to my graduate

My third son, fresh from his high school graduation ceremony, spent last week on a South Carolina beach with parent chaperones and other graduates from our Classical Conversations program. We parents secretly sent letters addressed to our seniors, to be read as their individual memory lanterns were lit and released one evening over the Atlantic.

Words tumbled around in my head until I knew I couldn’t write them all down the night before the trip. Also, I didn’t want the other kids rolling their eyes mumbling, “Mrs. Camp got a little carried away, didn’t she?”

So I’ll write them here (and maybe cry a little more).


We’re so happy you got a senior trip to the beach—well deserved after four years of Challenge classes! These are special kids you’ve spent the week with—your very own senior class; don’t neglect these friendships in the years to come.

You’re navigating the teen years with a remarkable amount of grace. You’re my right hand man—some days my link to sanity!—and I don’t know what I’d do without you. You’re mature and responsible beyond your years, and we can count on you to do the right thing and take care of the people around you.

You’re funny and sweet and make people happy. You’re a battery charger.

As the wise congressman who spoke at graduation said, now may be the last time you think you’ve got life all figured out. I know I don’t. But because I actually think you’ll listen, here are those words I wanted to speak to you:

Time Passes Slower Than You Think

When you’re 18, it’s easy to think you’ve reached The Future, that big unknown looming beyond graduation. It lasts longer than you think. When I graduated college with a husband and a child, just after my twenty fourth birthday, I thought I was so old. Listen: twenty four isn’t old. Thirty four isn’t old. Forty four isn’t either.

I still make plans and dream big.

Don’t rush things and make bad decisions. You’ve got lots of time.

Time Passes Faster Than You Think

Yeah, I know what I just said.

School is often an exception. If you don’t jump in and stick to it, you might not finish. Life and responsibility change the best of plans. Some people go back and get a degree later—your grandpa did it and I would love to take classes again someday—but you can’t base your future on the education you hope to get someday.

Character Counts

You’ll make mistakes—we all do—but I’d rather you be unpopular for following God’s standards than liked for following the world’s.

Life Isn’t Always Pretty, but There’s Beauty in It

If I could, I would physically shield you from harm and heartache. Bad things happen to good people: unexpected job loss; miscarriage; the deaths of friends and family.

No matter how cliché it sounds, the silver linings are usually there. Look for them. 

Faith grows in hard places.

We didn’t prophesy when we named you, like Hannah dedicating Samuel, but my mother’s heart believes your name consciously shapes you. I love you more than you’ll understand until you have a child of your own. You make me proud.






My three oldest boys, so beautiful it hurts:


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