Advice She Will Probably Never Hear



It’s almost time. At 7:25 AM Monday, Hannah is a senior in high school. The same Hannah that was born to a freaked out mother who didn’t think she could raise a child. 

Oh. My. God.


If she does graduate from high school, does that mean I could raise a child?


There hasn’t been enough time to do everything I was supposed to do. I’ve done too much for her, just as I’ve done too little.


The doubt that I have not done enough to prepare her for survival is crippling. There isn’t enough time left to change what I missed. She is who she is at this point and if she fails it is on my head. Does her father share some responsibility here? Does half the making and raising of a child also count for half of the failure/success ratio? And what is success for a child? Staying alive? Or does it go deeper? Into thriving?Alive at the end of the day has always been my bottom line. May be time to raise that thing.


My heart is absolutely broken that I have only one more year to see her sleepy face in the morning. Only one more year to imagine that our relationship will go on forever. Only one more year to teach her to how to put a glass in the dishwasher and place shoes somewhere other than the center of the family room. Honestly, I have done enough on that end. I don’t understand how putting any thing in a different place from where you happen to be standing is still impossible after 17 years of demanding it be so.


How is this child remotely ready to enter the world? The real world. The real, wild, terrifying, beguiling world. The truth is, she’s ready and thriving and fabulous. Even though…


She can rarely find something to wear, under or over, clean or gently used, in the one room she has charge of, her bedroom, or as I call it, the apocalyptic glimpse. How will anyone who is not her mother live with her? I vaguely remember my mother saying that same thing when I got married…


I failed her in underwear location. I can rarely find anything I need either.


There are perhaps more important things to be taught.  I wonder if I will ever say or do what is inherently vital. Can she survive on what she’s yet to learn in half days of high school, afternoons on the couch and evenings selling clothes at the mall? Well, I survived doing almost exactly that. Just not the survival I envisioned in the childhood days spent daydreaming. Or the life I envisioned for her after she smiled at me for the first time.


If I was really, really brave and probably really, really stupid I would say:


“Beware the world outside of your apocalypse bedroom! Good exists beyond our doorstep, but so much good is missed if you spend too much time trying to find your underwear. You have to appreciate and take care of all that you have been given in order to be happy, and to move toward the life you are dreaming of now. And to stop your mother from aging any faster. 

Know how you feel about important stuff – and little stuff – and what is the bottom line for you – and then be strong enough to say it out loud to anyone. Even boys.

As beautiful and as useful as it is, you cannot get by on your smile. 

Drive carefully (never go onto a freeway or drive faster than 25, or 10 if children are present). 

Work harder than you play. 

Pray more than you idly wish. Then listen for the answers. Say the name of Jesus only in love.

Leave your world (room) better than you found it.

Keep saying “Goodness gracious” when you’re surprised.

Invest in something with your money that brings more money back. And invest money in your training of whatever career you finally land on. But, try not to get so caught up in just making rent that you ignore your dreams. I did this and still regret it, and my mother warned me about it too. 

If I had any money left – I would invest it all in you and your sister. I think you two are the best things that ever happened to me. Well, and your Dad. He’s very cool.

Healthy competition is good. Set a goal and think about it fervently, because Talia is right on your heels and she has something to prove.

If you get to play Cinderella at Disneyland, cherish every moment. This has been your dream ever since the first boy you loved didn’t slide a glass slipper on your foot. I think you were three years old.

I hope you don’t grow up and move away. 

I hope you do grow up and move away and talk fondly of your apocalyptic bedroom and the childhood you survived.”


7:25 Monday will be the beginning of life moving on for me and the beginning of the end of childhood for her.

But, beginnings are always exciting. And some things remain the same…I am still that freaked out mother who didn’t think she could raise a child.And just look at her. She’s thriving.


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Karen BurnsTom HarnishKarenJan ShawDavid Hock Recent comment authors

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David Hock
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Karen, you don't have just one more year…maybe just to see her sleepy face, but for everything else you still have time…how is Hannah ready for the world? Because you and Keith made her ready…never forget that. And when she walks out that door in a year just know that you'll still be telling her to get her shoes off the floor and where to find her underwear, it will just be with skype video. Take it from one who knows, and from one who so many thought would never survive the separation, what you will have given her for… Read more »

Jan Shaw
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Very well said, Karen! 🙂

Karen
Guest

David!!! Thank you. I feel better.

Karen
Guest

Thank you Jan!!

Tom Harnish
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It scares hell out of me when I'm reminded that they learn just about everything important in their first six years or so. Scares me because, as a Navy guy, I wasn't there much then. And almost not at all after that. Nevertheless, I couldn't be prouder of what both my kids have become. In a weak moment, I remember those first six years and feel like I deserve some credit. But, as it will be with your kids, the real credit is theirs. They decide who they want to be, what they want to do, what part of the… Read more »

Karen Burns
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Thank you for saying something Tom. The images are my daughter Hannah. I thought it was interesting that the photographer chose a train park at this particular juncture in her life.

It would have been so very hard to have missed any year of my kids life. I think I'm lucky to have been around, but you're absolutely right – the credit is hers.

There is so much power in pride for our children. It would be good to hang on to that.