As we wrap up another school year (7th and 11th grades), I can’t help but feel nostalgia, excitement, sadness and pride, all at the same time with my teenage boys. I mean, from the time I became pregnant all those years ago, I’ve been preparing them to become self-sustaining humans. I’m painfully aware my teenager is in a unique space. He’s my man-child, straddling boyhood and manhood, turning 17 years old this summer. We’re moving into our year of “lasts.”
Slow the fudge down, boys.
Wasn’t it just yesterday I gave birth to you, you drank from my breasts, yet now you are literally exploding into young men?
My sweet boys have dealt with more than any mom wants her children to ever see. No 10-year-old boy should help empty drains after mum’s double mastectomy surgery fighting breast cancer. If I didn’t say it before, I’ll say it again. Cancer is a fucking arsehole that can randomly choose to ruin anyone’s day!
I pray I haven’t screwed things up too badly, and most of all, I pray you find your dreams and happiness in life. I pray I can be the mom you need right now. These teenage years are short (even though when you are 12 minutes past curfew, they feel really looooooong). Next week you’ll be wrapping up junior year and next year you’ll be packing for college.
Sniff sniff… I’m not crying, you’re crying.
I’m having a stern chat with myself (that I have every year at this time) about how we’re going to really enjoy this summer and the next school year. I’m not going to stress out, I’m not going to sweat the small stuff, I’m going to yell less, and I’m going to parent from a positive place not a negative place. (I read that in a recent article — ha!) I got this. All sounds super easy and doable, so look out, Bud, we’re in for the best and most productive year yet.
However, in case I screw up (again) and forget about all of those parenting techniques I’m going to master to ensure we have the “healthiest year possible,” here are a few things I want need you to know, sweet boy, in no particular order.
1. Be polite.
We’ve been using the words “Please,” “Thank you,” “Pardon,” since you learned to speak. Please don’t forget these words. Politeness is always super cool, even with teenagers. I promise.
2. Personal hygiene is always cool.
Don’t stink. Keep your clothes clean and fresh, your breath clean and fresh, and stay well groomed. You just don’t want to be the smelly guy with bad breath. I promise.
3. Don’t be a dick.
Pretty self-explanatory and covers most points.
4. Show respect for your elders.
Look them in the eye and shake their hand. Listen to what they have to say, and even though teenagers know everything (obvi), perhaps give them/us a chance to enlighten you on some things. Even though we now have a habit of repeating stories.
5. Always give up your seat.
There’s lots of momentum right now around women’s issues, but please always give up your seat if you see someone needs it more than you, regardless of gender or age. Because it’s always important to think of others, and it’s the polite thing to do.
6. Nothing is set in stone.
Don’t be afraid to make changes. Things change and sometimes don’t work out the way you had planned. You always have the option to make a change. Remember, if you don’t like where you are going or what you are doing, change directions.
7. Help others.
Again, pretty simple: if you see someone struggling with groceries, give them a hand. If someone wants to get into your lane of traffic, let them. Hold the door open for the mom struggling to navigate a stroller. You get the idea. Help others because it’s the right thing to do.
8. Never stop learning.
Commit to learning as much as you can about as many subjects as you can. Read books, the newspaper, research, watch people and ask questions. Soak it all in, always.
9. I trust you.
You now have access to pretty much all the stuff we parents kept from you at an early age: swear words, sex, drugs and alcohol. At this point, as a teenager on the brink of being a man, my only option is to trust that you will use what we talked about and make good choices.
10. Be the friend you’d like to have.
You’re loyal, trustworthy and kind — you always have been. Don’t ever lose those qualities. These traits may not carry the highest currency with high school teenagers, but I promise you, these qualities are what everyone looks for in a friend and partner. Always. (Ask those elders I mentioned earlier.) Do not settle for anything less. Choose your friends carefully. Be the nice kid.
11. Admit when you are wrong.
We’re all wrong sometimes — (gulp) even me! If you’re wrong, own up to it; that’s how you learn and will earn respect.
12. Always believe in yourself and know anything is possible.
Work hard, try hard, and make a plan to reach your goals. We’ve been doing this since you were young, and sometimes things work out and sometimes they don’t. But the strategy never changes: Have a dream/goal, make a plan to get there, then work hard at that plan.
13. Don’t compare yourself to others.
There will always be people smarter than you, more athletic than you, with better grades and cars than you. You will see friends get into their dream colleges that are simply perfect for them. Be happy for them. Stay true to your path, your dreams. Just be YOU. Because you are pretty amazing!
14. There is NOTHING you could do that would make us stop loving you or want to help you.
You have screwed up (not that I’m still mad about the crashed car thing), and you will for sure screw up again. You see, it’s human nature. Please know knowledge is power, and trust that when you come to us with a problem, we need full details in order to help. We may initially be angry, but I promise you we will always help you.
15. Don’t be a Douchey Driver.
Don’t be the driver who sneaks into a parking space, sees someone with a turn signal on in the next lane and speeds up, honks at someone for driving through a stop sign out of turn, or who races away from traffic lights. I promise you, girls do not find that attractive, cool or funny. And other people — well, they find it sort of douchey too.
16. Trust your intuition.
Your intuition is a combination of spirit, emotion, and logic that guides you. It’s super simple: if it feels right, it’s probably right. And if that little voice in your head is telling you what you’re about to do is a bad idea, then it’s probably a bad idea.
17. Be humble.
Work to achieve success, but don’t brag about your awards or accolades. Have you heard the saying: Work for a cause, not for applause? Think about it.
18. Don’t spend more money than you earn.
Spoiler Alert: There’s no magical advice or formula to make you financially responsible. Finances are much the same as your body and weight gain. It comes down to input and output. If you spend more money per month than you earn or budget for, you will run out of money and go into debt. And debt doesn’t go away. And is hard to pay off. Similarly, if you eat more calories per month than you burn, you will gain weight. And extra weight is hard to lose.
It’s really that simple…and don’t ever stop giving your momma those sweet kisses.
“It is not what you do for your children, but what you have taught them to do for themselves that will make them successful human beings.” – Ann Landers