There I sat, probably with slumped shoulders at this point. Mind totally saturated with gallons of new information, dates, deadlines, fees, dos and don’ts. I had already made a dozen mental to-do lists for the coming weeks, all while still processing the fact that I had to check-in at the “parent” table when we arrived.

And then it happened.

In the final hours of a two-day college freshman orientation whirlwind, I was given a notecard and told to write a few words of wisdom to my son. The notecards would be delivered to the students—to my son—later in September as a surprise.

I thought of my son and felt a burst of renewed energy.

Aww… how sweet!

How thoughtful!

What a great idea!

But wait! What do I say?

This was kind of a big parent moment. I mean I’ve said lots of things over the years as he’s packed up and headed to sleepovers, a week of camp, a two week mission trip . . . But this was different. This time he’s packing up and beginning his adult journey. He wouldn’t be back after two weeks, or even two months.

All of a sudden, I felt like these were the most important words I would ever say to my son. Ahh . . . the pressure! My shoulders straightened and my focus narrowed. And then I thought, why not remind him of a few things I’ve been telling him all his life?

As I sat there and looked at the words on my card, I saw my son leaving for his first day of kindergarten and me telling him, “Work hard.” God made us to work. In fact, He has good works planned for us. Give everything your best effort just like you’re doing it for God.

I saw him sitting on the edge of his bed, feet dangling, arms crossed and me encouraging him, “Be kind.” Being kind is always the right choice. It’s how we make friends. It’s how we show people God loves them.

I saw him exhausted from not getting enough sleep and me reminding him, “Take care of your self.” God gave us this one body, this one life. It’s your choice to do things, like go to the dentist, eat your veggies, and get alone with God so you can be the best you God made you to be.

I saw him sitting at the kitchen table wrestling with hard choices and me advising him, “Remember who you are. Open the door for ladies. Look people in the eye and shake their hand. And above all else, never forget that God made you and He loves you, more than you will ever be able to fully understand. You are His.

Work hard.

Be kind.

Take care of yourself.

Remember who you are.

That’s what I wrote on my 3×5 notecard. That’s what my son will read in a few weeks.

Listen, I know my kids will never remember everything I say to them. Partly because I talk a lot! I’m sure a good portion has become white noise by now. But I do know there are a few things they will always remember because I have chosen to say them over and over and over again.

What few words do you want your kids to remember you saying? Think of your own words of wisdom and began saying them today and the next day and the next day. Your words will be a gift they will carry with them the rest of their lives. Even when they have packed up and moved away, your voice will still be there lovingly coaching them on.