“Mommy, what does it mean when you make me go sit on the stairs?” His 3-year-old face wears the perpetual smile that nothing ever seems to wipe from it. I wonder what it is he truly wants to know, what is the question under the question. I know better than to hand him any old answer, so I throw back another question:
“What do you think it means?”
“I think it means… that you still love me.”
He’s an insightful youngster. I confirm that he is correct. He thinks for a moment and adds:
“And it means that you’re a jerk.” There’s that smile again. I laugh. I’m always laughing when he’s around. That’s 2 down–two of the things I want my three sons to know: Laugh a lot, and know that I love you.
Those are pretty important, really. But there are many more, and I disagree with so much of what our society wants us to teach our sons. I likewise disagree with much of that post that’s been going around, 20 Things A Mother Should Tell Her Son. For a start, I disagree with the very idea of someone telling other women what they *should* tell their own children.
I won’t tell you what you should be telling your sons. Only what I tell mine, what I want them to know. Here they are:
20. When someone makes you go sit on the stairs, or calls you to the boss’s office, or tells you they’re mad at you, or breaks up with you, it doesn’t mean you’re a bad or undesirable person. It means they are trying to tell you something. Don’t take it too personally. Listen, learn what you can, and move on. Also, it’s okay to like pink. These things aren’t related in any way, but 20 was just not enough for Mommy so she cheated. Also, don’t cheat.
19. Your dad and I, we will love whomever you love. We trust you to choose well for yourself.
18. Compassion is a form of strength. Be strong so that you can be compassionate.
17. And be brave. Brave doesn’t mean never being afraid. Brave means doing what must be done when you are afraid.
16. Laugh. Lots.
15. Nobody else gets to decide who you are or what you mean.
14. Be weird.
13. Try lots of things. Fail at lots of things. Get up and try more things. Failure is wonderful.
12. Being a boy is awesome. Being a girl is awesome. Ultimately, gender is irrelevant. Your goal is to just BE, every moment, who you are and want to be.
11. Don’t slather that sunscreen on too thick, honey, because your body needs the sunshine and besides, what kind of chemicals are in there anyway? Also, if Mommy gets sent to prison for this comment, or worse, gets flamed by the Internet, it will be an important lesson in saying what you believe even when it’s going to be unpopular.
10. Speaking of chemicals and unpopular decisions… make up your own mind about what the government forces you to inject into your and your children’s bodies. Research research research. Then go with it, even when the going is tough. Let me expand. Make up your own mind about what anyone forces you to do, say, or believe, and go with your calling. Even when the going is tough.
9. Read the label. And anything you sign your name to.
8. You may become a new person every moment, but each morning you wake up wearing yesterday’s name and face. Try to keep it clean. Or at least interesting.
7. And wear your scars with pride. You earned them.
6. Always learn.
5. Your body is yours alone. It is the sacred temple of your soul. Likewise, the bodies of every person you will meet and every person you will date belong to that person and that person alone. Remember that and act accordingly. Which is much, much more than just a fancy way of saying, “Use a condom, son.” But yeah, that too.
4. Earn a degree if you like. Statistically you’ll probably make more money, and have access to more opportunities. Brand name universities open more doors. The friends you make there will be with you for life–you’ll never forget them and many will remain your best buds forever. But do it because you want it, and when you want it. And if you don’t know whether you want it, for goodness sake wait to have kids until you decide. Because college and kids are too expensive to do simultaneously, and college is only a 4-year commitment. Kids take 18 or more.
3. About that. You will raise your kids differently than we are raising you. That’s cool. Just so long as you let us have the grandkids occasionally, we won’t pester you about what you do the rest of the time. We trust you’ll make some mistakes, and also make many good choices. Sometimes you’ll beat yourself up for not being good enough, but you will be good enough. We’ll help when we can.
2. Don’t cheat. You see, that was in #20 too, but Mommy realized her mistake and decided it’s important to teach by example, admit her mistake, and try to rectify it by giving this one its own number. Which is really yet another lesson rolled into this one, so it’s clear Mommy hasn’t learned her lesson at all. In for a penny, in for a pound, we’ll just roll this one in too: Forgive. It’s one of the best things you can do for your own soul. And Mommy can really use it sometimes, like when she tries to roll too many lessons into a single paragraph. And when she yells at you for something you didn’t do and then realizes she actually did it herself, like that time she left her phone in the living room and blamed you for losing it, and that other time or a dozen she did the same thing. Forgive often, okay honey?
1. Love. You are loved, absolutely, completely, forever, and unconditionally. Nothing will ever ever change that. Even more important to you, for your own soul, is the loving you choose. Choose this: Love God, love yourself, love others. If you get this part down, everything else will work out fine. Inhale love, exhale love, embrace love, spread it like butter, stick it down your spine like a steel rod to keep you standing tall, and wear it on your forehead like a sign. All of the rest is contained in this.
So, that’s my 20. What about you? What do you want your son(s) to know?
Monty, my son aged 11, read this and wanted me to add:
#0.5: Brush your teeth every single day. And don’t cheat.
He got his sense of humor from his mom. ❤