In 2003, Skye Gould was in 6th grade at North Middle School in Lima, OH. Her mum, Stephanie Skylar, was a working mum; at the time she was the Executive VP and Director of Marketing of Chief Super Market Inc., a grocery store chain in Ohio.
Gould, eleven at the time, was at the age where kids start to be hyper-aware of their parents involvement, whether it’s making special snacks for the class or being appointed a “homeroom mum.”
Because Skylar worked full-time, she felt that she might be letting Gould down; that she couldn’t do everything other parents might have been able to do.
This began their special mother-daughter tradition: Lunchbox Letters.
For the majority of school days in Gould’s 6th grade year, Skylar would leave a note in her daughter’s lunchbox. The notes touched on whatever had been going on that day — a quiz, or karate class, or babysitting.
Some of the letters were emotional; Skylar was tasked with explaining difficult concepts to her young daughter, helping her prepare for a world that was not always kind or fair.
Gould, who is now 23 and the associate graphic designer at Business Insider, kept each one of these letters in pristine condition in a Sketchers shoe box.
For her masters project at the School of Visual Communication in the Scripps College of Communication at Ohio University, she created a website — Advice from my Mum — showcasing the letters and Gould’s reflections and commentary on how her mother’s words and advice have impacted her over the last decade.
Skylar knew her daughter had saved the letters, and that they would somehow be incorporated into her masters project, but had no idea what the project truly entailed until Gould unveiled it to her this past April. She was truly touched.
“I was overcome with pride and love for my daughter,” Skylar told Business Insider. “I broke down crying when I saw it.”
“My mum wrote me these letters because she believed in the person that I was always meant to be,” Gould writes on the Advice from my Mum site. “I am eternally grateful for these reminders.”
Gould helped us select some of her favourite notes, each of which include a piece of what is now absolutely timeless advice from her mother. You can also visit her site to see all of the letters here and visit her project’s Facebook page.
'Don't be quick to judge the girls at school -- it's up to you to look for something good in each one.'
'Compliment each girl in your class you want to get to know better. Think of something that would make you feel good and say something that important to each girl. Be the observer and see what happens. I don't think you'll see overnight results, but keep looking.'
'Try not to let the teasing girls get to you. Those girls are always going to be jealous of your accomplishments.'
'Keep a journal of milestones in your life so you'll have good memories of growing up -- especially in this house.'
'Persevere -- keep asking and you'll get what you want. It took a while to get your day with dad -- but you did it. Those pictures are priceless.'
Gould recalls spending a day at a baseball game with her father.
'Love as hard and strong as you can -- even if it means loving someone so much you get paralysed with fear if something bad happens to them.'
'I know I said this before in a lunchbox letter, but when one door closes another opens. The hard part is to think about the opportunities of that new open door -- and not obsess about what's closing.'
'Don't put too much stock in (AOL) messenger conversations -- there's no substitute for being in person.'
'Stay as confident as you can while you tread through your teenage years -- it will be hard because everyone will try to steal your confidence (except your parents) -- so you'll have to be strong.'
'Know when to spill your guts -- know when to keep your mouth shut and learn how to tell the difference in these situations.'
'Do your best and buzz in at Quiz Bowl -- I think it's better to guess than not to answer -- at least if you're right you'd get credit. I'm proud of you for being on this team.'
'Be open to different opinions -- absorb what someone else is saying -- then debate it. You never know, you might be able to learn from someone else.'
'Remember to stay quiet when you're grumpy. Dad and I are always here to listen to you. Have a sense of humour about stuff going on.'
'When asking guys to do a chore or help out -- Be specific -- what, where, when etc... That way you'll expect it to be done and you won't feel compelled to step in and do it yourself.'
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