on the Eve of My Leave

by elizabeth conner

Dear Jackson,

As I sit down tonight packing my bags to move across the country, you are packing your bags to start middle school; I can’t help but think of the first night we met. Your parents were taking a much deserved date night, your brothers were both in bed, and you, my little man, were screaming your lungs out with the new nanny who was trying to put you to sleep. As I stumbled into your room I couldn’t turn on your lamp; your family just moved in and must have forgotten to put a new light bulb in it. On top of that, in the dark I couldn’t figure out the dang sound machine that was the trick to calming you down. So with no other hope I staggered to the rocking chair. As we rocked you calmed down and eventually fell asleep. With you lying so sweetly in my arms, not knowing that one night would turn into 11 years, I began to pray for you and the man you would one day grow up to be.

Now as life and circumstance is about to put a whole country between us, I want to share some final words to carry you into the next season of your life.

Jackson, always remember who you are: As you enter middle school and then high school you will grow from a boy into a man. Your peers, educators, co-workers, team mates, and pretty much everyone else you meet will try to tell you who you are and who you need to be. Remember your roots, remember your faith, and remember your morals. Don’t give into peer pressure; stay the fun-loving, joy-filled person you are. Grow into who you are, not into who people think you should be.

Remember your parents are on your side: Having known your parents for over 12 years, and half of them as a teenager, I can honestly say you have some of the most down to earth, realistic, and caring parents out there. They are understanding and truly want what is best for you. Don’t lie to them, don’t break curfew, and please don’t ever think you can outsmart them. Your dad is one of the best tech geeks out there and your mom a social butterfly – between those two ends, any deception doesn’t stand a chance. Be open and honest with them and you will have the best allies you can imagine in your parents.

Forgive and move on: Nothing that happens to you in the next 7 years is worth staying mad for. No matter what someone says to you or about you – it is not worth years of anger. You will have to live with your schoolmates for the better part of your foreseeable future so it is not worth holding grudges. Be the bigger man: forgive and move on. The hate you could hold onto will harm more than help. Forgiveness is freeing. In the end if you don’t forgive, you are the only one losing out as I guarantee you the other person has no idea they hurt you that much.

You don’t have to be friends with everyone but be kind to them all: You will meet people in life that you don’t like, that you loath, and that you just don’t click with. You will meet people that you genuinely like and then those few rare friendships that will last a life time. So whether you meet your best friend or your worst enemy, be kind! You don’t know their story, you don’t know where they came from, and you don’t know what their parents or nannies have taught (or not taught) them. Their home lives could suck - they might not have food at home, clothes that fit, or anyone that loves them. They might not even have a place to call home. Whatever it is, remember how well you have it in life. You have parents that love and adore you, two big brothers who will always have your back, and more food, toys, clothes, games, and electronics than some people will see in a life time. You are incredibly blessed – being kind to others is a small way to share your blessing.

Finally Jack, love with all you have! Tennyson said it best in saying “’Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all”.  The “selfless, lasting, always forgiving, best friend, I got your back” kind of love. Some of the best love I have ever experienced was from a sweet little boy who just wanted to be near me. That little boy was you, Jackson. After going through one of the most painful experiences of my life, you wrapped your little hands around mine and told me it would be okay. When I needed a hug you were always right there without being asked. And the laughter you have brought into my life – my little man, I swear I have spilled more tears laughing with you than crying over a broken heart. The love you have to offer others is pure and sweet, it comes in all shapes and sizes. Love others - your parents, your friends, your brothers, your teachers, the kid that no one likes, and someday down the road that special girl that walks into your life. Love with all you have!

Jackson, as we laugh together tomorrow for one last time know that it won’t be my last day with you because you are a memory in my life. You, my little man, have a piece of my heart that will always belong to you. The night your parents asked me to be your nanny none of us could have known that we could become so much more. You aren’t just the little boy who I took care of through the years – you have become the little brother I never had.

I will miss you and love you,

Yours Always,

Elizabeth