“What if I die before they grow?” This question has haunted me every day since I became a mother at 18. Although I didn’t know what I was doing then, and sometimes still don’t (let’s face it, this momming thing is tough), I still knew they needed me. Back then, I used to fret over who would feed them and where they would live, but through the years, the worries have shifted to who will teach them the good stuff and listen to their fears. Their dads will teach them the daddy stuff, but mommies have that soft touch and gentle way of making everything better. So for the last 15 years I have subtly brainwashed my mom (I know she knows but she’d never say it) with my parenting anecdotes and a list of must-dos so that if I go before they grow, at least they will have her to give them what I can’t.

So, Mom, if I go before they grow . . . 

Make sure they remember how to pray. Not the scripted prayers they have recited for years, but the real conversations with God. Remind them that although it may feel silly to speak to the air, He hears their cries, tears, and excitement and is there for them. Urge them to keep this relationship strong as it is the most important one they will have. Encourage them by ensuring they know that the closer they are to God, the closer they’ll be to me.

Make sure they remember to eat their vegetables (preferably the organic kind). I know they only do it now because I force them and oftentimes hide it in their meals so they don’t realize they’re eating it, but they’ll need those nutrients later.

Make sure they remember to not work too hard and to choose a profession they have passion for. They won’t realize until it’s too late that being married to your job causes your marriage to suffer, and they’ll miss out on loving life by filling their lives with work they hate. Remind them they spend more time there than they do at home, so be sure it means something.

Make sure they remember family comes first. Life becomes this priority that oftentimes builds a wall between the people you love most. Even when you can’t stand them and they irritate you to no end, they are your blood and you will undoubtedly miss them when they’re gone.

Make sure they remember to be kind always and use their manners. Mean is the way of the world these days. We pull out our cell phones to record fights instead of breaking them up and like videos of people being ugly instead of projecting beauty into our world. Kind people with manners may seem to lose, but they win with God. Every. Time.

Make sure they remember integrity and to keep their word. Even when they don’t want to or the mood that they made the promise in has left, hold them to their word. At the end of the day, what they do behind closed doors and their ability to follow through become the foundation of their character.

Make sure they remember drugs are always bad, and alcohol is only good in moderation after you’re 21. But just in case they forget, here’s the best hangover remedy: two Advil and a bottle of Gatorade BEFORE bed. Only share that once so that if they forget they will experience the worst headache of their life. That should be enough to prove my point.

Make sure they remember that sex creates a soul tie that is impossible to cut and that babies are cute but A LOT of responsibility. They won’t always keep this with them in the heat of the moment, but they will deal with the aftermath of those soul ties forever. The pain will be unbearable, but it will teach them. Have them babysit a newborn. Even sex won’t allow them to forget the deafening sounds of newborn cries.

Make sure they remember choosing a life partner is one of the most significant choices they’ll make. Marriage is hard but worth it. Remind them that settling inevitably will end in divorce. Being picky now creates a more favorable outcome.

Make sure they remember to soak in every second of their wedding day. Alcohol isn’t worth missing the memories. It will go by in a flash, and pictures can only capture so many memories. Allow your first sight of your partner at the end of that aisle to be burned into your soul. Remember that feeling when you argue. It will prevent diarrhea of the mouth.

Make sure they remember old people are the fountain of knowledge. Encourage them to put down their technology and listen to free wisdom. It’s better than any book they will ever read.

Make sure they save their money and their memories. One to create the memories and the other to keep them sane when the money isn’t as abundant.

Make sure they remember the first impression is important but their character is everything. Who they are and Whose they are will drive their actions. Other people can’t help but to see that.

Make sure they remember that appearance fades, but character will never change. Not only should they be cognizant of how that applies to them, but remind them of that when picking a mate, their circle, and their career. Looks will not last. That’s certain. But basic morals and values don’t change.

And lastly, make sure they remember me. All of me. My mistakes and how I learned from them. The way that I remained resilient no matter what. But most importantly, the way they made me the best me.

When I go, make sure they know I loathed the day I had to leave them, but I will always be with them. And above all else, emphasize that they never needed me, because I was only borrowing them from God for a short time. Although I’m gone, He’s still there and always will be to make sure they grow.

Thanks Mom! And if you go before they grow, I’ll make sure they know all of these lessons I learned from you.

Originally published on the author’s blog

Karey Warriner

A mother, teach, and author, I write to heal and to bring others to healing. My ministry, Single Plus Two, is an avenue for single mothers to connect, breathe, and find their way.