Today I watched you grow up a little bit more. That’s how it seems to happen. Not in gradual ways that seem to slowly evolve, but in quick and sudden bursts. Shocking me each time you enter a room and seem completely different from the boy who walked out of the room moments earlier.
Today I watched you walk across a stage and say good bye to Middle School. They said your entire name with emphasis on each word. Giving me a little shiver as I thought of your uncle Todd who is your namesake. I watched you accept your certificate with a firm handshake, the handshake of a confident man. And you sauntered back to your seat with a quiet and easy smile on your face. Your gold tassle honor roll chord draped around your neck. My heart was full of pride and my eyes were full of tears as I swallowed nervously and tried to keep my emotions in check.
In the past year I’ve watched you grow roughly five inches in height and miles in maturity. I’ve seen you develop close friendships with some really nice kids. I’ve watched you shrug off the trappings of popularity in exchange for real friends. I’ve seen you offer to help around the house and help take care of your little sister. I’ve watched you take responsibility and ownership of your school work. The honor roll tassle you wore on graduation day was earned all on your own.
I’ve seen glimpses of the man you’ll be.
And he’s amazing and beautiful and good.
I’ve watched you get angry at the injustices that flash across the evening news. I’ve seen you question things that are happening in the world. I’ve seen you take an interest in things well beyond the little bubble you’ve been so fortunate to inhabit all these years. I’ve answered your thoughtful questions about these things. Questions that speak to your depth of understanding and your concerns. I’ve seen you care about things and people you’ve never met and who are different and far removed from your world.
And I couldn’t be more proud.
But I’m also scared. In a few short months you will be taking a huge step to more independence and autonomy. You will be walking through the halls of high school for the first time. You will getting your driver’s permit. You will be starting to plan for college and life beyond that.
And you will be coming up against some pretty big road blocks. Temptations. Peer pressures. Stress of tests that carry more weight than ever before. Girls. Love. Heartbreak. All of these will be distractions from everything you’re working towards. Some of them are worthwhile distractions. You should have fun with your friends. You should start to flirt a little with romance and love. You should push the boundaries a little. Just a little.
As you start to move a little more away from your dad and me, as you start to become a more independent person making decisions big and small, I’d like to share a few things with you. Before you shut out my advice and my words, please listen to a mother’s desperate attempt to squeeze all the wisdom and love and fear and happiness she is overwhelmed with, into a few words.
Remember what matters. You are the only one who can decide what matters to you. And once you do, don’t let anything get it the way of that.
Listen to your gut. It will never lead you astray. If you can tune in to what it’s trying to tell you, even in the noise of life and temptations and pressures, you will find a built in compass that you can rely on for the rest of your life.
Know when to make your voice heard. Don’t be afraid to speak your mind or stand up for what you believe. But also learn when it’s a waste of energy and time.
Always open doors for others and give up your seat for others.
Don’t be afraid to feel. Life will hurt sometimes. But don’t let that be a reason to go numb or shut down. That never works and it will come back to you sideways and cause more pain. Feel all the stuff and let it happen and move on lighter and happier for it.
Being vulnerable is ok. In fact, it’s good. But only when it’s with the people you trust. Sharing your thoughts and your pain and your fears with the people who love you will ease your burden and allow people to be closer to you. It will be the greatest gift of intimacy you will someday give the person you spend your life with.
Work hard. But work smart. Quantity of time working doesn’t always equal quality. Figure out what methods work for you and employ them. This will serve you well in life and work.
Be a good friend.
Let go of perfection. Perfection is boring. Mistakes will happen. Twisting and turning in an attempt to avoid mistakes is futile. Do your best and accept the mistakes as lessons and grow from them.
Don’t be afraid to fall in love. It’s the most beautiful thing you’ll experience. It will sometimes bring incredible pain but you will get through that. It is worth it and life without it will be less rich.
Be patient with a mom who struggles with the emotions of watching her little boy grow into a man.
Find your passion. It may be your career. It may be a hobby or another enterprise. But find it and find a way to nurture it.
Work for money and for joy. Find a job you love. Find something that doesn’t make you dread Monday. But also find something that gives you some comfort and stability in life. Find the balance of the two and live there. Money doesn’t buy happiness but a life of poverty and hardship is not an easy road.
Don’t text and drive.
Know that confidence will come and go. It will sometimes be out of your grasp. This is normal. No one feels confident and self assured all the time. Some of us are just good at faking it.
Be aware of toxic people and learn how to spot them. Don’t let them infiltrate your life and corrupt you or suck out all the life and joy. Darkness is a hungry beast and toxic people will try to bring you into their disfunction. Don’t let them.
Remember that you have an army of people who are rooting for you to win, who are here for you, who love you. Your dad and me, your siblings, your grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins. You will have this core group of people in your corner for life. That is a gift and a blessing and it will never fail you.
Give your mom a hug once in a while.
Treat the women you will one day let into your life with respect and honor. Don’t ever minimize their feelings or their voice.
Remember that your dad and me will be here for you for anything and everything. There’s nothing you can’t tell us and there’s nothing that will ever make us turn our back on you. There’s nothing that will ever take away our love. Ever.
Enjoy the ride. The ups will be amazing and the downs will be hard but it’s a beautiful and glorious ride.
I’m so proud of you. I know you will do right. I know you will do good.
And if you remember nothing else, remember this…
Take care of yourself. And have fun.