My 10 wishes for my sons on their 10th birthdays
If I were to write a parenting manual, one of the first things I’d warn new parents about is beginning elaborate traditions with child number one. For instance, leaving a note on fancy tooth fairy stationery with a variable monetary reward for each tooth lost based on its’ significance seems like a sweet idea when your first baby loses his first baby tooth. By the time the third kid is losing his first 6-year molar – accidentally, on vacation, in the Caribbean – you will be seriously rethinking this adorable milestone acknowledgement. Incidentally, you will also be making up elaborate tales of “tooth fairy rules” to explain why she can’t do a Caribbean pick-up.
However, there is one tradition I started with the first that I looked forward to with each subsequent boy – so much so, that I am currently carrying some bulky emotional baggage now that’s it’s over.
When they turned 10, which the last one did just this past summer, I wrote them a letter. I call it “10 Wishes.” It is a personalized letter to each son outlining 10 things about them right now that make me so proud to be their mom and 10 wishes I have for their future selves.
While parts of each letter are very personal for each boy and go into details that will always be special for just me and my babies, the 10 wishes section is one I want to share. In that vein, I offer up a slightly abbreviated version of my boys’ “10 Wishes” list for all of our future selves:
To My Beautiful Boy-
You’re 10 years old – double digits (!) – and I can’t believe how fast that went. I have so much to share with you, so many wishes for you and now I know how fast these next few years are going to go.
Bear with me here. I need to tell you a few things, because in the craziness of everyday life, sometimes I’m so loud about the other stuff, that maybe you don’t hear me say the important stuff.
Every single thing that comes out of my mouth is silently followed by “I am so proud of you” and “I love you” and “you are special. Even when we’re arguing and my out-loud words are impatient or frustrated or angry, I want you to remember that the other words are there, too – always. I promise.
So for your 10th Birthday, I’ve made two lists for you:
1) 10 things that I know about you already, things that I am in awe of, things that make me so proud to be your mother
2) 10 important things I wish for you as you conquer your next decade and beyond.
I’m sure we’ll add to both lists as you grow, but here’s a good start!
My 10 wishes for you on your 10th Birthday
1. Be Kind
It sounds easy and it is, but we often forget this simple rule at the most critical times. Your kindness – to friends, family, strangers and most importantly, to yourself – is what will make your world a better place. Remember that making someone feel better will also lift your mood. Remember to give even the crankiest among us a chance (you will never know anyone’s whole story) often the crankiest are the ones who need your kindness the most.
2. Be Resilient
It is a tough world out there and it only gets tougher. Your ability to snap back from disappointments and failures is one of the things that will define you. Failure is a good thing, sometimes – if you never fail, you’ve never truly challenged yourself. Bounce back up, dust yourself off and try again – you’ll be a better person for it.
3. Be Open and Adventurous
New ideas, new people, new cultures, new foods – always be willing to listen and learn; to push beyond your comfort zone (as they say, “beyond your comfort zone is where all the magic happens”). Different may seem scary but it also may be the next best thing to happen to you if let it in. This world is full of beauty – make sure you are willing to embrace it in all its forms.
4. Be True to Yourself
Trust your instincts, know what’s in your heart and don’t do things you don’t want to do. Don’t give up on who you are or who you want to be in order to please others (even me) – you’ll always know what the right thing is for you, as long as you keep listening to yourself. You know that tiny voice in your head? It might sound like dad or me, sometimes, but it’s all you, so listen carefully and trust yourself.
5. Be Tough *and* Tender
There is a right time for each.
Tough is important as you make your way through the world because you’ll eventually have to deal with some real jerks. Don’t let them get to you. Be stronger than the jerks in words and actions (but never throw the first punch – trust me on this). Stand up for yourself and for those who can’t stand up for themselves.
Tender is important for those whom you love and for all the small things in the world that need love. Never be afraid to tell someone you love them; never be afraid to offer a shoulder to lean on, a hug to cry into, a helping hand to grasp.
The world needs more men who can be both – be one of those men.
6. Be a Leader
You are strong and confident, kind and compassionate; in short, you are a good person. Now be a role model – be someone your brothers and your peers can admire and emulate.
The world needs more strong men doing the right thing. Be one of those men, too.
7. Be a Dreamer
This life is more magical when you dream big. Not all dreams are meant to be, but that should never stop you from trying. You’ll never know how far you can go if you don’t push your limits.
8. Be the Good in the World
There is a lot of ugliness in this world. You are thankfully sheltered from much of it, so far. That won’t always be the case. You can make a difference – any small change for the better is worth doing. So many need help; so many are struggling – be someone who always extends that helping hand. Find causes you are passionate about and be a force for good in your corner of the world.
9. Be Happy
Again, this sounds so easy – but it is also so easy to get caught up in thinking about what you haven’t yet achieved or what someone else has that you want and to start doubting yourself. So Be Happy. Take a moment – daily, weekly, yearly – to assess all the good in your life and the things that make you smile (big and little) and be grateful.
LAUGH every day – you have a beautiful laugh that makes others happy, as well. Use it liberally!
Above all else, Believe in Yourself. Be patient with yourself and give yourself plenty of grace (you’ll be the hardest on you – be able to forgive your own perceived shortcomings). Applaud your successes, accept your failings and believe that you can do it – whatever “it” is. You are here to do amazing things!
Finally, Believe in the Unconditional Love of your parents and know, in your core, that we are here for you. We Believe in You, no matter what!
I know that’s a lot for you to remember right now… that’s why I wrote it down. Now you will always have this reminder of how amazing you are right now, at 10, on the cusp of so many things. And how amazing you are going to be as a teenager and as an adult.
It will all go too fast for me, even as it seems endless, sometimes, for you. Please know that I’m here for you – I’m your #1 Fan and I am going to be cheering for you every step of the way – win or lose, through every obstacle and for every triumph – and I am going to be proud of you through it all.
You are amazing, my love – don’t you ever forget it. You are wonderfully made. I am so excited to be a witness to your journey – every step of the way is going to be a new adventure and when you finally find your calling, you are going to soar above and beyond even the wildest expectations. I am so grateful and proud to be your mom. I adore you. I love you. You are a piece of my heart walking around on this earth – just like my favorite “Winnie the Pooh” quote that is tattooed on my heart for you:
“If ever there is a tomorrow when we’re not together, there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart, I’ll always be with you.”