A Letter to My Son on Your 16th Birthday

Concert

Dear Son,

It’s hard to believe you’re turning 16 today. Apparently, when I blinked, your little blond Mancub self, who used to spend hours catching grasshoppers, swimming and music has grown into a tall, kind smart teen who loves games and fixing and building things.

I know this journey hasn’t been easy.

I know your dad and I (especially I!) have made mistakes, but we have done our best. It’s not easy figuring out what should be said and done and those words that should remain unsaid and the actions that should remain undone. Because sometimes, the hardest thing to do is to stay back and let the lesson teach itself.

There have been a couple of close calls–a few times I felt my heart in my throat. When you ran into the road as a toddler. When you got in a fight on the way home from school in the 6th grade. When you fell–no, flew–from a trampoline and broke your arm in one clean crunch–I heard the sound from inside the house and somehow knew that it wasn’t someone else’s kid, it was MY kid. Dad and I exchanged looks and he stepped out to check on you. The two of you came in, your arm hanging in a disturbing, unnatural manner–and you had to get surgery. They said it would take 20 minutes, and over an hour later we were still waiting.

The doctor said your growth plates were in danger; he had to operate right away.

So hard to believe there was once a time when we were worried about your growth rate.

Now, you stand 6’4 1/2 (size 16 shoe!) and there doesn’t seem to be any signs of slowing.

Sometimes, it’s hard to tell you what I want you to know. Many times, we don’t see eye-to-eye. Sometimes, I don’t do well when I’m put on the spot. Sometimes (most times),  I do better in writing. So here goes.

I know you think you have it figured out. Life, I mean.

And in many ways, you do. You get good grades, you get along with your peers, you love music and your horn, you have a sweet girlfriend, you stand up for your faith. You feel things deeply, and injustice bothers you. These are all attributes that make me proud of you.

But please–never fail to listen when somebody older and wiser tries to give you advice. You don’t always have to take it (many times you shouldn’t!), but listen to those who care enough to try to help.

In just a few years, you’ll be going off to college–driving without me, making decisions on your own. I’m not worried about that. Well, I do worry a little, but I think you’ll be fine. Not that you won’t sometimes make mistakes–we all do. But your heart, your moral standards, will hold. I know it may sound cliché but I’m going to say it anyway–do follow your heart. Follow your conscience. It’s kept you kind and compassionate.

One thing I do worry about: I want you to make time for friends. I know you are introverted (I am too!) and it’s easier to stay by yourself but it’s not always the best. And you have so much to offer others: your sense of humor, your knowledge of current events, your wit. You’re so funny!

Please, don’t sell yourself short. Shoot for the stars! Set high goals. It’s okay to not always succeed — sometimes falling is part of the process. Don’t let yourself get discouraged. Sometimes, you’ll get told “No.” Even though it stings, it’s not the end of the world. If it’s important to you, keep trying…don’t let one person (or opportunity) hold you back. Just don’t let YOU be the one to hold yourself back.

Remember that big goals are often composed of several steps. You didn’t make All-State band the first time you tried, and you didn’t make first chair the first time you tried. But you kept trying. You kept practicing, and it happened. Sometimes, success is trial and error. Sometimes, it’s just grit and determination and blood and sweat and getting mad and trying over and over and over until it finally works. Sometimes the ones who come out on top are only there because somebody else (or many somebody elses) gave in. It doesn’t make you less a winner.

When you do win, know you deserved it. Nobody can say you didn’t.

I’m your mom, and I love you–and I can’t wait to see how you’re going to shake up this world of ours.

It’s going to be beautiful.

Love,

Mom

5 thoughts on “A Letter to My Son on Your 16th Birthday

  1. The words you have said are so true and done so beautifully. It is hard to be 16 because you think you know every thing. I maried at 16 and didn’t know as much as I thought. It took awhile to figure that out. Your son will do great things in his life because he has a great set of parents and two wonderful sisters. You all should be proud of yourselves and just showing how you feel about your son is awesome and one day he will appreciate all the wonderful things you have said. Much love and I am proud of all of you.

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