Dear Son, (I wrote this for both of you - I mean every word to each of you)
Today is your 18th birthday. It’s such a cliché to say that I can hardly believe it and that time has gone by so quickly, but it’s the truth. I feel tremendous ambivalence on this day, and it is not just the poignancy of a parent watching the maturation of a child and the accelerating passage of time and disbelieving that it could happen so quickly. How could you get to be so big, so independent, so capable, so complex, so funny, so far away? How could eighteen years have elapsed since that astonishing, magical moment that our eyes locked and I saw all that you had ever been and all that you were to become. You were disconcertingly serious, unconditionally present and absolutely real, and I have loved you completely ever since.
Like any first child (children), you were the culmination of such vast trepidations and expectations, the repository of such ineffable hope, the focus of so much concern and love. What I’m feeling as I anticipate your transition to adulthood (whatever that might mean!) is beyond my ability to express with words. In thinking about how well or how badly your father and I have prepared you for the world, I find that I am completely unprepared for how much more perilous and awful it feels to send you into the unknown. There are so many more things I want to teach you, to tell you, to show you.
You are still so young and you’re at a wonderful stage of life, with so many wonderful stages of life still to come, but they are not without their costs and perils. I want you to know that no matter what situation life may bring you, I will be there to see you through, if not in person, then in your heart. There are, and will be more, days that you don’t have the right answers, or any answers at all. You will find cruelty and suffering in your journey through life … but don’t let that close you to new things. Don’t retreat from life, don’t hide or wall yourself off. Be open to new things, new experiences and to new people. If you close your heart to new people, you’ll avoid pain … but you will also lose out on experiencing some incredible people, who will be there during the toughest times of your life and create some of the best times of your life.
Always take responsibility for your actions, good and bad. If you can’t change something, change the way you think about it. You will fail many times but if you allow that to stop you from trying, you will miss out on the amazing feeling of success once you reach new heights with your accomplishments. Failure is a stepping stone to success. You are growing stronger in wisdom with each passing year. Don’t ever use CAN’T as an excuse, ALWAYS TRY. Remember a mistake is not a failure unless you let it keep you down.
You will meet many people who will try to outdo you. Remember, life isn’t a competition. It’s a journey. If you spend that journey always trying to impress others, to outdo others, you’re wasting your journey. Instead, learn to enjoy the journey. Make it a journey of happiness, of constant learning, of continual improvement and above all, of love.
Remember to be kind to others even when you feel they might not deserve it. Let others see the real you from the inside. It’s ok to show your true feeling. Share your amazing spirit with others.
Most of all, love yourself. While others may criticize you, learn not to be so hard on yourself, to think that you’re anything less than the wonderful, sensitive, funny, strong, loyal, multifaceted, intuitive young man that I am so profoundly proud to call my son.
Finally, know that I love you and always will. You are starting out on a weird, scary, daunting, but ultimately incredibly wonderful journey, and I will be there for you when I can.
With all my love