A Love Letter to My Children

The Good Life: A Year of Thoughtful Seasons by Sarah Mattison Buhl

A Love Letter

My daughter is curious about love. She is ten going on 25, and wants my dirt. “Who was your first kiss?” Tim Rikkers. “Were you in love with someone in high school?” Yes. “Did you ever curl up and cry really hard over someone?” Gulp. The last response gets stuck in my throat like a long-forgotten bone. Yes, I answer honestly, wanting her to know the truth about me and inevitably, herself. I explain that it was a really long time ago, and that the morning he left, I felt as though my heart walked away from my body. “Did you tell your mom?” No, I admitted, I hadn’t. My mom wasn’t the touchy-feely type, and had little time for foolishness. But if someone could have told me a few things about love ahead of time, I would have listened hard. There are lots of articles on the general topic, but most are written with the finger pointing squarely at the other person, and what they are sorely lacking. They have titles like, “11 Signs you are Dating A Boy, Not a Man,” and “30 Signs you are Dating a Jerk.” But everyone knows, or has at least heard, that you can’t change people, you can only change yourself. So assuming that my young adult children will not associate with complete sociopaths, there are some things I want them to know before I miss the opportunity. A “love letter” to them would read something like this:

Dear Sammo, Looie, and Monkey,

Valentine’s Day is approaching and I usually try to write each of you a love letter. This year, you are all getting the same letter—this one. I want to tell you some things I’ve learned about love along the way–things most teenagers and 20-somethings don’t know. There are so many things to say, that I regret that I may not get to them all during my lifetime. But this is a start to what I hope is something we will talk about a whole lot in the future.

Before you begin to date, please develop a sense of self that is more valuable to you than your physical self. You are incredibly beautiful. Cultivate your soul in such a way that it is more beautiful than your body. Your 40-year-old self will thank you. When you fall for someone, you will fall hard, and your desire for them will make you wander into heavy traffic without looking. It is the most intense thirst you will EVER know. This is the good stuff. Savor every minute. Enjoy it fully, completely, and without reservation. Knowing that you are entrusting someone with your sacred heart for a time, choose only to share yourself with kind, happy people. Avoid committing to anyone who is dominated by insecurity. They will leave you feeling trapped and exhausted. You will learn a lot on these journeys to come; a lot about yourself. You will learn to compromise and set boundaries. You will learn that everyone has something to teach. Pay attention. You will learn the most when things are not going well.

Love is sometimes painful, but only for a time. When your feelings for someone grow beyond breath-stopping passion and evolve into love, know there are painful moments ahead. There are subtle disappointments and eye-opening setbacks. Love can endure it all if you choose. The pain moves, changes, and ultimately passes. However, a relationship rooted in an endless cycle of pain is not okay for you, or for anyone. When there is pain, and even when there isn’t, treat your partner with compassion. This is a human being with his or her own hopes, dreams, and fears. Remember they have entrusted you with their own sacred heart. Try to think of your relationship as a puzzle with three pieces. There is your lover, you, and the essence of the partnership–the third “piece”. The third piece defines the relationship. You will recognize it when you go from being alone to being in the presence of your mate. How does it feel? When you know it doesn’t feel right, don’t play games. Speak your truth, and be prepared to walk away. At this point it will help to have a really awesome friend to hide your phone from you. When you know better, you’ll make better choices. Forgive yourself. Forgive your partner if you need to. Smart people change their minds.

I want you all to live passionate, interesting lives meeting extraordinary people. Greet the day with open arms, study abroad, have a French lover, stay awake with that person until the first bird sings. When your heart is broken, know without a doubt that you WILL feel better again. You are wonderful, unique and deeply loved.


Sarah Mattison Buhl

As a mother of three, Sarah appreciates the extraordinary beauty of the ordinary. She makes her home with her family in Northampton, MA.

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