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My oldest son, the one that gave me my greatest purpose by making me a mother, turned twelve today. It’s hard for me to fathom. Just yesterday I was holding that chubby cheeked little baby in my arms. Now he’s wearing shoes bigger than my own, longing for independence, and after a hard practice on the baseball field, smells like a gym locker room. He’s on the cusp of adolescence, and so much is about to change.
Soon he will no longer want me to tuck him into bed. He won’t want to spend time with us. As much as I have to feign interest in his video game adventures, I know I’ll miss hearing about them once he thinks it’s no longer “cool” to share with me. So before he starts pulling away from us, I wanted to write a letter to my son with all the little things I need him to remember as he grows older.
We aren’t ones to be stingy with affection, so I know that you know how much I love you. But I am not sure you fully grasp the depth of that love; that you and your brother are my life’s purpose and how closely your happiness is intertwined with my own. As I watch you emerge from childhood into adolescence, and eventually on to adulthood, I want to know that you are prepared for the world beyond the shelter of our loving home. So I’ve written for you a list of things that I hope you carry with you into adulthood. I hope they will not only make your life easier; they will help you to see the beauty in every day.
Own Your Mistakes
When you feel like I am constantly nagging at you, please understand that I just want you to be the best you can be…not perfect. Because NO ONE is perfect. I am far from perfect. Sometimes the weight of everyday life sits heavy on my shoulders and I allow the little things to bother me more than they should. I am sorry that I’m sometimes short tempered. But I’m not sorry that you see my flaws. It’s important that you know that everyone has flaws and you learn to forgive them, both in yourself and others.
There is no shame in admitting to your weaknesses and acknowledging your mistakes. The shame comes when you attempt to hide your mistakes behind a lie. We all have flaws. The imperfections only become an issue when we stop trying to learn and grow from them.
Don’t play the victim. Accept your shortcomings and that sometimes life just sucks. You will always reap what you sow. If you choose to plant excuses, you will harvest disappointment. Life won’t always be easy, but it will always be worth it.
Your Talents are A Gift
You are so amazing in so many ways. I like to pride myself in thinking that I had something to do with that. The truth, however, is that your talents are a gift far beyond anything that I could have bestowed on you. Don’t ever forget that your music, your art, your writing, and your ability to entertain are treasures that you were given to share with the world.
Always Strive for Success
Perhaps this one is hard for you to see the value in right now. You are still so young, and when you’re young it is hard to imagine the future that is about to unfold in front of you. But trust me: every decision you make has the potential to impact that future.
The behaviors that you start to develop now will become the habits that follow you into adulthood. Don’t accept mediocrity because it is easy. Push towards excellence because it is what you deserve. You have so much potential within you. I don’t ever want you to cheat yourself because it was easier to take the shortcut.
Take Pride in Your Appearance
You are a twelve year old boy. Your daily uniform consists of a t-shirt or sweatshirt and joggers or basketball shorts. I get it. But even at twelve years old, I want you to take pride in your appearance. Like it or not, people are judging you and sizing you up at first glance. Are you presenting the image of the kind of person you want to be?
It may not seem that important right now, but it will be. You will want to impress girls, teachers, and employers. You don’t want them to discount you simply because you didn’t care what you threw on that morning. If you think I’m being dramatic, there’s evidence that dressing for success actually makes you more successful! So how about, every now and then, you put those sweatpants aside and go for a slightly more sophisticated look?
Be a Leader…or at least follow the right people
Your choice of friends is so very important. And we are so lucky…you have a great group of friends right now! But as you get older, new people will come into your life. Be selective when it comes to letting people into your inner circle. Not everyone you meet will share your principles or have your best interests at heart. Hold fast to your values and what you know to be right. If something feels wrong, or you suspect we won’t approve, you’re probably best to avoid the situation. Remember that you can always walk away from a situation. And your true friends (and your family) will always have your back.
And finally… Be a Good Human
You are already such an amazing person, and you make me proud to call you my son. Continue to always see beyond the surface to value the person inside. Embrace people that may seem “different” and welcome the rich tapestry that your world becomes because of them. Say please, thank you, and take time to appreciate even the little things that people do for you. Respect the boundaries of others, and do not tolerate people who do not respect your own. There is no shame in showing your emotions, and in return, always show empathy towards the feelings of others. Always shoulder your portion of household chores: cook dinner, do laundry, and clean. An orderly home is just as important as dressing for success. And never settle for less than you deserve…and you deserve the world, my sweet boy.