A letter to my son, on the occasion of his 18th birthday:
It’s quite unfathomable that you are 18 years old today. When you were first born, well-meaning people would tell me to enjoy it because it would pass so quickly. I did not believe them — and I was wrong. The past 18 years have moved at the speed of life and show no signs of slowing down. You’re a senior in high school and heading off to college next fall, which is really the beginning of your launch into adulthood.
While this letter could easily veer off into the maudlin and sappy, I think you know me better than that. Plus? I save the maudlin and sappy for your Mamaw Brenda, who seems to need it more. It makes her happy and she obviously takes comfort in it!
I was not that much older than you are now when I became a mom. One month older to be exact. I think your childhood would have been far different had I been older, more prepared for the role. I’m not sure if you noticed, but I really didn’t know what I was doing probably 75 percent of the time. I think you’ve turned out pretty OK anyway, but I can’t take credit for it. (Don’t worry, Daddy does.) You were an easy baby, a bratty toddler, a pleasant child and a pretty fabulous teenager, except for those times I want to shake some sense into you. And if it turns out that your childhood has somehow scarred you, you’ll some day have insurance that covers therapy — but don’t expect me to fork out the co-pay.
Eighteen is a huge milestone, sort of this quasi-adult age where you’re old enough to vote, drive and die for your country, but you can’t legally drink an alcoholic beverage before making the decision to do any of those things.
You may be a newly minted “adult” but you have a lifetime of learning still ahead of you. I hope you don’t mind me sharing a few — OK, 10 — things I think you should learn, things I think will be important to you throughout your life. (Son, I know you and know the likelihood of any of these things sinking in is pretty minimal, given that you can’t remember to take out the trash after I ask you three times in a row. Humor me and pretend they changed your life. I’ve got a major case of mommy brain and won’t remember writing this three days from now, so you’ve only got to fake it that long.)
1. Personal hygiene is underrated. Do us all a favor and bathe regularly (with soap). Change your socks and underwear daily. Clean your room! Your living space should not smell like 5 day old underwear and socks! Don't turn into the 'one who must not be named'! And, for goodness’ sake, don’t recycle them because you were too caught up in REAL LIFE to do your own laundry.
2. You impress people more with what you don’t say than what you do say. Remember “who needs a brain when you have a mouth”? Sarcasm, son, Sarcasm.
3. Some things are better done in the privacy of your bathroom or bedroom. Most people find belching and 'passing gas' not only to be rude but disgusting. (I know! They totally have no sense of humor!) Learn how to discreetly excuse yourself to take care of business. Remember we don't do it and we definetely don't talk about it!
4. Everyone deserves to be treated with respect. Regardless of how they dress, look, act, what they drive, where they live or how they treat you. R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
5. No matter how bad you think you have it, someone’s got it worse. You can’t change other people; you can only change how you respond to them. It’s not easy but sometimes it’s the only way to cope with an unpleasant relationship, whether it’s personal or professional.
6. Ignoring your problems doesn’t make them go away. Often, it just makes them bigger. You can’t solve something if you don’t deal with it.
7. If you want friends, you have to be a friend. Don’t just call your buddies to hang out when you’re single or your girlfriend is out of town. Maintain those friendships (with pals of both genders) because they fulfill you in ways a romantic partner doesn’t, and you need that no matter how old you are.
8. People are more important than possessions. That means you call us for reasons other than asking for money, food or something you need me to do for you!
9. Do what you can to make the world a better place. Pick up trash on the sidewalk, keep up your work in the church, perform a random act of kindness as often as you can. If there is one thing I hope you have learned from me, it is this.
10 There’s lots more I could share with you, but I know your attention span is about as long as mine, which means you stopped reading somewhere around the third sentence. But I still love you, and I’m quite proud of you, even if I do still have to remind you to take out the trash!
Happy birthday, teddy bear!
I Love You!