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When you were almost two years old, we were driving home from the library and a song that used to be one of your lullabies, the old Irish folk song “Carrickfergus,” was playing in the car. You put your hand to your heart and said “ohhh,” as if it was so beautiful to listen to that it was almost a little painful, which any good song can feel like. You weren’t quite speaking in total full sentences, but you were already super verbal. It was just one of those moments where you didn’t have to be though, because I understood exactly what you meant.

I think about that tiny moment often. As a mom, you remember millions of itty bitty, seemingly inconsequential moments that make you feel grateful to have been there, but this memory always reminds me most about who you are. You feel things deeply, appreciate beauty in the world, marvel at creativity, and know true art is meant to be so evocative that sometimes all you can do is say “ohhh.” The way you looked as a toddler in the rearview mirror to me that day is the same way you looked when we glanced at each other emotionally during the curtain calls when I took you to your first Broadway play, or your face at the end of watching your favorite film, and the way you sometimes look when you’re thinking about that lovely movie score you discovered. Sometimes there are no words, but I know exactly what you’re feeling.

RELATED: To My Middle School Son

The world can be full of unfortunate and frustrating things and people can disappoint. We can disappoint ourselves too, and wallow in our own floundering as we try to navigate our way. Middle school can be the epitome of this. There’s not much beauty and art to be found amongst the awkwardness, ickiness, and confusion that this stage of life brings.

But middle school is over for you now, and I want to tell you there are going to be so many more things in the world that will lead you to feel and appreciate art and beauty the same way you have before. The input of all of it will linger in your brain and heart and inspire and move you again just the way it always has. Don’t let the dissatisfaction of middle school and being a young teen stop you from knowing that there is so much out there that makes you come alive. Don’t forget who you really are. Don’t let others make you feel shame or embarrassment. I know you. I see you. I know what your heart is feeling and what lights it up warmly like fire. Follow those things. Let them make you feel like your heart is going to burst with awe and appreciation. Let them lead you to do the same for others and the universe.

You are going to do great things. You already have. You are going to change the world. You have already changed mine.

RELATED: “Your Son Growing Up Will Feel Like the Slowest Breakup You’ve Ever Known” Aches In Every Mother’s Heart

Follow the art and beauty of all the music, theater, film, stories, comedy, acting, and songwriting that you love so much. Seek out everything in the world that lights that fire. I promise—I promise you that this next chapter in your life will bring the same appreciation and inspiration that you’ve felt in your life before. I know it. I see your heart. I see all the potential you possess. I see your future. I see so many beautiful things. So amazing they will make me put my hand to my heart and say “ohhh” too. I promise you. The world is waiting for everything you have to give to it.


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Debra Caffrey

Debra Caffrey is the mother of one teenage boy and a writer and editor for Fredericksburg Parent and Family magazine in Virginia. Her writing has been recently featured on Moms of Tweens and Teens, and previously, she has published poetry and has had her essays on motherhood featured on bestselling parenting expert Dr. Shefali Tsabary’s website. When she’s not contemplating about parenthood, Debra is usually cooking, reading, exercising, or introverting on her beloved backyard hammock.

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