You might remember, a few weeks ago I posted a heartfelt letter to my daughters with a list of life lessons I hoped they’d learn before middle school. I got such a positive response to that article! So many moms told me they hoped the same things for their girls, and many said they would share my letter with their own children. I can’t describe how much that touched my heart. As I said to some of my commenters, that may be the best compliment I’ve ever received on my writing.
Now, some have pointed out that many of those life lessons could also apply to boys. This is absolutely true. But there are also several other important pieces of wisdom that I’d particularly like my sons to hear. So to my sweet, earnest, care-free, and energetic boys, here are a few things I thought you should know.
- Your penis is not a lightsaber. Nor is it a pencil, a baseball bat, or a beater. (Get your mind out of the gutter! I’m referring to the beater’s bat used in quidditch. As I’ve previously explained, my son is obsessed with Harry Potter!) I know this may come as a shock, but your penis was designed for peeing. (Ahem.) When you’re older, you’ll discover other uses for it, I’m sure. At the moment, it’s just for peeing. I know that you think it is the most useful and versatile tool in your arsenal, but honestly, there is no need to yank it, point it at people, flop it around, slap it at your brother, or come trotting down the stairs with your fifth appendage flapping about for all to see. Please, try your best to keep it in your pants.
- While we’re on the subject, when you need to pee, please aim it at the inside of the toilet. Of course, I’m no expert, lacking a penis of my own. But I’m pretty sure I know the proper procedure. Lift the lid and the seat, then aim for the toilet water. By the way, in order to aim, you’ve got to actually hold your penis in your hand. In all other circumstances, you seem to love holding it in your hand. Why not when you’re peeing? Just try it. I promise, the bathroom floor does not need another stain.
- Never lose your sense of joy and contentment in the present moment. One of my favorite things about you is your love for childhood. You are in no hurry to grow up or move forward. While the rest of the world is racing to reach that next milestone, conquer that next battle, accomplish that next goal, you are content to just play. You are completely unconcerned with appearances. You never insist that you are too big or too old for anything. You simply enjoy. And because of you, your high-strung, face-paced, goal-oriented, East Coast mom has learned to slow down a little too. Thank you, my son.
- I love your unconventional sense of style. You wore your green dinosaur rain boots–on the wrong feet–every day for two years. They got so tight, you had to curl your toes to get them on. When you just couldn’t walk in them anymore, you pulled on your new, fire truck rain boots and wore them until even the ankles had holes. You’ll wear plaid shorts with a tie-dyed shirt, a clip on tie, and a pair of mittens thrown in, just for fun. (You gotta accessorize.) Some people think you don’t care how you look, but I know that’s not true. You LOVE how you look. You don’t conform to the world’s idea of what fashion should look like; fashion conforms to you.
- I love how much you love me. If ever I am feeling down or inadequate in any way, all I have to do is spend 5 minutes with you and you’ll have me feeling like a rock star. You love to snuggle, hug, and kiss. You tell me I’m the best person ever, your BFF, and your BMF (best MOM forever). I get love letters and flowering weeds daily. You are my sweet little romantic, and I hope you never change.
- You are much more emotionally self-aware than the world gives you credit for. I’ve heard the stereotype a thousand times. Boys have 3 emotions: happy, sad, and mad. They don’t understand nuance. They can’t tell you why they did something. They are basically cave men. Give them a club and learn to speak in grunts. If I just listened to the so-called “experts,” I’d have you fitted for your neanderthal box and call it a day. I’m so glad that I listen to you. I’ll never forget the day that you threw that rager of a fit, thrashing, kicking, and shouting. You beamed me right in the elbow with your left foot, and I sent you straight to time out. When I came to your room a few minutes later, you snuggled into my arms, buried your face in my shirt, and cried. “Sometimes I just get so upset, I can’t control it,” you sobbed. “Can’t control what, bud?” “The kicking! I didn’t want to hurt you.” Oh, baby. If only everyone could recognize when they’d let their emotions overwhelm their own behavior. I’m going to help you learn to control it, sweetheart. And you’re going to learn, because you can, and you want to.
- You need space to move and explore, and that is perfectly normal. Anyone who spends 5 minutes with you can tell that you have a lot of energy. You need to run, jump, and play. This is what boys your age do. When grown ups expect you to sit still for hours on end, they are the ones with unrealistic expectations. I will always make sure that you have time to play. Always.
- I hope you keep taking risks. Climb to the highest branch on every tree. Crawl across the top of the monkey bars. Jump down from the huge rock at the park. I know that sometimes you’ll get hurt. (You’ve had stitches in your face 4 times already.) But it’s more important to me that you develop confidence and a sense of adventure than to keep you bubble-wrapped against all possible threats. The best opportunities only present themselves when you are willing to take risks. You will do amazing things with your life, son, and you will succeed because you always go after that top branch.
- It’s OK to be scared, too. Just because you felt perfectly safe on the top branch yesterday, that doesn’t mean you have to want to be up there today. If you ever feel unsafe in anyway, please tell me. I will always help you.
- Look at your father. That’s what a man looks like. Do you see his strength? It doesn’t just come from his muscles. It comes from getting up every morning and doing his job. From working hard, even when he doesn’t feel like it. If his family needs something and he doesn’t know how to do it, he finds out. We can rely on him, not just to fix things and earn a paycheck, but to be home on time, enjoying dinner and laughing with his family, then going outside to play quidditch with you boys before coming back in to wash the dishes. Do you see the way he treats me? With tenderness, respect, and deference to my abilities. There is no vanity in your father. Just the quiet, simple virtue of putting his family and his God first. I hope you grow up to be just like him.
- Someday you’ll love a girl. Please try to understand her needs. I know this might be weird for you to think about, but before I met your father, I had other boyfriends. Some of them were big fat jerks. They’d want to be with me one day, then act like they couldn’t care less about me the next. They’d make their social plans without considering me for an instant. They’d touch me when I didn’t want to be touched. I hope you’ll learn how to behave in a relationship from watching your father, but just in case you need it spelled out: healthy romantic relationships involve mutual respect and consideration of the other person’s feelings. If you make out with a girl and then don’t speak to her the next day, it will hurt her like Hell. If you invite a girl to a party and then spend the entire time hanging out with the guys, she’ll feel lonely and confused. Have some compassion for your fellow human being and don’t do that.
- You may never, ever touch anyone in a sexual way without that person’s permission. It’s as simple as that. Nor may you pressure, bribe, cajole, or deceive anyone into having sex with you. And if you ever see another boy trying to do any of these things, I expect you to help the victim. Sometimes helping might just mean getting a trusted adult or an authority figure to come to the rescue. But you have to help. There are a lot of bad people in this world, and it’s up to good people like you and me to make sure they don’t win.
- Your body belongs to you, and only you. As much as it terrifies me to admit, there may come a time when someone tries to pressure or force you into doing something you’re not comfortable with. That something might be sex, drugs, drag-racing cars, sneaking out at night, or a million other things. Please know this: If it feels unsafe, or scary, or wrong, you are allowed to say no. It doesn’t make you any less masculine. It makes you smart, and independent.
- If you ever find yourself in a situation that you can’t see your way out of, or a problem you can’t solve, I will help you. I am on your side. If anyone ever tells you not to come to me because you’ll get in trouble, they are either lying or wrong. No matter what you have done, I will always care about your safety much more than your discipline. I love you, your father loves you, and God loves you. Nothing can ever change that. So please, never be afraid to come to me. I am your home base.
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