Letter to my son on his 8th birthday

My dearest, sweet boy Adam,

A wormhole just opened in our house and somehow we all fell through a rip in the space-time continuum because it seems like I blinked and another year has passed. And today you are 8 years old! You are taller, more assertive about your dislike of the stuff I cook, and are on the fast track to becoming smarter than me! I know you think you are already smarter than me – but let’s keep it real – I’ve still got about 5 more years on you – at the outside!

In keeping with tradition – yes, I know I’ve only done it once before but, let’s face it, in our family that’s as close as we are going to get to tradition –  on your birthday here is some parental advice that I would like to dazzle you with. Because, I may be raising the little boy you are today, but I am also responsible for the man you will be tomorrow. Most of it is common sense, and some you have heard me say over and over again but that’s the prerogative of parenthood and a degenerative memory.

Be healthy and fearless: Eat good food, treat your body well and it will last you a lifetime. Exercise your mind everyday, keep it nimble and agile and flexible. Be open to new experiences, life is not a spectator sport – make full contact. There may be a monster under your bed or there may not – but if there is, what a great opportunity to learn more about it – what does it look like, why is it camped out under your bed, does it have parents – be curious!

Be kind and helpful and courteous: We are your family and we will always love you – but the rest of the world is under no biological imperative to do so. What helps, is if you make people feel at ease. And that’s what courtesy and kindness is all about. It’s not about saying “please” and “thank you”, it’s not about opening doors or pulling out chairs. It is about letting people know that you see them, you recognize their humanity, and most of all – you are listening. And yes, this applies to your sister too. I know she pushes your buttons – she spent a long time installing them – but no matter what happens, bottom line – you CANNOT hit her back…EVER! And yes, she takes wicked advantage of this seemingly unfair rule – but one day you will be bigger than her and you must practice restraint from now.

Be hard-working and persistent: You come from a long line of strong men and women who lived productive lives on two continents. You come from two families of doctors and educators and farmers and writers and thinkers and freedom fighters and soldiers. You are smart and you are sharp, and those are both good things that you have acquired in a genetic lottery. But you sometimes tend to lose heart and give up when you stumble – don’t. It’s a curious part of human nature that we don’t appreciate things that may come easy to us – so learn the value of hard work and persistence. I’ve seen you spend hours putting together a Lego set with determination and patience – use that tenacity for practicing your karate and improving your writing.

Be a champion: You need to recognize the great rights and privileges that are afforded you based on the simple fact that you have two dissimilar chromosomes. You will never have to worry about legislation that may affect how you choose to exercise your freedom over your body, you will never have to worry about not being paid commensurate with your qualifications based on your gender, you will never have to worry about being the diversity candidate. So don’t take these things for granted and be a champion for those who are not in your, relatively fortunate position. Recognize that there are people who are disenfranchised because of the color of their skin, the circumstances of their birth, the geographical location of their homes, and their differences from the “norm” – lend your voice to theirs.

But above all my love, be yourself. Your friends flock to you because you are likeable and nice and you get along with everyone – these are not trivial qualities. You are sweet and funny and opinionated and warm and affectionate and stubborn and magical.  And you are the perfect completion to our family. So for your birthday, here’s your current favorite song – it’s upbeat and happy and fits you perfectly. Also, it’s by a band from Iceland, home of Bjork – the single coolest woman ever – so you obviously have inherited my very good taste in music!

I will love you always and forever,

Mom.

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