“Because I said so” is a famous line said by all parents at some point when they are challenged by their kids. Not my parents, though. Whenever I questioned my mom and dad’s parenting authority with an “oh yeah?” or a “says who?” my parents – your grandparents – would always say to me, “It’s in the parenting handbook.”
I am sorry to tell you this, but your grandparents are dirty liars. When you were born, you did not come with a handbook as promised. I had you, a bunch of diapers and some formula, and with only that, I was supposed to transform into a parent. While I did successfully learn to change a diaper (eventually), the rest has been a make-it-up-as-you-go kind of a thing. Therefore, I have decided that when your grandparents referred to their “handbook,” they were actually talking about the rules they made up as they went along. And now that I am a parent I can’t help but think…
What a wonderful idea!
So here is my first piece of advice to you, straight from my very own parenting handbook – take all of the chances, risks and opportunities you can.
It feels cliché for me to say that, but I continually forget that everything “cliché” to me is brand new to you. That is actually how you have helped me to take the advice I just gave you. People frequently say that their children keep them young and it’s true – seeing the world through your eyes is like seeing it as this new, exciting phenomenon where everything is something worth discovering.
Honestly, I have just started taking my own advice which is why I wanted to give it to you now – taking chances and risks and opportunities is the best way to live life. It’s another way of saying do the things you want to do and don’t be afraid to live.
As I’ve gotten older, I have been more and more surrounded by practicality and I hate it. While responsiblility is necessary and I do admire it and hope that I embody it in some way, always being responsible and always doing the practical thing will take the fun out of life.
Right now, at the age of 20, I’m supposed to know what I want to do with the rest of my life. I’m supposed to have my career nailed down and preferrably, it’s supposed to be a lucrative one. I’m supposed to get in and out of school with my degree as fast as I can so that the real world can fully take hold of me and I can finally be “an adult.”
I never want you to think that.
I want your life to be as fun as humanly possible. I want you to do the things you love. I want you to experience life as fully as you can, and to do that, you have to try not to be afraid. And most of all you have to take chances – go to Europe for a month even though you’ll be broke when you get back. Try out for the basketball team even if you’re not the tallest. Take a summer internship in a far away city even though you’ve never been away from home for that long. Stay out late with your friends even though you know you’ll be tired in the morning (only if you have your parents permission to stay out late, of course. Also, don’t do this is your friends are knocking over liqour stores).
The experiences you have and the memories you make will be worth every penny, every minute of missed sleep, every minute you spend worrying about whether or not you can do it. One of the best feelings I’ve ever had is doing something I wasn’t entirely sure I could do. That’s why chances and risks can be so fun – looking back at them and knowing you accomplished them comes with the knowledge that you can do whatever you set your mind to, and that is empowering. And if there has ever been a little boy who has had a brave, adventerous, I’m-going-to-carve-my-own-path personality, it is you. You are already famous for falling down and getting right back up, and I find that I’m already proud of you.
So from here on out, do the fun things. Do what it takes to enjoy your life. And every now and then, do the things that scare you. And if they scare you a lot, know that I am always here to fall back on. No matter what you do, I will always be part of your support system (your very extensive support system).
After all, it’s in the handbook that I love you no matter what. It’s also in the handbook that I like chocolate for my birthday and that you be a Patriots fan. But for now, and forever, you only have to remember the first part.