Tomorrow my oldest son, our middle child, will turn 13. Of our three children, he is the one that has always been the child I feel like I'm still getting to know. He is wise beyond his years at times. He has perfect comedic timing with quick-witted responses to just about any scenario. He is easy-going, doesn't ask for much and hardly ever complains. Still, there has always been an air of mystery to him that keeps me intrigued.
I can't help but look to the years ahead as he starts down the road of true adolescence. My husband was nervous for our daughter to start her teenage years because as a dad, it was new territory. Me? I was fine...I was the one with the Supermom cape declaring, "I got this because I've been a teenage girl and that's all the qualification I need!" (That didn't turn out to be entirely true; but we've done OK, she and I) Now, I find myself feeling much as my husband did a few years ago.
I feel like I'm standing at the edge of this cliff that I know he's about to run and jump off of and I want so much to give him all the protection he needs for a safe landing. The trouble is, I'm not at all sure I know what it is he needs. My experience and expertise with teenage boys is really limited to being a teenage girl at the same time the boys I knew were teenagers!
Still, I can't help but think that maybe I've learned a few things along the way that might help him. He would probably think I was getting all weird on him if I tried to actually talk to him about all this, because the part of being a teenage boy who gets a little "weirded out by weird things your mother says and does"? That part he's mastering fine, all on his own! So, maybe instead, I'll just write him a little letter.
To My Teenage Son,
You'll wake up tomorrow and probably not feel any differently on your first day as teenager than you did on your last day as a 12 year old. Still, there are forces at work both inside of you and around you that are going to make the next few years interesting to say the least. As your mom, I want you to have as much understanding and knowledge as you can about the strange and winding road that lies ahead of you. I wish I could give you all the answers to the many questions you might have over the these next few years. I'm not sure I have all those answers, however. Nevertheless, I hope these few bits of advice help you along the way.
- All that "abnormality" you're feeling (or will feel) is completely normal. Growing from boy to teenager to a man is a strange and crazy process. Things change, things grow, things appear. Things you can't see will wreak havoc on you from the inside out for a while. Acne will arrive front and center before you know it. Muscles and an Adam's Apple too. You'll open your mouth to speak and be completely shocked at the sound of your own voice. I want you to know that all of those things are normal...you should take comfort in knowing that about a million other boys are experiencing the same things!! Just buck up and hold on for the ride!
- That girl that you can't figure out what to say to? She doesn't know what to say to you either. Ah girls....they are a mystery for sure! I fully admit this; but I'll let you in on a little secret: they're no more an expert on growing up than boys! I'll tell you too that having courage and confidence to start a conversation with a girl is VERY cool.
- Being part of a team builds character--don't underestimate the value of that lesson. One of the things most often quoted about a "good man" is whether or not he has good character and integrity. Being part of a team, or a group in which people look to you for help through participation or teamwork, doing what's right and following rules helps you to establish your own character. These are lessons you'll carry with you throughout life.
- Be careful not to lose your individuality. While building character through team work is important, it is equally important not to allow anyone to change who you are. Don't lose your own individuality or let anyone compromise it for their own purposes. You are a good person, always remember that; and don't let anyone change you just because they don't take the time to get to know you and understand you.
- You ALWAYS have the right to speak your mind Stay away from people who try to tell you otherwise
- Intelligence is NEVER overrated--EVER!
- Be the type of young man you would want your daughter to date one day. One day, karma will come calling and for many teenage boys, it shows up in the form of a daughter, Then, before you know it, you'll be the dad of a teenage daughter going out on dates with teenage boys. Just remember that when you're 17 in a car with a girl! The future is not nearly as far away as you think it is!
- If given the opportunity to do something-- ALWAYS bring your best to the table. Don't half -step anything in life. If you're going to swing the bat, hit the ball and hit it hard. If you're going to interview for your dream job, make sure you leave the best impression you can! If you're going to create or invent something, make it the best one you can. No matter what you decide to do in life, give your best, no matter what.
- Finally these three things: 1) As your mother it is my sole purpose in life right now to teach you and to guide you down this twisty, confusing, strange path of life. I will always do my best to encourage you to make the right decisions. No matter what, however, I will always be on your side, even when I know you're wrong. 2) When you stumble and fall (because you will...) I will not reach down to pick you up. Instead, I will sit down beside you for as long as you need me to give you strength and encouragement to pick yourself up and move forward once again. 3) Most importantly, I want you to remember that I knew you long before the rest of the world; that I was the first to hold you and feel your heart next to mine and that I'll always be the one who loves you the most.