On the Eve of Your 13th Birthday

train boyAs I sit here on the eve of your 13th birthday, I am thinking of wisdom I wish that someone had shared with me when I was your age. No, I am not going to write some lengthy discourse for you to memorize. I just want you to know a few things that may help you get through life a little easier. What can I say? That is my job as your parent. So, here it is, my advice. I know you didn’t ask for it, so you may take it or leave it as you wish. Just know that all that I do, as imperfect as I am, and as haphazard as it may seem, I do so simply because I love you. Know that I always did my best for you, even when I made mistakes, I tried my best and that is all I can ask of you. Just do your best.
So, there is number one – whatever you do, give it your all. Don’t waste time giving something only part of your attention. It’s okay to fail. In fact, fail often. It is when we fail that we begin to understand what we need to do to succeed. If you start a project and your heart isn’t in it, the end results will show your lack of focus. That’s just wasting your time. Life is short. Don’t waste time.

And, that leads me into the second bit of advice. Time. It really is precious. I know you are in a big hurry to grow up and “do things” and “be somebody” and “leave your mark” but honestly, I know I say it an awful lot, growing up isn’t all that it is cracked up to be. I also know that my words (on this subject anyway) are completely meaningless. But if you could just remember every day to take a few minutes and metaphorically smell the roses, you will have a much richer life. I am not kidding. It’s true. Whether you actually stop and smell the roses is completely up to you of course, but I wholeheartedly suggest that you literally do this, too. You won’t be disappointed. Other ways to “smell the roses” will change as you mature. Perhaps today it is reading a good book or drawing a sketch of a cartoon, mindlessly completing a jigsaw puzzle, or even gazing at the sky watching clouds drift by. There is a lot to be said for slowing down every once in a while. It’s cathartic. Some days it’s like getting to hit a “reset” button. Other days, it’s just a way to not lose your mind and choke the crap out of someone.

Onto my third bit of advice. Don’t choke the crap out of anyone. Yes, you will meet people who will utterly disappoint you and/or annoy the shit out of you. You will meet some insanely stupid people who make you question how they manage to bumble through life, but the truth of the matter is, everyone has a story. Don’t pretend to know theirs. Exercise a little tolerance. Treat others as you wish to be treated. I know you already know this, but it’s good to be reminded every once in a while. We all deserve respect and we all deserve our dignity. Never look down upon anyone, ever. It shows a lot about your character when you belittle someone or try to make them feel inferior. Even if someone has mistreated you, please try to be the bigger man and simply walk away.

Don’t say or do anything you will regret. This one thing my mother told me that has stuck with me my whole life – don’t do anything that you would be ashamed to be doing if your mother saw you. Hopefully this keeps you from making some insanely bad choices. You are entering your teen years, hormones do crazy things to people. Consider yourself forewarned. If I could see you, would you be embarrassed or proud? If you can’t walk away, fight with honor. Don’t say hurtful things. Argue your point and be passionate, but don’t be a jerk. The world is full of jerks. Stand up and be a decent human being.

Standing up for yourself and standing up for others is an admirable quality. So, this is my fourth piece of advice – don’t be a bystander.  The world is full of people who just sort of let things happen. Sometimes not acting out or speaking up is just as bad as intentionally being hurtful. When you see someone being bullied, speak out. It takes a lot of guts to stand up to bullies, but know this, if you speak up others feel empowered. No one likes a bully, but often people just accept it, because standing up is hard to do. Know this too, that bravery is about being scared, but following through anyway. Being unafraid is not the same thing as being brave. As you become a man, you’ll find lots of times when you need to be brave and I hope you seize the opportunity to face your fears and experience the exhilaration of taking a leap of faith.

Which leads me to number five – don’t literally take a leap of faith. Teenagers do stupid things to impress their peers. Yes, you are smart and wise beyond your years, but seriously, remember you are human. You have bones that break and flesh that can tear and internal organs that you can not live without. You are my only child, my heart and soul, and the most important person in my life. Taking stupid chances that could lead to death and/or dismemberment is not advisable. Seriously. Think twice before you try to outrun a moving vehicle or attempt to cross the tracks after the gates have gone down. The split second thrill isn’t worth the risk. Also, remember that once it’s on the internet, good luck getting rid of it. Pictures, videos, texts, whatever you put out there has the ability to come back to haunt you. And it will.

And lastly, when you love, love with your whole heart. Be kind. Be good. Choose your words wisely. Face to face conversations really show the person that you actually care about them. You will fall in love, possibly many times, and you will have your heart broken, hopefully not many times. It will hurt, but you will heal. When you are hurting, do not say things you will regret. Do not say things in anger and frustration. People you love will often make you angry. And you will also make them angry. Sometimes that anger comes from passion. Sometimes that anger is just anger. Learn the difference. Always apologize. And lastly, whoever you bring home to meet me will never be good enough for you in my eyes. Know this though, whoever you love must treat you with respect and love you; faults and all. They must also respect me. They may not love me. They may not even like me, but they must treat you right and show me respect. I will do my best to respect your choices, and that includes your significant other. I make no promises though because after all, you are my son, and as I already stated, no one will ever be good enough for you in my eyes.