Open Letter to My Son

Dear Son,

You came home today from school walking on air. All smiles. Talkative. This is rare for a teenager, whose normal state is to grumble something unintelligible in my direction. Last week you complained day after day about how unfair your math teacher was, how much homework you had, how you were tired and just wanted to sleep. So, I’ll take this day, this perfect afternoon when you want to share with me all that happened at school. And I’ll smile with you because your good mood has made me happy. And I’ll hold my tongue, because I know how much you hate when I try to give advice.

Why? I’m a parent.

But on the off chance I suddenly regain some semblance of knowledge before you turn twenty or so, I thought I’d write a few tips down for you that I feel are important for you to keep in mind.

Enjoy these Good Days for All They’re Worth

Life is short. It goes by faster the longer you live. And looking back, there are far too few days that you can call “perfect.” So, when you have a day like today, bask in the perfect glow and let the feeling inundate your pores. Try to hold on to the good feelings for as long as you can, because like everything else, they are only temporary.

Endure the Bad Days Because They Too Will Pass

For the weeks like last week, when something seems to go terribly wrong each and every day, grin and bear it best you can. Because just like the good days, the bad ones will eventually pass by too, giving way to happier times. Remember the Japanese quote, “Fall down seven times, get up eight.” Believe that you have the ability to get back up no matter the darkness.

Keep Your Eye on the Big Picture

I know you’ve set some pretty big goals. You want to make the honor roll. You plan on taking some AP classes and structuring your high school curriculum to be advantageous for a good college. You want to swim in college. And I know I stress about you getting homework done, working ahead, reviewing for finals. But you know what? You’ve got it under control without me nagging, but thank you for letting me play the “mom” part. However, on the occasion when you do miss a homework assignment or fail a test, just keep your eye on the bigger picture. Your hard work day in and day out will overcome any of these little bumps in the road. Don’t sweat the small stuff as you’ve got plenty going in the right direction to make up for it.

Sing, Dance, and Laugh

Although you are only in tenth grade, college and a career will be here before you know it. You only have a few spring breaks left and a limited number of summers before youth is gone. Go to the beach and play in the surf. Stay up late talking on the phone. Play your music as loud as you want and jump on the bed while you sing at the top of your lungs. Really. (Just don’t do it every day.)

Revel in the Celebrations

Winning swim meets. Being District champ. Life doesn’t bless us very often, and so take those times when it does to celebrate and embrace them wholeheartedly. Recognize those times when your hard work has truly paid off and take a moment to pat yourself on the back and tell yourself, “I’ve done good.” Celebrate.

Take Responsibility

And just as you need to applaud your successes, you also must take responsibility for your  failures. Rarely is a mistake life-threatening, and owning up to the problem is important. Look yourself in the eye, recognize what you have done, and then determine how to avoid the problem in the future. And even more importantly, know we cannot control life itself, but only how we react to it. Sometimes you’ll react well, other times not. The key is to understand the only things you have control over are your own actions, no matter the situation.

Remember You Are Loved

My final piece of advice is for you to remember you are loved. No matter how much life lifts you up or gets you down, I am here for you and I love you. When you feel like nobody is in your corner and you have no where left to turn, I will be here.

Why? I am a parent.

I know that Rudyard Kipling had the greatest advice a parent could ever give their child when he wrote his “If” poem. You’ve heard me recite it to you before, and I probably will again.

Take it. Learn it. Live it.