Dear Alex… A Letter to My Son Before Graduation

Note: I found this letter in an old folder. I wrote it to my son, Alex, 12 years ago when he was preparing for his high school graduation… and a new life away from home. Me? I was preparing for an empty nest and a new life at home, without my only child. It still resonates as truth for me, all these years later. I’m sharing this letter with all of the moms (and dads) who are preparing to see their children go off to college or move away.  I remember it like it was yesterday.

Me and my son Alex...many years ago.

Me and my son Alex…many years ago.

Dear Son,

Your dad and I love you far, far more than what we could ever put into words in any letter. But if we could…if I could, I would say…

I see my window of influence is closing and it will soon be time for you to stand strong and make your own footprints in this world. It seems like we’ve been preparing for this day since you first learned to walk.  I remember the day when you took your first steps–one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve–baby steps, and then you fell into my arms.

And I scooped you up and we laughed and laughed because these were your first steps to independence. It seems we’ve been heading in that direction ever since.

It hasn’t been an easy journey for either of us…but I hope you will one day forgive me for loving you so much that I tried to carry you…even when it was best that you walked by yourself.

And now, as the window is closing, I am fearful for what I have not taught you. There is so much to learn and much to look forward to as you begin life on your own.  I hope I’ve taught you the most important lessons about life…and ethics…and morality–if not through words, through deeds.

Life is a continuous journey uphill and as you wander through the peaks and the hills and the valleys–I hope you discover hobbits and rainbows along the way.

I know you are anxious to go.

But before you set off as a young man with hopes and dreams and passions, I want you to remember that somewhere now, between an adolescent and an adult, beats the strong, steady heart of a beautiful man.

I bet it surprises you that I call you a man. But what is a man?

A man is not defined by how many beers or girlfriends he can hold, nor by his size or weight, or his ability to benchpress 300 pounds or drive a four wheeler or throw a perfect spiral.

Some people are foolish enough to think that a real man is never scared, never afraid.  But a real man is a man who is never afraid to be himself.

Being a man is being brave enough to say I’m sorry or I love you, or I forgive you.

Being a man is having the guts to know and do what is right; being a man is having the guts to not follow the pack; being a man is having the guts to roll up your sleeves and work hard for what you want; being a man is having the guts to be who you are and say what you really think; being a man is having the guts to get up when you’ve been kicked down. And most importantly, being a man is being a good and kind and loving person.

You are a man in more ways than you know, Alex.

God has blessed you with a good mind, good looks and health, and a good heart. So go forward on your journey Alex, and do good.

With all my love,


Empty nest created a profound shift for me, a transition into a new life, a new way of thinking and being. It also created changes of all sorts, some unexpected, but all necessary for me, like my son, to evolve for my next stage of life.  If you’d like to read about navigating the midlife journey with integrity, harmony and grace, please consider my book, Tao Flashes. Or visit me at You may subscribe to my blog at

P.S. If you’re reading this, I’m sending blessings to you during this period of transition or change in your family dynamics. Wishing you the best!

14 thoughts on “Dear Alex… A Letter to My Son Before Graduation

  1. Pingback: A Letter to My Son Before Graduation - Generation Fabulous

    • Thanks Anne. The truth: 11 years after I wrote it, I still cry when I read it. I get it about your son…LOL. I tried to share this letter with Alex recently and he didn’t want to re-read it. They’ll understand when they’re parents one day!

  2. Lisa, this caught my eye because I am thinking of my son who will be graduating from college in ten days – so many important milestones we see in the future and then, in a flash, they recede into the rear view mirror. This was lovely.

    • Thank you so much for your kind comment. I wrote that letter 11 years ago and when I found it, it stirred up a lot of memories. (And tears.) But what I think is lovely is that we moms hold our sons (and daughters) near in our hearts, whether they’re home, or have flown the nest. We just want what’s best for them when they set out on their adventures, don’t we?

  3. Beautiful words, Lisa. I love your advice about how a real man is not afraid to be himself. Alex has a good mom:-)

  4. Lisa, what a beautiful letter! My son, my youngest, won’t be off to college until next year, but I’m already starting to feel like an “empty nester”. As you said in your letter, this process of independence begins long before graduation day. Thanks for a great read, appropriately on Mother’s Day. Hope you have a wonderful Mother’s Day!

  5. Pingback: Best of Boomer Blogs #308 | Tao Flashes

  6. Lisa, thank you for sharing your letter. My son, Alex, graduates this Saturday. He is also my only child. I will tell you that I feel like the wind has been taken out of my sails. I’m really not sure what I’ll do with myself. It’s bittersweet. He’s grown into a beautiful, healthy, strong individual and I know he’ll be fine. It’s def me that has the problem. 😓😓

    • I am sending you a big hug! This is a bittersweet time yet you can take pride in knowing you have raised a beautiful, healthy, strong individual. You will be fine…even with a little ache in your heart. I totally get it. I would offer you this: take all of that love in your heart and share it with others, including yourself. Find chairities that benefit children, sponsor a child, explore a new passion for yourself. I started playing tennis a few years before my son graduated because I knew I was going to have a tough time. It became a passion of mine for the next 10 years. I also wrote a book later in life. Your son will always be a part of you…my Alex lives in a different state and I only see him about three times a year. It is not easy but I talk to him on the phone and pray for him every day. That makes me still feel like a mom. Big hug.

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