As I watch my sweet, almost-grown babies, I can see my time with them growing shorter. I have so much left to say, but there are just a few things I think they need to hear as they take those first tentative steps into adulthood. The end of high school is a whole thing, my friends, and our voices are still important in the middle of the madness.

They need us to understand they are on the edge of young adulthood and all that is safe and familiar from their childhood is now stretching behind them. And when they look ahead, I’m pretty sure they see nothing but a million questions marks.

On any given day, these question marks stand for fabulous possibilities or terrifying unknowns, depending on what is happening in their world.

When these questions seem to be too much, here is what we need to say to our kids:

Life is Not a Race.
I swear on a million stack of Bibles it isn’t, although the world of high school seems to do every single thing it can to make you believe it is. They number you and score you and try to line you up on a path that seems able to only hold so many people. You might constantly feel like you are not keeping up or that you are one mistake away from being pushed off the path altogether.

These are all lies, I promise you.

Because you are not a number or a score, and there are about a million paths leading to any given destination. And actually, life isn’t about getting somewhere anyway, so you can just focus on enjoying each day no matter where you are on the path. Someday, you will realize you never actually find you have arrived; we all just keep on traveling, so often to places we never dreamed we’d go.

So, take your time and ignore the numbers anyone tries to stick on you. Instead, walk beside your friends and find a way to help them on their way. Spread kindness all around whatever path you are on. Have fun. Laugh as much as possible. Sit down on the side of the road and spend whole days not even worrying that you aren’t moving at all. Love your people and love yourself.

There is no need to run faster or get there first, my dear child; you can’t be left out of what God has planned for you. It’ll be there for those who arrive first or 101st. But He really can’t wait to hear what you did along the way. Make that count.

Keep Your Eyes on Your Own Paper.  
When things feel like a race, you will be tempted to pay attention to where others are on the path. You will feel like you need to measure your journey based on other people. Never do this.

When we live our lives comparing ourselves to someone else, we can’t possibly make our best choices. And trust me, you can’t make a choice about the college you will attend or the career you will have based on someone being impressed when they hear about it. That is a recipe for being miserable.

Plus, no one might tell you this, but actual grown ups never talk about their GPA, ACT score or where they went to college. Seriously, no one will care about any of this the second you graduate. So you can let go of this fake competition right now . . . you’re welcome.

The only way to fully live is to keep your eyes on your own paper. Do your own best job. You are in the world because God thought the world needed exactly you. So be who He created you to be without apologies. Find a way to share your gifts with the world while appreciating, not competing. You are so much more than enough just as you are.

Embrace Failure.
All the best learning in life comes from the struggles. Of course, no humans love this truth. We want all the wisdom without any of the pain.

But it’s in the low times that we can really be open enough to learn. Your failures won’t be your most fun times, but know when you look back over them, they might end up being the times you are the most proud of. Because in the space after a failure you will have a choice: you can get up and keep going or you can lie down in that failure and refuse to move forward.

The second choice will be tempting, sweet one. So tempting.

But I know you, and you are made for this world. Your gifts are abundant and wonderful. You are made to get back up.

And so you will. And in getting up, you will learn failure doesn’t kill you. It might bruise your pride, but those bruises make us humble. They make us more gentle with ourselves and with others. And they teach us to lean on God when we can’t do it alone. 

You Always Belong in Our Home.  
Please know, even though we will miss you beyond words, we are so excited for you to begin this next chapter. We can’t wait for you to try your wings.

But also know, wherever we are will always be your home. We will forever be happy to see you and are just waiting to hear about all you are doing out in the world. And when that world feels like too much, there is a place here that can be filled by only you—never be afraid to come fill it. And even if your bedroom is someday my yoga studio, we will always have a place for your to lay your head.

It might seem life is taking you away from all you know and love so much faster than you ever thought it would. I know we feel that way. But you’ve got this my sweet, almost grown up baby. We can’t wait to watch you fly.

Amy Betters-Midtvedt

Amy Betters-Midtvedt is a writer, educator, mom of 5 crazy kids, wife to a patient husband, and lover of Jesus. She writes along with her friend and former teaching partner Erin over at Hiding in the Closet With Coffee. Our mission is to help parents find sanity and joy, and we know sometimes joy is found hiding out in the closet with coffee, or hiding out on Facebook — come and join us both! You can read more about us here. You can also find us hiding out over at InstagramPinterest, and Twitter.