My boy turned 10 today. And we must be having more fun than bubble wrap because o’ how time flies. You’re changing before my eyes, son—your baby face has lost its chub, you’re already better at math than I am and where the heck did that body odor come from? As much as I want to throw my arms around you and slow your march to manhood, I know I can’t…and shouldn’t. So sweet boy, please give your Mom a few minutes. Before you embark on the next 10 years, there are a few things I want you to know.
1. These are your wonder years. You’re going to discover a dizzying amount about life and yourself (I’m not just talking about Human Growth and Development class, God help me) in the next few years. Most of it will be awesome. You’ll pursue new passions, widen your world as you learn about all the wonderful things in it and establish deep and true friendships that may last a lifetime. But some of it won’t be so hot. Frankly, some of it will suck. So promise me this: love whoever you are at every moment. Quirky, goofy, curious, tenacious you. Believe in yourself when others don’t. Because you’re a wicked cool dude who has a special place in this world.
2. Be the example. Want to be a tough guy? Sometimes the biggest display of strength is lifting up the weak. Stand up for the quiet kid who gets pushed around. Tell your friends it’s “not cool” when they say something you know isn’t right about a girl or a person who looks, acts or thinks differently than they or you do. Save that wounded butterfly after a hard summer rain instead of tearing off its wings. Be the guy who’s a friend to everybody.
3. Hygiene is a good thing. When I ask you to take a shower, you don’t have to mimic an alligator displaying a death roll on the floor. Simply turn on the water, grab the soap and wash your hair, pits and boy parts. When you’re done, dry off—completely, so it doesn’t look like you’ve been swimming in your clothes. And puh-lease don’t forget the deodorant! Let’s also talk about that well-seasoned soccer uniform. How about you throw that bad boy into the hamper instead of sticking it back into your bag so I know to wash it? Everyone’s nose thanks you.
4. Be a stone-cold G—a gentleman, that is. Hold open the door. Look an adult in the eye when they’re talking to you. Do your best to answer a question with more than an “uh-huh,” “nope” or “I don’t know.” Throw out a “thank you,” practice your “please” and work on a humble “you’re welcome.” Showing respect to others almost always guarantees you respect in return.
5. It takes work. It’s tempting to pick the easy route or to give up when it gets hard. But, trust me on this, success is so much sweeter when you’ve put the sweat in. If you really want something, go all in. Practice, push yourself and practice some more until it’s yours. It may not happen on your timetable (it seldom does), but it will happen. Whether it’s acing that math test or making the A-team, the only thing you’re entitled to is your dreams. It’s hard work (and lots of it) that make them a reality.
6. Don’t play the fool. As the wise Forrest Gump once said, “stupid is as stupid does.” Whether it’s a dare to lie in the middle of the road and play chicken with cars or stick a Flamin Hot Cheeto up your nose for one minute, be smart enough to know when something is just plain dumb. Yes, I know you want to be liked. Yes, I know you want make your friends laugh. But when they dare you to do something, they are counting on you to make a donkey out of yourself for their own enjoyment. #notcoolbro
7. Always love yo mama. You better give me a proper hug before you run out that door. None of this one-armed business. I want a sturdy squeeze. If you don’t, I’ll ask for some lovin’ in front of your friends. I’m gangsta like that. But that doesn’t mean you can call me “brah.” Or call me by my first name. I’m “Mom,” and that title is a well-earned, well-deserved one.
8. Hold up and listen. I love how hard-headed you can be. But sometimes, well, you’re just wrong. And that’s totally okay! How can you always be right when you’ve only lived a short decade on this planet? Lucky for you, my son, there are guides to help you along the way. Folks who’ve been there, done that like me, Dad, your grandparents, aunts and uncles, coaches and teachers. And while you may think you know it all now, you don’t. Honestly, neither do we. But we’ve learned enough that you might find some of our advice helpful. So when we’re offering it up, it’s not for our listening pleasure. It’s for YOU. Because we love you like nobody’s business. So look alive and listen up.
9. You can control two things: attitude and effort. Don’t count the wins and losses right now. Don’t count the score. The only thing I want you to focus on is attitude and effort. That’s it. Easy peasy. Be a good teammate who’s generous, humble and lifts up those around you. Every time you step on a field, court or in a classroom, give it all you got. The successes? The wins? They will follow, I promise.
10. Sports are cool, but geeks also get the girls. We wear their jerseys and gather around the TV on game day, so it’s no surprise almost every kid your age wants to be a sports star. But did you know that the 20 richest people in the world are business leaders and techies?! True story. The reality is those MLB, NFL and NBA contracts are few and far between. So stay focused in school, value your education as much as you would a trophy, put in the *say it with me* attitude and effort, and I know you’ll crush anything these next 10 years throw at you.
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