To My Son On His 10th Birthday

Ethan

You turned 10 years old just over a week ago. 10 years old! It’s staggering to think that it’s a decade since you arrived in my life, tiny, defenceless, and utterly precious.

Today it seems you are growing faster than we can keep up. Your formidable brain and effervescent personality are constant sources of inspiration. As you enter the second decade of your life, one that will no doubt be equal parts challenging and exciting, I want to share 10 lessons or ideas with you that will hopefully make the experience of becoming an adult all the more fulfilling.

1. All generalisations are wrong

Including this one. By and large prejudice and judgment are rooted in mindless generalisations (even if they sound complimentary).

All Asians are good at mathematics. All women love shopping. All white people dance badly.

Remember boy that generalisations promote closed thinking and intolerance. This world needs open-mindedness and inclusion more now than ever. Make generalisations and don’t be surprised to find yourself the victim of a few in no time.

The amount of generalisations a person uses is inversely proportional to their emotional and intellectual capacity.

2. Your penis is fine

No really, it’s fine. Puberty is tough. If you’re early, you’re a freak. If you’re late, you’re a weakling. If you’re small, it’s absolutely terrifying getting naked. If you’re big, you’ll spend your life living up to expectations of what that is supposedly meant to mean.

If for whatever reason you aren’t completely “normal” and someone feels the need to point that out, that says a great deal more about them than it does about you. So chill.

3. Confidence is the sexiest thing in the world

Not all people are lucky enough to be smoking hot. In fact, very few people statistically fall under that banner. I’ve known and loved a few smoking hot people in my life, and find that if by some miracle they’re not messed up by expectation and ego linked to their physical appearance, they are paranoid about aging and losing it. It seems to be that devastating good looks are often just that; devastating.

Everyone on this planet is capable of beauty rooted in confidence. You will meet many pretty girls, and many handsome boys, but when you meet a truly confident person comfortable in their own skin, they will be unforgettable for their radiant beauty.

4. Fashion is about fit

It took your dad some long dark years to realise this. Fashion is more about fit than anything else. There is no substitute for a tailored smart white shirt and a good pair of jeans. You don’t have to be a sartorial genius, unless of course that’s your thing. But take pride in your appearance and your grooming, the value of a good first impression is not to be underestimated.

5. Money is an enabler

Speaking of value: You won’t find it in your bank balance or your material possessions. The wealthiest people I know own their own time. If the money you have (or don’t have) gives you a degree of freedom to do with your time what you will, then you are rich. At the end you’ll realise time is all you ever had, and all you want more of.

6. Know your responsibility as a man

You are a man. Before your time, men did a very bad job treating women, children and the elderly. In fact too many still do so today. Regardless of the relationship path you choose to follow, women are to be respected, children are to be protected and your elders are to be revered and treasured. Even if they don’t deserve it. That is your responsibility.

Never ever be afraid to call other men out on their disrespect for women or their prejudices. The world needs more males who are willing to be men.

7. Travel will expand your mind

It sounds obvious but crossing borders both geographically and culturally will broaden your mind beyond your imagination.

Take every opportunity to see things and meet people that will challenge your comfort zones and your way of thinking. I can’t wait to take you to the East, to Europe, to our neighbouring African states and to good ol’ Merica. That amazing brain of yours will explode.

8. Exercise

This is another thing that took me too long to realise. It is difficult to explain how gratifying it is to be aware of, and connected to, your entire body. Exercise gives you that sense, boosts your state of mind and drives you to outdo yourself. I don’t really care what it is you do, as long as you’re outside in the bright sun sweating, aching, smiling and growing.

9. Be kind by default

This world can be so horrible, boy. People do astonishingly cruel things to each other and to themselves. Everybody you meet will be fighting some battle internally, and your kindness could be the next step they need to overcome it.

People will take advantage of you though, your generosity and your sensitivity will often be abused. But that’s ok – they’ll have to live with it. I know kindness is already fundamental to your nature – don’t let the darkness of the world extinguish that brightness.

10. Forgive yourself

You’re still so incredibly young but I already see how hard you take it when you err. You are human. You’ll mess up often, think dumb things, do dumber things and some of those will have incredibly far reaching consequences. One day (and this will be particularly hard) you’ll realise that mom and me are also fallible – very much so – and hopefully that will help you temper your expectations.

You are going to mess up boy. I mess up every day. Your character will be determined by your ability to own up, learn, forgive yourself and try to do better next time.

To be honest, my son, I don’t know if you’ll ever read this or if you’ll care at all when you do. I have a feeling you will, and when you do, I hope it helps form you into the man I know you will be. It is an outrageous privilege being your dad; this is one small way I can say thank you for all you do for me.

Lastly, question everything. And I mean everything. Don’t be cynical or disrespectful, but also don’t take anything at face value. Test your ideas and your beliefs. You will save yourself a lot of time and heartache if you learn to apply critical thought to the world around you early on.

I love you.

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  • Love this post. My youngest son is 5 today. I’ll be holding into this to show him one day. In the meantime, I’ll be sharing it with my older boys and girl. It’s just beautiful.

  • Stacey Vee

    I was snot-crying by point 9. I have three sons; this sums up all I could ever hope for them.

  • Beverley Parr

    Thank you Mike we all need to be reminded of these points no matter our age.

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