I Am, I Know

A Letter To My Son

Joyce Maynard - Parenting Quote

O,

It’s getting to the tail end of 2015 and today I was thinking about all the things I’ve done so far this year, and all the things I’ve learned. It’s been a big, tremendous year. I was thinking about you, too, and how quickly you are growing. There are so many things I want you to know, and so many things I hope for you.

You are cheeky and sharp and bright. Don’t ever lose your spirit. Don’t ever let life – or, worse, other people – dampen and sap your energy. You have so much energy. You have a zest for life. I know you do. I know it because you are like me. Don’t stop singing to yourself, and hopping when you get excited, and screaming ‘yeah’ out loud when you’re happy; the world beats that kind of stuff out of people, as they grow, but I don’t want that to happen to you.

I hope I can instill in you the highest possible level of confidence – not arrogance, confidence. They are two very different things, though sometimes people get them confused. And if, at times, you can’t be confident, then I hope you can pretend to be. As you grow, you will realise that no one really has it all figured out, and the ones that say they do you likely need to run from.

Your confidence is going to grow in proportion to how often you’re prepared to step out of your comfort zone. So don’t become stagnant. Keep fresh.

I am going to tell you to ‘be careful’ a lot. I have already started. And I mean it. But, really, I want you to take a lot of risks. Hopefully not too many of those risks are reckless – like driving dangerously or jumping off large moving objects on a regular basis – but take risks. Climb to the top of the highest trees you find, swim at the base of waterfalls, be driven down a highway while you stand through a sunroof and your hair thrashes in the wind.

Hopefully you don’t want to become a UFC fighter, and maybe you can get through life without a motorbike, and out of all the animals you might like to adopt over the years, I truly hope none are of the reptile variety.

But if they are, that’s ok. And if you want to ride a motorbike, or become a UFC fighter, then I’ll help you in any way I can.

There are some things in life you should do; even when other people tell you that maybe it’s not such a good idea.

You should ride a motorbike, at least a few times in your life. And one of those times should be sitting on the back of one, holding onto someone’s waist, preferably along a stunning coastline somewhere in the world, because there will be a point where you turn your head and see the ocean, and you’ll feel the wind slice through you, and then something churn deep inside you and this I know, O: that’s what it means to be alive.

And you should hold a snake, or swim with a croc, or do whatever it is that you want to do, but that’s the key; do things that you want to do, not things you think you should, or just because other people are.

People will bang on about things in life coming at a ‘cost’. Spoiler alert: every single thing you will ever do will come at a cost. Don’t think about that. Focus instead on what adds value to your life. If it adds value to you, include it. If it doesn’t, subtract it. But don’t dwell on cost – monetary or otherwise. Because here’s the other spoiler alert: it’s always worth it.

While it’s definitely too early for you to be thinking about women, if that’s what you’re into later in life, please know this: be a gentleman, be kind, be thoughtful, be loving, but never compromise who you are for somebody else. Don’t give up on the things you love for a woman. Don’t change who you are for a woman. A good one will never expect you to. A great one will encourage you to be more of who you are, not less.

You will meet some amazing people in this world. Always be open to them. And if you’re drawn to somebody, for whatever reason, explore it.

I hope you find dazzling people and talk with them until the early hours of the morning; on a rooftop, or a verandah. Some of those people you will never see again, but I guarantee you will carry a piece of them with you for your whole life, and every once in a while someone will say something, or you’ll see something, and you’ll be reminded of them. And in your head text will appear like a leading title on the news: ‘Soldier, 1999, on the train to Venice’ and you’ll smile thinking of them.

Try and stay away from the kind of people that place value on material things, and instead find people that are interested; in life, in history, in books, in music, in people, in conversation, in living.

I hope you spend most of your time with good people, people that understand and embrace you, but you need to know this: sometimes people can know you for a long time, but not really know you.

Just last week someone I’ve known for half of my life said some awful things to me, and they did some horrible things, and it ripped a little piece out of me. Sometimes people will hurt you and sometimes they’ll break a part of you but here’s the other thing you need to know: you can always put yourself back together.

I hope you continue to be happy, and in doing so realise that you cannot ever compromise on your happiness. It should be the one thing in life you fail to bargain on. Find happiness in small things, as well as big things, and find it on your own. Don’t tie all of your happiness in a place, or a person. Anchor it to yourself.

Be the kind of person that spreads good stuff wherever they go; happiness, energy, love. Learn from your mistakes, but don’t be afraid to make them. I hope you make a ton of them, because that means you’ll never stop learning. There are secret opportunities hidden inside failures, and only the courageous get to unearth them.

Don’t let mediocrity get a grip of you; don’t tolerate it in other people.

Listen to your instincts, every single time. Always listen to your instincts. Sometimes you will need to ignore logic, or change your plans, and when those moments come, do exactly what you yearn for, and always remind yourself that death might be frightening, but not living should be feared far more.

I hope you tell a lot of people that you love them, and I hope a lot of people say it to you, too; some of them will whisper it, some of them will shout it, and some of them will only reveal it with their eyes, but every time take it for what it is; an absolute privilege, not something you are entitled to.

Don’t hold back from revealing yourself to other people; the only time you will ever need to be guarded is when you’re in a defensive stance in basketball, beyond that, let fall and slip, let fall and slip – even when it’s risky, even when you wind up hurt, even when it’s costly because, remember, it’s always worth it.

Live your life your way, and don’t ever allow anyone to make you feel guilty for that – the only opinion you need to worry about is the one you have of yourself. Use that as your compass; someone else’s might be broken, or going the wrong way. You can direct yourself, that I will always be sure of.

O, the thing about this year is that you’re not the only one that’s grown; I have too.

I know I haven’t been there to put you to bed every single night of every single week this year. I know you don’t need me to be. Your life is blessed and filled with people; people that love being around you, and can be when I’m not there. But just know this; every single time I walk in the door, no matter how late at night, or early in the morning, the first thing I do is walk into your room and run my hand through your hair.

And I know that sometimes I’m at the computer when you’re building a tower out of Lego, or making a train track, and five minutes can become twenty-five.

But there are some final things I need you to know:

I’ve never used you as an excuse, and I never will. Some people I know with children tend to use them as an excuse for all the things they can’t do, but I don’t feel that way with you. I know I can do anything. You don’t prevent me from doing anything and I think in the future that might be one of the best things you learn from me.

You are like a sponge; you soak everything in. And that’s why I’m so determined to live the best possible life I can, and be true to myself along the way, because I need to, for you. It’s not enough for me to hope and wish for who I want you to become – I need to be those things.

In many years to come, when you’re a man, and I’m an old woman, you won’t remember the things I tried to teach you, or the things I told you to do – you’ll remember who and what I am. And the things I did. You’ll remember how I lived.

I need you to know that life is resplendent – that every year you will learn, and bloom, and lament, and hurt, and you will go on adventures, and life will blow you away.

You have roots, and a core, and a heart, and you will sprout and develop, and I will always be there, to nourish you and love you, and it will never, ever feel like an obligation. It is a privilege, my son. You are an absolute privilege.

Love,

Mama

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