A letter to parents of teens (or those just prematurely stressing)


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Dear Parents,

10 years ago, back in 2006, I was teaching Grade 4 at a lovely primary school in Bayside, Melbourne. My class, 4D, were a fantastic group of kids – vastly different in their personalities and interests, but, like all kids, completely fabulous in their own ways.

During the year, I planned a long-term activity with them: we would all write letters to our future-selves; letters outlining our plans, our wishes and dreams and our current hobbies and interests. We would then seal the envelopes and I would put the letters aside for ten years, to be opened in 2016, when my little 9 and 10 year olds were driving cars and starting their careers.

I have kept that box of letters in amongst my sheets and towels ever since. Over the years, some of the students have messaged me, asking about their letters: When did we say we would open them? Are we still going to? Do I remember who they are? I would always reassure them that I was on top of it; don’t worry, this will happen.

As you are hopefully very aware: it is now 2016. A couple of months ago I set a date, booked a venue and sent word out to as many of my ex-students as I could find, which, thanks to the power of Facebook, turned out to be all of them!

Last week, we all got together again.

I have to admit I was pretty nervous. I hadn’t seen these people for 10 years! They were children when we knew each other. I am 20 years older than them! Would we have anything to say to each other? Would they think I was embarrassing? Would it just be awkward?

So there I was, sitting at the venue, enlarged 2006 class photo behind me, my husband beside me, waiting to see just what had become of my sweet little ten year olds, and then they started drifting in, every one completely recognisable.

Before I knew it the room was filled by this group I had spent so much time with 10 years ago and it didn’t really seem as though a day had gone by. Aside from the fact they all now tower over me (how did those kids get so tall??) they were still the same, sweet, gorgeous people they were in Grade 4.

Some are at university, trying to find the right direction for their lives; some are confident they have found the right direction and are studying towards degrees or diplomas. Some are working in their chosen careers others are working at what works right now. Many have travelled and have plans to keep travelling and all are delightful!

They were full of stories about our Grade 4 year together. They remembered books I had read them, games and activities we had done together, words I had said to them. They shared memories of moments that helped shape them as people. One brought me flowers, another brought me Champagne and words on a card that made me cry happy tears. They were all stunningly confident, as only the young can be, but without a hint of arrogance. They were honest. They were kind. They were all a credit to their parents and the evening was one of the very best of my whole life.

Towards the end of the night, I called the roll – the way I did twice a day all those years ago. Some managed to call me ‘Lisa’, many stuck to ‘Miss Donald’, and then I handed them their letters. The contents of those letters was not mine to know (although some did share), but watching them open them, read them, laugh, cover their faces in embarrassment, grin from ear to ear, I was struck by just what a magical moment we were all sharing and I was blown away by how like their ten-year-old selves they all are.

I am sure that pretty much every young adult in that room has, at one time or another, given their parents reason for concern. I am sure there have been sleepless nights filled with worry, curfews not met, questions about substances consumed, homework fought and homework not done, subject choices stressed about, career path decisions fraught over and general teen/parent angst, but I didn’t see any of that. I knew them before any of that kicked in, I skipped 10 years and met them again as young adults and my message to those of you in the thick of the teen years, or fast approaching them is this: It will all be okay.

They will grow up, they will grow through the dramas and they will always, at heart be exactly who they were when they still believed in Santa.

Ten years ago, this group of children made my days fun and insanely fulfilling and last Thursday night they took me right back to that time. All still vastly different and all still wonderfully awesome!

They are matured, much taller versions of their sweet selves and despite the headaches I’m sure they have given their parents, they are truly good humans.

As a parent of a 5 year old and a 7 year old I take enormous comfort in seeing 4D 2006 all grown up. Though the “I love you Mummy and I want to be with you forever”s may turn into closed (or slammed) doors and grunts for a few years, my children will always be my babies, true to themselves in nature and kind to all at heart. Just like my 4D children.

It will all be okay.


Miss Donald

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