A letter to my son on his first week of school

August 27, 2016

In less than two weeks my older son will turn ten.

He’s asking complicated questions that catch me by surprise, and sometimes take my breath away.

He wants to know about integrity, drugs and alcohol, religion, love. He’s thinking about what it means to be a man.

Suddenly (and without warning, I might add) he’s officially closer to manhood than boyhood.

 He’s my oldest child. He’s my practice run, my test pigeon, my guinea pig. I don’t have all the answers.

And somewhere deep within myself I’m starting to realize I never will, which is very disconcerting.

But to my son and all the ten-year-olds out there asking tough questions, here are a few things I wish someone had told me when I was your age:

Child, you have worth. You are valuable. You are the only one who has your unique set of skills and abilities. Even your weaknesses are strengths if you learn how to use them properly.

True love can only be found when you can look in the mirror and see your own greatness, your own potential. Love for others will naturally follow.

Don’t confuse confidence with arrogance. Confidence is a firm belief that your gifts are special and important to the world.

Arrogance is a tenuous belief that you are superior to others.

Arrogance is a lie that insecure people tell themselves to sooth a deep self-loathing.

Don’t live to impress others. Don’t give away your power. Live to impress yourself and God. And that is all.

Don’t abuse your body with substances. You deserve better than that.

Don’t abuse your soul with hatred of yourself or others.

Don’t confuse forgiveness with trust. Forgive others, even when they don’t deserve it. But only trust those who have earned it.

Don’t let me or anyone else tell you who God is or isn’t. Don’t take my word for it. Introduce yourself to God. Study the universe. Figure out what you believe for yourself.

Never, under any circumstances, let anyone else do your thinking for you. Question everything, and don’t settle on an answer until you have done your own research and come to your own conclusions.

Your ideas have value. Your experiences have value. Your soul has value.

Never be ashamed of your mistakes. That’s how we learn. Own them. Admit them. Be proud of your journey.

When you screw up, say you’re sorry. But only if you’re actually sorry, and only if you actually screwed up.

Never apologize for the mistakes of someone else. Own your life story, and expect others to own theirs.

Don’t be deceived by worldly “good.” Sometimes, the best people are enclosed in the most battered boxes, and some things that look pretty aren’t so much after they are unwrapped.

“Popular” is a human standard measured by insignificant things like charm, physical attractiveness, clothing, wealth, job title, family association, or social media following.

Seek goodness in the hidden places of life, and don’t be deceived by popularity and packaging.

And never, ever put your soul up for sale. Just because you’re offered something crisp or shiny doesn’t mean it has worth.

Be kind to everyone, but don’t confuse kindness with attention.

Your time is limited. Give your full self only to those who respect themselves and others. The company you keep is a reflection of your self-worth.

There’s nothing wrong with spending time with yourself. Be your own best friend. Be comfortable within the quiet of your own mind.

You deserve happiness. You deserve love. Seek fullness and health in all things. You deserve a good life as much as the next guy.

This article first appeared in the Lewistown News-Argus and the Sidney (Mont.) Herald on August 27, 2016.