28 Aug 2013

For my boys as they go back to school

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails.
Explore. Dream. Discover.
– Mark Twain






There you are. My boys.

Crouched wild between friends, all slung over with the beauty of being so other than me.

Jam packed with wonder, potential and the bubbling beginnings of adrenalin and raging testosterone.

I won’t try to tame it, boys. I will try my exhausted best not to give into the temptation to tame it good and proper.

I will try to direct it, challenge it, shape it.

To channel all that passion into leadership, friendship, a love of learning.

Because books can be exciting, filled with the call of the wild and I want you to pack bags and hiking boots as you dig into the words of brave men and women who have walked the path of adventure long before you thought you’d invented it.



The thing about school is that it’s not supposed to be all about you. It’s about becoming part of a community. Sometimes it will itch and scratch like that hand-me-down sweater you didn’t like two Christmases ago.

Or dad’s recent beard.

But we won’t quit because it doesn’t always feel good. We will be stretched. With eyes open and head open and hands open to new friendships found in unexpected corners of the classroom.

Don’t stick just to that one row you know so well.

You’ll be surprised by the kid in the corner of the cafeteria who can tell you all about a country you’ve never visited before. Or who the Nats just drafted this season. Or how he silently cries into his macaroni because his mom didn’t come to the parent’s lunch today.

Feel that ache just above your heart? That’s called compassion, son. I hope you feel it and don’t ignore it and learn how to speak to that kid. You don’t have to share your sandwich to help him feel less alone. Sometimes just sharing his silence speaks volumes.



Some days you’ll be picked last when they pick teams. This makes you no more or less important than the days you’re picked first.

Because I choose you sons. Dad chooses you. Your baby sister chooses you and the God who spoke you both into being chose you first. Don’t ever forget it. You’re already chosen.

No game of dodge ball can ever change that.

Hard days will happen. It’s just part of the deal. It’s always still OK to cry. I will listen to the whole story, every tiny bit and piece of your side. And we will put it together to make sense of the illogical days and difficult homework and fights and the feeling of being left out.

Take your time. Tell us your story. Every word is precious to us.

And if it takes a Dairy Queen run to redeem the evening, we’re up for that too.

Cut your teachers some slack, OK? They have families and lives beyond these classroom walls too. Yes, it’s true, we might even run into them in the milk and produce aisle at the grocery store. Let’s love them and respect them like they’re whole people and not just cut out cardboard cartoons.

Your teachers are a big part of our parenting game plan. We’re on the same team and you can expect me and dad to stick by them. We trust them. And we’re so grateful for them.

Now, listen up – here’s the thing about girls.




You gotta respect them, honor them, look out for them and never assume they’re not up for a wild game of whatever new sport you just invented.

That pair of pony tails is somebody’s else’s daughter, pearl, precious treasure chest. Treat her kindly, carefully. How you treat her tells us what kind of men you’re becoming, boys.

We care about what you learn and that you’re putting in your best effort and not just dragging your feet and your notebook. But we care a whole lot more about who you’re becoming.

Be brave and be bold. Don’t be afraid to stand up for each other. Include one another. High five, cheer, love, hold onto the bonds of brotherhood that school, classmates, sports, hair styles, or fashion can never sever.

You were brothers before you were school mates. You’ll be brothers long after. Even when you’ve grown out of bunk beds and Bey Blades and scooters.

You will always be bookends.

And there will always be nonsense spinners – those who can’t live outside the mirror of always seeing themselves first as the winner.

There will be trouble-makers and nay-sayers, doubters, pouters and bullies.

Pull your punches; use your words. Stick up for the other guy; never be afraid of the truth. Look it straight in the eye. Speak it straight from your heart.

And always swing high. With both feet and all your future reaching for the sky.



{ Leave a Comment }
  1. 1

    Thanks for posting, Lisa Jo. Perfect words for how I felt about today and the adventure that all first weeks of school brings to our kids, but especially how I feel about my boys

  2. 2

    Thank you for sharing, sweet Lisa Jo

  3. 3

    My first son (3rd child) is 5 days old and I’m bewildered by everything about him. Thank you fir such a great post. I’m so in love with my new little man and I pray he will grow to be a faithful and respectful and compassionate man. Thanks for this post.

  4. 4
    Fran Knott says:

    That was truly beautiful!

  5. 5

    I LOVE this article…will read it to my son…he would fit right in a group of boys like yours :-) Thanks for sharing your life with us,

  6. 6
    Margaret Polino Nicholas says:

    Dear Lisa , that was me 20 years ago. Lol. True , i had four running around. Thanks for the post. I wish I could speak to my own boy the way.

  7. 7

    This is timely. Your post echos so much that’s been on my heart. We moved to a new state and my son started a new school on Monday. It’s a huge school compared to his last school and I pray he finds a good friend AND that he becomes a good friend.

  8. 8

    Hi Lisa, you made me cry :) and smile :) happy, melancholy, heartsore….all at one! It’s my boy’s 14th birthday tomorrow and I am going to share this with him. What you have written is exactly my heart-wish for him amidst all the challenges and difficulties of being a kind, loving and compassionate child in a world which is often hard and unforgiving. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  9. 9

    Beautiful! This is absolutely the message I want to share with my own boys. Love the way you put my own thoughts and heart into words. Thank you!

  10. 10

    Oh, I I wish I read this to my three boys before they were off to school today! I had one with tears because he was already missing his mama, and two that were ready to tackle the world and change some lives for Jesus and I pray still looking for the outside corner to round up some others. How my heart aches and prays! Thank you for this!

  11. 11

    Great post Lisa Jo!

  12. 12


    This post really speaks to me. My husband was Active Duty Marine for 14 years which is pretty much all my kids live till last year. He was discharge and we have been in transiton for a year. We are finally moved and settling in. My oldest son who is less then 6 months shy of 13, struggle a bit with so much change. Well, we are on our third week of school. He always be been reserved and much more of a computer whiz kid then a sport jock. Well, he has is going out for student council. He is trying Flag Football and playing baseball. And his teachers are amazed by his work ethic and he is taking risks, he participating in class and making friends. I told him yesterday how proud I am and how he INSPIRES ME. Your post really put my feelings into words

  13. 13

    I read this last night and loved every word. Then as my boys were pushing the backyard boundaries this morning these wise and inspiring words came ringing back: “I won’t try to tame it, boys. I will try my exhausted best not to give into the temptation to tame it good and proper” I wanted to tame their need for water and dirt and glorious mud and wet sidewalk chalk turned into war paint and then full body paint so the scrawny one could become The Hulk. I wanted to tame their need to turn the ice chest into a swampy pool and take turns climbing into the dark murky cave. But your words inspired me to give into the temptation. So instead I wrote down their boyhood wild on my 1,000 gifts list and counted one more way I’m blessed to be mama to three sons. So thank you.

  14. 14

    Wow. Can I send my kids to live with you for a few months so you can tell them all the things I can’t find the right words to say?

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