The Children Are Watching
Today my oldest daughter, Taylor Kay, turns 21.
It was to her that I wrote the letter that then became the book Do Your Laundry or You’ll Die Alone: Advice Your Mom Would Give If She Thought You Were Listening.
The reason the book exists is not because Taylor is a slob or that she was immature and not ready to leave for college. There’s a bit more to it. The story begins in the foreward of the book:
A year before she graduated high school, when it hit me that my first- born daughter would soon be leaving home for college, I became overwhelmed by a frantic urgency. She wasn’t ready.
She had worked hard to earn grades and SAT scores that put her in the running for the most selective colleges. She knew French fluently. She knew how to handle a basketball and wield a microphone. And she knew how to parallel park. (Finally.) But NOT knowing what she DID NOT know was keeping me up at night.
In one of my Hollywood-lit nightmares, I saw her standing in the middle of a busy street, cars speeding toward her, her high-heel caught in a grate, trying desperately to save the shoe. Did I forget that lesson? “Leave the shoe, honey! Save yourself!”
Even though she still had a few months left at home, I knew it was too late to fill the gaps in my parenting. So did I let her go with my blessing, trusting that she would get her lessons as she needed them?
Not on your life.
I bit my tongue and quietly collected the advice that I thought she should have. When she left for college, I put it all in a good-bye letter and threatened to publish it on her Facebook page.
Though you may think I’ve driven you half-crazy with reminders and lessons this past year, I’ve kept a lot of things to myself. Hush. I have.
Here are a few things that college will not teach you. Some are things I’ve told you a hundred times. Some are things that have never come up. Mostly, they are things that would make you roll your eyes if I said them in person.
So indulge me. I know you don’t need another lecture, honey. But I need to give you one. (There. Right there. I saw that eye roll!)
Love Always, Mom
Attached to that letter were 150 mini essays and tidbits of advice, written with enough snark and entertainment value that I was sure Taylor would read them all.
When she called to thank me for the letter, she said, “Mom, you’re always telling people to let their books out of them. This letter should be a book. You should add your art to it, and you should publish it before Tess graduates from high school.” (She’s always been bossy. #leadershipskills)
Tess graduates this May. So I set my sights on getting the book done in time to give to all her graduating classmates, and in time to hand to Taylor by her 21st birthday. The agents and publishers I tried to win over did not like my timetable, nor the expensive production requirements of my art-filled book. So I formed a publishing company and splashed out of my comfort zone into this fun-filled playground of social media.
Parents do a lot of things just because the children are watching. And parents of adult children know that all kinds of strange twists happen as children come of age. As we seem to lose influence over them, they gain more influence over us.
So it’s hard to say which direction the influence is going with this little advice book. Once Taylor said the words, I knew I would have to make that big letter into a little book. But was it because I have raised someone who knows better than anyone exactly how I am put together and how to influence me? Or is it that I, with my little girl half a continent away, knew that being a good role model was the only parenting influence I had left.
Happy birthday, Taylor Kay. You’re a woman of influence and inspiration.
By Becky Blades