I used to tuck love notes into her Miss Kitty lunchbox.

I already wrote the “mushy one” that took me 11 attempts and a whole tissue box later to finish. She’ll find that one folded up under her sneakers in the plastic-lined bag in her suitcase.

Today I snuck an unorthodox love letter into the duffel bag that holds all my daughter’s treasured keepsakes. They’ll be accompanying my best girl to that dreaded surrogate home for the next four years: the dorm.

I made it short, knowing she’d skim.

There are way too many worthwhile distractions on a college campus to give a letter from your Mother, center stage, including one named Michael.

Dear Daughter,

I’ll skip all the gushy stuff spilling from my soul because I know I’d feel your eyerolls 300 miles away while you’re reading.

Here are my pearls of wisdom that I hope you’ll carry in your back pocket:

Be the one others count on to come through when they need a listening ear. Let them know they can rely on you when it matters most and that is with matters of the heart.

Write in ink when you’re confident you’re right.

Write in pencil when you’re still gathering your thoughts.

Mostly write in pencil because college is a perfect time to be gathering.

Store arrogance and judgments in a junk drawer.

Prominently display compassion and empathy. Wear them proudly like badges of honor.

Know how much a postage stamp costs. Texts are great, phone calls superior, and FaceTiming a luxury but NOTHING beats a handwritten love letter from your child. Trust me. Do you know why they invented the rubber band? Ask any Mother or Grandmother of grown children and you’ll discover that it exists mainly to bind love letters together for safe keeping.

When you’re stressed, watch the uppermost leaves on a tree swaying with the breeze. The motion is a soothing balm for a restless soul. Do it right before an exam and you’ll probably be able to answer the bonus question with little or no angst.

Schedule an annual pap smear and mammogram. Your health is everything. I will nudge you every time we speak until they’re made so you might as well get it done!

Make everyone’s family feel welcomed when they visit. Graciously volunteer to give up your bed to any one my age or older (don’t be cutesy with the interpretation) and use the air mattress your father wrangled from your brother.

And speaking of your father, remember to call him. Yesterday I overhead him tell your uncle that a piece of his soul has gone missing since you left. Don’t feel guilty because it means he worships and loves you. However, if a little guilt will make you feel obligated to phone, then so be it. Don’t tell him I told you to call. Everything good will come from HIM telling me that you called.

You’ll be home for break in 7 weeks, 5 days and 14 hours.

Do you want waffles or pancakes for breakfast?”

Love you,
Your proud Mama

Lisa Leshaw

Lisa Leshaw has worked as a mental health professional for the past 31 years. She currently conducts Parenting Skills Workshops, Group Counseling for Blended Families and Empowerment Circles for Women. As a consultant, Lisa travels throughout teaching Communication and Listening Skills, Behavioral Management Techniques and Motivational Strategies. To de-stress she performs in children's theatre and plays piano whenever requested. She is hoping to either write the next memorable musical composition or Great American Novel!