Dear Ian……Love, Mom

After Ian was born, I started keeping a notebook for him.  It’s one of those black and white composition books–you know the kind.



I just wrote various things to him as they crossed my mind. I put current events in there and give him my thoughts, like the entries on 9/11 and the Oklahoma City bombing.  The idea was that when he grew up, he could have it and read it, maybe even after I was gone. (You know, like to Florida or something.)  I had a similar book for Matt that I wrote after we got engaged.  I gave it to him as a wedding gift.  I also have one for Evelyn, but I’m pretty sure she’ll never read it, so it’s a lot more like a journal. 

Anyway, I was reading through Ian’s book, and for whatever reason, I decided to share one of the entires (letters, whatever.)

February 10, 2006

Dear Ian,

I was thinking about something last night when I was supposed to be sleeping.

Words hurt.

When you’re six, it’s different.  You say things and people might get mad at you or you might get in trouble.  But all in all, people tend to forget the mean things little kids say. 

But I want you to remember something–there will come a time when you will have to be accountable not only for the things you do, but for the things you say.  In a book by Stephen King called The Green Mile, he says “A man’s mouth can get him more trouble than his pecker ever could, most of the time.” That’s not trouble at school like getting your card flipped, but trouble like saying something that you can never take back.

Once that cruel word comes out of your mouth, it’s out forever.  You can’t “unsay” anything.  Hurtful words make a brand on a person’s insides, and even if you are forgiven, even if they forget, you need to remember that the brand remains.  They will always wonder why you said it–you must have had that thought in your head all along.  It’s okay to say, “That makes me mad,” or “I don’t like that,” or “You did something I don’t like.”  It’s never okay to say “You’re ugly,” or “stupid” or “You always do this” or “You never do that.”

These things don’t just apply to your friends and loved ones.  There might be a kid at school that everyone picks on.  You might find yourself in a situation where you could pick on that person, too.  You should imagine yourself as that person, and feel those words from the inside.  You can’t imagine how badly they can hurt–and who wants to look back and see they had such a negative impact on someone else’s life?  How sad to think that what you left behind in another person’s mind is hurt.

One last thing–back at the beginning of January, thirteen coal miners got trapped in a mine.  Twelve of them died because they ran out of breathable air.  As they sat and waited for rescue or death, they wrote notes to their families in case it wasn’t the rescuers who arrived first.

It wasn’t.

Twelve of the thirteen died waiting.  What must that be like? To sit and write out all of the things you want to say to your loved ones before the end of your life, and wish so much that you had said them in person.

Some of us say things that we would never want to be the last thing we said to someone, but there’s no guarantee that it won’t be.  If there’s one thing your mother has learned over the years, it’s that, in this life, there are no guarantees.  Remember that.

I love you,


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One Comment on "Dear Ian……Love, Mom"

  1. Rachel
    29/10/2011 at 2:26 am Permalink

    Thank you for sharing your mothering – it’s not only touching, but also excellent advice. I tell my children the same thing and try to encourage empathy whenever I can. It’s easy with my son because he is naturally sensitive to other people’s feelings. It’s harder with the girls. I’m not suggesting girls in general are less empathetic, just that mine seem to be when compared with their brother.

    Because my son is so sensitive, I also tell him that sometimes people say things they don’t really mean because they are angry and want to lash out, like a frightened animal. Sometimes the anger doesn’t even have anything to do with the person on the receiving end of it.

    In other words, not only do you have to take into consideration how your words can damage another person, you also have to take into consideration the intent behind someone else’s hurtful words towards you. When you do this, you realize you don’t have to be damaged by the negative things people tend to say.

    Understanding the motives behind another person’s emotions and behaviors helps to establish emotional resiliency, although I think they say there is a genetic component to this. Still, as parents, even with children who aren’t naturally resilient, we can nurture emotional resilience in how we teach them to deal with conflict and hurt.

    And that’s my comment ramble for tonight. *wink*

    Beautiful thoughts!

    Rachel 🙂

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