My dearest sons,

Mommy can’t. I love you with everything I am. But I can’t.

I can’t promise you will not be bullied for your looks or interests, or disliked by teachers or periodically misunderstood. But I can promise I will always love you just the way you are. I will always believe you, and I will always strive to make home a place you know your heart is safe.

I can’t promise you will always make As or always understand the material or always succeed at everything you try. But I can promise you that your best is enough, that I will help you with what I can and find others to help with what I can’t. I will never laugh at you when you fail nor say I told you so. I will create as many opportunities as I can for you to grow and develop into the best men you can be.

I can’t promise you will always get the ball. I can’t make every game a win. But I promise to happily play with you as often as possible, to teach you how to be a great sport and how to keep your temper when things don’t go your way. I promise to treat to ice cream win or lose, so you learn the fun is in playing the game.

I can’t promise every girl you fall for will fall for you. I can’t shield you from heartache, nor prevent you from making impulsive hormonal decisions. But I can tell you from experience that true love is worth waiting for, and the right girl will guard your heart like the precious treasure it is.

I can’t promise to always have the answers, to never be wrong and to make the right decision every time. But I can promise to admit I don’t know and help you look, to apologize when I’m wrong and that in every decision I am trying to do what is right by you.

I can’t promise to agree with all your life choices, including, but not limited to, career, house or spouse. But I can promise to support you whatever work you choose, to help you move and to love your future wife like she was always my daughter.

I can’t promise you will not be hated. For your faith. For your sex. For your skin color. I can’t promise people will be willing to listen to your side or be fair in their judgements. But I can promise you will always find love with me, and that I am always here to listen.

I can’t promise the world will get better (I think it’s actually getting worse) or that you won’t have to deal with the problems of the generation before you. But I promise I am trying to make the world a better place for you, and I am trying to give you the tools you need to survive whatever the world throws at you.

And if it overwhelms you, I promise I will always be your place of refuge. My arms will be open and my refrigerator full. I’m your mom. It’s what I do.

Shannon Pannell

Shannon Pannell married her childhood sweetheart 16 years ago, and is a stay-at-home mom to three boys, 10, 8 and 4, plus one daughter in heaven who would have just turned 12. She is currently living in North Mississippi, far away from her beloved Virginia beaches; and, despite a BA in English, has just started writing things for non-family (other people) to read. In her spare time, you can find her reading, binge-watching Numb3rs, and enjoying quiet wherever she can find it.