So um, sixteen years ago today I gave birth to a redheaded baby boy. If you’ve seen photos of me with my dark hair, I promise, it was a fluke. (the red hair — not the baby. I know where he came from! LOL). Anyway, I can guarantee you that #1 son is like 99.8735% his mother’s son. He’s so much like me, I feel as if I should send the world a memo of warning (except, of course, for the whole ‘not reading’ thing). Since a new car is/was not on the horizon for this auspicious birthday, I had a really hard time deciding what to get him. He’s not exactly the easiest child to buy for–clothes horse thy name is Elvis! Needless to say, because we ARE so much alike, we have been known to have our
knock down drag outs squabbles. For that reason, I chose to write my son a letter for his 16th birthday and I thought I might share some of the highlights. I’d share the entire thing but it ended up being like 5 1/2 pages long. Sorry for writing, like, the longest blog post ever!
Dear Elvis…I thought long and hard about what to get you for your birthdayâ€”other than a car that is. I finally decided that the best gift I could give you was to tell you some of the things I wish someone had told me at your age. I’m sure you’re rolling your eyes or maybe even smirking or maybe you won’t even read all of this but I hope you do. And yes, it’s okay to laugh at your old silly mom, but I hope you’ll save this letter and look back on it in thirty or forty years and think to yourself that I was right about some of it if not all of it.
I promise not to say anything gushy about the day you were bornâ€”other than you were a gorgeous baby and I’m glad I had a c-section so your head wasn’t all smushed and funny looking.
I know I don’t hug you much these days but sometimes I’m afraid to. I worry you think you’re too big and hugs from Mom aren’t cool, especially now that you have more leg hair than me and can reach stuff I can’t (unless I use a chair). In a way, it makes me sad to see you grow up. Mostly because I know that in a few short years you’re (probably) going to leave home. Just in case you think leaving means ‘forever’ I want you to know it doesn’t. Mom’s door is always open and Mom is just a phone call awayâ€”collect even.
I know I’m hard on you and I know you think I’m too hard on you. I’m sorry if I make you feel pressured. I don’t mean to and I know this sounds like more hokey Mom-type bullshit…but I know you’re capable of doing greater things than even you realize; I just haven’t figured out how to convince you of that. Don’t sell yourself short, don’t sabotage yourself, don’t be your own worst enemy.
Don’t be afraid to take risks, to step outside of your comfort zone, to go places and see things and try things that scare the unholy shit out of you (except for stuff like jumping out of airplanes with no parachuteâ€”that’ll only end badly). Don’t be afraid of getting your heart brokenâ€”if you haven’t yet, you will. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes and for heaven’s sake, don’t fear failure. Trust me, there are worse things than failure, than being laughed at and worse things in life than being told ‘no’. Like not trying at all or letting yourself be weighed down by regret.
Most importantly of all don’t be afraid of life, don’t be afraid to live. I know…life is crazy and confusing, it’s sometimes painful and chaotic, and yes, frightening at times but that’s okay too. No one expects you to figure it all out anytime soon. As a matter of fact, no one expects you to figure it all out–period. But let me tell you, you have no idea what you’re capable of if you don’t try and when you do try, be sure to give it your all.
> Remember to laugh. You can get through pretty much anything if you can laugh about it. Trust me on this. And take lots of pictures. Trust me on this too. Someday, someone will appreciate those photos.
> Take the time to appreciate where you are and every once in a while, take a look over your shoulder and see how far you’ve come. It’ll make you appreciate your ‘now’ that much more.
> Save for a rainy dayâ€”because there will be rainy days. Save for the future, enjoy the here and now, but don’t forget to look down the road.
> There are few guarantees in life. Take nothing and no one for granted. Especially your health. And please, take care of your teeth.
> When you’re grown and gone and off in Las Vegas or Paris or wherever, pick up the phone and call your momâ€”and anyone else you love. They’ll appreciate it.
> Choose your friends wisely. They’re the ones who will have all the dirt on you. Real friends don’t blackmail you, they help you hide the bodies.
> Pay your bills on time. Don’t live on credit. Take good care of your credit.
