To my little prince,
It's hard to believe you came into our lives one year ago. At times it feels like I have known you a lifetime and at others it seems you just arrived. Having a son -- where to even begin? People warned me it would be different but before you were here I laughed off their comments. Boy was I wrong. It's true -- it does feel different having a boy. You came into the world, looked me in the eye, and I knew you owned me from that moment on. There was a wisdom in the way you watched the world around you. I love seeing the world through your eyes. You smile willingly and love without bounds. Each day I've wanted to slow down time so I could experience each new moment with you over and over again. And here you are already at 12 months old. Inside I have a sinking suspicion that I will blink my eyes and you will be a teenager, a young man, and then a father yourself.
So on your big birthday I couldn't help but feel the need to put words on paper to somehow freeze this moment. They are words of encouragement. Words of love. And words of wisdom. I want so much for you and I'm afraid that with the chaos that is life I might forget to tell you all these things. So here it is. My hopes and dreams for you dear boy.
Always, always, always choose kindness. Others will make fun and some will be downright mean at times but I am asking you to choose kindness because the world needs more of it. Be a beacon of light even in the darkest of moments.
Make friends. You will always have your family, but friends are the family you choose. They will make your life richer, more funny, and more bearable. You can never have too many friends, but it's imperative that you have just a handful that know every little thing about you and love you just the same.
Treat women with respect. We live in a world where many say chivalry is dead. Well, our family chooses to create a world in our home where that is not the case. Hold the door for the girl entering behind you. Always stand when a woman comes to the table. And treat the girls you date like you would want a boyfriend to treat your sisters. I fell in love with your father because he was always (and continues to be) a true gentleman.
Work hard. There is no such thing as a free lunch. Your father and I will want to give you everything. There is nothing sweeter than spoiling your children with the things they dream about having. BUT we also know that confidence and a feeling of self worth are earned from working your way up the ladder. The best night of sleep comes after a long hard day of work.
Play hard. This life is supposed to be joyful and fun. While you should work hard when necessary -- you should also find time to daydream, travel, adopt hobbies, and play sports. It's good to be competitive and to want to win. Just make sure that if and when you lose, you lose with dignity. Nobody likes a sore loser.
Learn to fix things. Whether it be a rift with a friend or a flat tire, the world needs more fixers. People who aren't afraid to brainstorm and come up with a solution. Your sisters (ages 5 and 7) and I once used a screwdriver and a small ladder to break into our home while you played in the grass at our feet. Daddy was away on a business trip and we had to make it work. Be crafty. There's never any harm in trying. Also be a fixer when it comes to people issues. There is no fight so big that an apology won't fix it.
And on that note, say you are sorry. We come from a long line of stubborn people. It isn't always pretty but we are constantly talking about and working on being better at saying we are sorry when we've done wrong. Saying you're sorry will help you to sleep better at night. A clear conscience is everything.
Believe in God. There will be science and statistics that try to prove he doesn't exist, but I am telling you he does. Believing in God gives you a foundation that is based in goodness. I've prayed for you every night of the last year. Good and bad will unfold in your life and I hope that you see God's hand in all of it.
Find someone to love. This life is meant to be lived in tandem with others. There is nothing better than watching a magnificent sunset and having someone special sitting beside you. Take your time though -- you have many years before you need to find this person. So in the meantime I am completely content to be the love of your life...
Have good hygiene. Remember those people who warned me about how "boys are different"? Well they also warned me that you will be dirtier and smellier than your sisters. Shower every night, scrub behind your ears, and please change your sheets at least once a week while you are away at college. Okay?
Laugh as much and as often as possible. There is so much sadness unfolding in this world every day. It can weigh on your heart. It's okay to cry over tragedies big and small. Just be sure to carve out a little time for levity each day too. And that whole "saying your sorry" thing is always much easier if you can laugh about the argument after the fact. After ten years of marriage, your father and I often laugh at the things we did that drove each other most crazy when we first got together.
Take care of yourself. You only get one body, one mind, and one heart in this life and you owe it to yourself to treat it with respect. Eat well. Exercise always. And know that there are so many ways to heal outside of standard medicine. Seek healing when you need it.
And lastly many of these things I am encouraging you to do would lead you down a path that would make you a man much like your father. When in doubt look to him as your North Star. Do as he does and you too will be a man of great character and honor.
My love for you will know no bounds. Please always tell me things. Ask me things. And know that you will find no judgement from me. You may disappoint me with the choices you make, but I will tell you that and we will move on. The day you were born was one of the three best days of my life. I will never forget it. Thank you sweet boy for choosing me as your mother.