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.