I’m not sure when it happened, but it did. It was easy to miss because it didn’t happen in one fell swoop, but rather in fits and starts. When I look at you sometimes, I can still see that little boy with the almond eyes and chocolate on his face so clearly that it shocks me to hear the almost-man-voice coming out of you. Who is this person? Where is my little boy? He was just here, I think.
These moments are rare, however. Because you’ve been growing up and away from me from me for several years. Since you were born, really. The changes were so subtle and incremental that they went unnoticed most of the time until, well, one day it smacked me in the face: My little boy isn’t my little boy anymore; he’s on his way to becoming a man. This is as it should be, of course, though it doesn’t make it any easier.
With all this growing up and away comes a certain confidence and smugness, but I hope you know that it’s okay to feel like you have no idea what you’re doing. Because we’re all just fumbling our way along this journey. Heck, I’ve been on this earth for several decades now, and I still feel like a scared little girl or awkward teenager sometimes. It’s okay. Ask for help, and trust your gut — you’ll figure it out.
There are other things I hope you’ve learned too…
I hope your dad and I have taught you that “being a man” is a phrase without meaning. Ignore it. Same is true for “man up.”
Also, it’s okay to cry, and don’t be afraid to apologize. It is possible to be strong and sensitive, brave and kind.
Hold doors open for women — men, too, for that matter — and let others get in the elevator first. Not because of any sexist notions of chivalry, but simply because holding the door is kind and polite. It is just good manners. For the same reason, push in your chair, put the toilet seat down, and put your damn socks in the laundry basket.
Always leave a place better than you found it.
When you find someone to love, don’t play games. Be open and honest. Be you. Let that person into your heart, even if it means risking getting it broken.
Don’t have sex with someone if you aren’t prepared to deal with the aftermath. Because there’s always aftermath. Speaking of sex — and this should go without saying because we’ve talked about it a million times — no means no. Silence means no. Even maybe means no. Only yes means yes. (And stop rolling your eyes at me. Yes, your mom is talking about sex.)
The world is filled with a lot of assholes. A lot of wonderful and amazing people, too, of course, but sadly there are a whole bunch of assholes out there. It isn’t enough to not be an asshole yourself. You have to be brave enough and kind enough to stand up to the assholes too. Stand up for yourself and others, even if what you’re fighting for doesn’t impact you directly. Stand up anyway because it’s the right thing to do, and silence only benefits the assholes.
Surround yourself with people who enable you be your best self.
Even though the world will try to tell you that men are incapable of doing the grocery shopping, making the bed, and caring for a baby, these things are just not true. You are smart. You are capable. Take care of shit (both the literal and figurative kind) around the house.
Don’t be ashamed of who you are, but never, ever for one second take for granted the privileges you have been granted because of your gender, education, race, culture, or socioeconomic status. Use your privilege to help those who don’t have the same privileges. Remember: There but for the grace of God, go we all.
Your brother is your best friend, and you’re on the same team. Even if you have your differences and (still) get on each other’s nerves now and then, you’re two sides of the same coin. You’re stuck with each other. After all, who else will understand when you complain about your crazy parents?
And when all else fails, spread magic. Lift others up. Make the world a better place.
P.S. Call your mom and dad.