As parents, we all think about the future. Pretty much from the moment we find out we’re having a baby. I know I did.
Even before Will was born I wondered what he’d look like, how he’d act as a toddler, taking him to Fenway & Gillette for the first time and how he’d act as a precocious teenager. But then I stopped because I remembered my own teen years and the mere thought of being on the other end of that hot mess scared the holy hell out of me.
So I decided in that moment to write a letter to future Will, eight years from now on his 12th birthday, which I’ll keep and hopefully read in the future when I’m ready to tear my hair out. Here goes:
To my oldest son William on his 12th birthday.
It seems impossible to me that in one more year you’ll be a teenager.
You are so big now, and every year I get more and more proud of you.
I wanted to write you this letter because maybe I can explain
what I want to say in writing better than I can in person.
As you get older, the pressures on you will get tougher and tougher.
You will have to make important decisions almost everyday,
decisions which will affect your life forever. Decisions like
“Should I try smoking cigarettes?” “Should I try any drugs?”
“Should I drink beer or alcohol?” and “Should I have sex with anyone?”|
You are also going to have feelings or desires to do things, or ideas
that you’ll think about that you think makes you weird. What you won’t realize
is that everyone is weird—just being you is what’s important.
Growing up is hard on a kid—I know. And it helps a lot to have parents
you can talk to, who will listen and not make fun of what you think.
Your mother has always been a great parent. She listens and understands.
I’ve always been too busy or impatient to really listen to you, and I know
you think I’m an old fart who doesn’t understand.
But the truth is, as you grow up Will, I’m growing up as a father.
Now I know it’s more important to listen than to yell.
I can remember how hard it was being 12 and I want to be there to help you.
It’s important to have a father at home to talk to about stupid things like girls,
or being embarrassed about something, or to ask if this ever happened to him.
As great as your mom is, some things you want to discuss with your dad.
I want you to know that I will try to be a listener, not a lecturer.
I will try and help you help yourself, not tell you what to do.
I know I haven’t done a great job so far, but I hope
you’ll give me a chance and trust me. I won’t let you down.
I love you,
Cool letter huh? Wanna know something even cooler? This is the exact letter my own father wrote to me 20 years ago when I turned 12.
Call this one of the perks of moving back home at 32—you find funny stuff from decades ago. But the silver lining is I’m once again reminded I never had to look beyond my own two parents to learn how to be a good one myself.