> Don’t ever stop learning.
> Don’t worry too much about what other people think (or wear, or listen to). The only thing that truly matters is whether you can look yourself in the eye at the end of the day.
> Remember to check the oil in your vehicle and don’t ever let your gas gauge get below a quarter of a tank. I’ve lost count of the number of times your Pop had to bring me a can of gasâ€”and this was before cell phones.
> Eat your vegetables. Trust me on this.
> Tuck a $20.00 bill away in your wallet for emergencies. Trust me on this too.
> Remember, it’s okay to say ‘no’. Your real friends will understand.
> Take vacations. See the world. And send me post cards.
Life is tough and you have to be tough too but it’s okay to bend every now and again.
Pride won’t keep you warm at night and integrity is great, but it won’t fill your belly. Money pays the bills, keeps a roof over your head, clothes on your back and shoes on your feet but it’s not the most important thing in the world. I know…shocking! God doesn’t care how much crap you accumulate before you die. He’ll be more concerned with how you lived your life.
> Wash your sheets every once in a while.
> Don’t use a sniff test for clothes you pick up off the floor.
> Learn to iron.
> Wear clean socks and underwear (I know…you already do!).
> Grow a beardâ€”at least onceâ€”and take a pic so I can see.
> Learn to cook. You can’t live off Ramen and frozen pizzas and women will be very impressed with your mad kitchen skills.
> Study hard but play hard too.
> Have fun, but know when to be serious.
> Come to a complete stop at stop signs, don’t run red lights, keep your vehicle insured and wear your seat belt. In other words, don’t let yourself get tickets for stupid things.
I know I said everyone makes mistakes but there’s a difference between mistakes and poor choices. I know you’re young and it’s hard to think ten, twenty or even thirty years down the road but I also know that you understand when I say all it takes is one bad choice to derail your life. I don’t want that for you.
And by the way…Wear condoms. Oh and don’t be in a hurry to have sex. Don’t get me wrong, sex is fun and nice but it’s much better when you love someone.
> You do not have to have a life like mine or your fathers. You can have the life you choose.
> If you get the chance, travel. Widely.
> You don’t have to go to college. You don’t have to get married. You don’t even have to have children.
And you don’t have to buy a house. Because it’s your life and no one elses. Again, as long as you can look yourself in the eye at the end of the day, it’s all good.
Be nice to the girls you date. Send flowers, hold their hand, take them placesâ€”even places you don’t want to go (at least every once in a while), and do these things because you want to, not because you expect anything in return. Dress nice for your dates and wear cologneâ€”but not too much.
Be careful with your heartâ€”but not too carefulâ€”and be careful who you have children with. If you do get married one day, choose your life-mate wisely. Marriage should be forever. Yes, I know most of your friends have divorced parents but it wasn’t always like that…and I hate to repeat myself, but marriage should be forever. Your spouse will be with you through the lean tough times and the easy ones. Be a good husband to her. Especially if you have children together. And if you do have children, be a good father to them. It matters.
Happiness is important, but contentment is even more important. Be kind to yourself. Respect yourself.
Be kindâ€”even to strangers and people who are not kind to you. Karma is a bitch so let God sort it out and remember the best revenge is to live well. Even if the other person doesn’t know how well you’re doing or how great your life is. What I’m saying is, the best revenge is to move on with your life and shake off the wrongs and the hurts that other people will inflict on you.
Know that you are smart and strong and stubborn. Stubborn is good. Stubborn helps you get back up when you fall downâ€”or get knocked downâ€”and it’ll happen. Trust me. Just get up and dust yourself off.
Cliches are cliches for a reason and these really are the best times of your life. Once you get to be my age, you’ll probably find yourself worrying about stuff like bills and retirement. Enjoy NOW and don’t be in such a hurry to grow up. It’s not as great as it looks. You only get one life. Try not to waste too much of it.
I know I’m not terribly religious but I want you to know I do believe. I wish I could explain the why and the how to you but faith is all about believing in what you can’t see. I hope you doâ€”or willâ€”too. Have faith, have hope, be strong and know that your are always my son.
I love you and happy birthday.