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A Letter to My Adult Children

A Letter to My Adult Children


To my dear children,

As I sat in synagogue, trying to remember the name of the girl behind me (who went to school with one of you and even was in our carpool many years ago), I was filled with panic when all I could come up with was that it was a double name that started with CH. I began to think about all the things I fear. I think what I fear the most would be losing my memory and not knowing who my husband and children are, or not recognizing my grandchildren. I was filled with dread, imagining a situation where I wouldn’t know who I really was.

I think what I fear the most would be losing my memoryTo me, this would be worse than death. For death is a final ending of life on this earth, and the continuation of the soul’s journey. But being alive and not knowing those who love you and those who you once loved—that was too hard to imagine.

Suddenly her name popped into my head. I smiled with relief—it was just lying there dormant, and needed to come to the surface.

But then I began to wonder: what if this really was the beginning of a mental deterioration that, once started, could only progress? I realized that since we never know what is in store, we must take the time now to say the things we don’t want left unsaid. And so, my dear children,

Know that more than anything else, I wanted to be a mother. The longer I had to wait, the more I knew how important it was to me. When you each were born, I was never happier than being home, playing, cooking, reading, singing or dancing with you. I admit to sometimes suffering from the “what if I worked outside” fantasy, but I always hoped you knew that in my life you all came first. I was proud of the fact that, while we did not always have as much material wealth as we might have had if I had worked outside the home, we were able to get by, and hopefully you were all content with the fact that there was a pervasive sense of peace in our home.

Know that I am proud of each of you. Of your accomplishments and achievements, but more importantly, of who you have become in life. Not what you do, but who you are. Your caring for each other, your sensitivities to those around you, your love and compassion, means that Abba and I succeeded in the lessons we tried to impart.

Know that I realize I made mistakesKnow that I realize I made mistakes. Sometimes I pushed too hard; sometimes I did not push nearly enough. To some of you, I may have seemed distant at times, usually because I was preoccupied with concern for another of your siblings. Sometimes it may have seemed that one or another of you got all the attention, and you were left on your own. Though I do not really think any of you were loved with any less intensity, I imagine you may have felt neglected or unimportant when my attentions seemed focused elsewhere.

Some of you were such “easy” children that it was easy to forget that you, too, needed me to encourage and support your endeavors. When success came easily to you and not your siblings, I thanked G‑d for giving me a little respite, not realizing that perhaps you were hurt at what you might have thought was indifference.

Parenting is the kind of job for which there is no practice (yes, being an older sibling makes you think you know what to do; and babysitting might prepare you for diaper-changing). You give it your best shot, and trust that G‑d will make your children resilient enough that they don’t suffer too much from a parent’s mistakes.

Your father and I have been blessed to see you grow and find your way in life. We have watched some of you stumble, and tried hard to let you trip and fall but still be there to help Band-Aid your cuts, as we did when you were small. The hardest thing for a parent to do is to let go—whether it is taking off the training wheels on your first bike, sending you off to camp, watching you go to Israel, or leading you down to the chuppah, the marriage canopy.

Parenting is the kind of job for which there is no practiceWhen I light candles Friday night, and pray to my Creator to watch over each of you, your spouses and children, I know that in the chain of our tradition I am but a small link. But that link connects me with my mother, and her mother, all the way back to our Matriarch Sarah, and it connects you and your children as it continues through time.

I am sure there is much I have still left unsaid. But if you did not know it before, then I trust you will all know now that you are the greatest gift given to me in this world.

Ema (Mommy)

Susan Schwartz is a wife, mother and grandmother. She is president of Davka Corporation and lives in Chicago.
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Discussion (17)
October 22, 2015
Susan, you don't know me, but I am 61 years old and I've been successful in life. I've been a musician the majority of my life and work my way through college playing in bands. Still to this day I am basically the only musician that I know that is into songwriting. By far, the other musicians are still playing in bands the copy other people songs. Sometime ago I began to write original songs. Most of them for my grandchildren. Tonight I decided to write a song for all of my five children together. I read your writings to see if I could find something that you've written that would help me complete the song. I would you feel about me sharing with the songs that I have written for my grandchildren and just the lyrics that I have started to employ you to write for my five children? It's all really about the fun and songwriting. I don't intend to publish these songs or make any money off them. It's just important to me to leave it as a legacy for my family.
October 26, 2014
Poem for an adult son
Once upon a time you needed my tight hugs and kisses
and your eyes would shine with love upon my tired face
and that sweet love filled my heart to overflowing
and it was more than enough
Once upon a time everything I had to give was received
and your sweet smiles were why I was alive
My son, precious little one, where have you gone?
Once upon a time I was a magician! I could make anything better!
My kisses and close hugs and words ...
were treasures, not misunderstood and were more than enough
Now words are perceived as weapons, challenged, laughed at...
hugs are awkward, (now you are 10" taller than me)
and kisses are an embarrassment
My son, precious one, where have you gone?
why is my love not enough?
Bereft on so many levels, its so hard for mum
to be here, when you are there
I haven't changed, I'm still here, still missing you
and looking for a way, to be at least 'just enough'
Teach me the ways of an adult son
show me the way back to your heart
I love and miss you so much!
May 31, 2014
Children are a gift but also a responsibility; if your parents are estranged how can you feel confident in your position as a grandparent. This is true even if you are available and willing to help as best you can, albeit you are not able to help financially except on a day to day basis.
August 6, 2013
Lovely have expressed what so many of us feel....our children are a gift...
July 28, 2013
Thank you fellow mommy
Dear Susan,
My son has been away from us for the last 2 years and being a working adult now, in another continent at that, will probably spend many of his birthdays away, hopefully with other loving friends. I write to him and you have echoed so many of my sentiments. THANK YOU for this wonderful articulation.
May 16, 2012
A Letter to my Adult Children
Thank you for articulating the deepest and most heartfelt feelings of so many mothers. Paragraph 5 brought me to tears..."I was never happier..."
September 8, 2011
Letter to my Adult children
I am a 64 year old Dad who truly relates to what Susan has written.
I can only pray that we enjoy the joy of being the parents of and relateing to such wonderful family a while longer.
You have motivated me to write a similar letter to my kids.
Thank you
Happy New Year
Calabasas, Ca
September 7, 2011
Zebora Blanks
Leland, nc
September 4, 2011
To Anonymous, ny, ny
How arrogant of you! Do you truly believe that only Jewish mothers who married Jewish men are able to relate to the feelings beautifully expressed in Susan's letter?
You are an embarrassment to me and our Jewish sisters.
Reston, VA
September 2, 2011
Letter to my Adult Children by Susan Schwartz
Your letters brought tears to my eyes. It was so full of so much I can relate to since I, too, am a grandmother. And being in my early 80's, I have experienced many good and bad things as the years have passed.
Thank you for your wonderful letter!!
Rhoda Cooper
Lakewood, NJ