To My Son on His Birthday

Happy birthday! Now you're 13. Welcome to the teenage years, they're a big time for you to grow and learn. And for the past 4,475 days, I have done nothing more than grow and learn from you.
01/16/2014 03:03pm ET | Updated March 18, 2014

Happy birthday! Now you're 13. Welcome to the teenage years, they're a big time for you to grow and learn. And for the past 4,475 days, I have done nothing more than grow and learn from you.

I am so proud of the young man you are becoming. You are kind, and always thinking of others. And even though your twin sisters drive you crazy, you have been a good big brother and role model, leaving behind ambitious footsteps for them to follow. You are a gifted athlete, chose your friends wisely, and excel in school. I am so thankful for you and hope to continue to guide you, as you enter this next phase of your life.

Each day, I work hard to alleviate inequality in the workplace. You are gifted in that you understand why this means so much to me, and how you can play your own part in helping others. Because of this, I want to give you some advice that I hope you will hold close as you grow older.

1. Set goals. This is the same advice I give your sisters because it is one of the most important keys to success. If you don't know what direction your headed, you could end up anywhere.

2. It is ok to make mistakes. Like your mom, you strive for perfection. But I hope this advice will spare you of some of my heartache trying to achieve the unattainable. Strive for excellence, not perfection.

3. Family first. As a teenager, you will spend more and more time with your friends. You will all influence each other but remember your values and always put family first -- remember that family is with you for life, and that we will support you with all the difficult choices you will have to make.

4. You gotta lean in too. For us to truly reach equality, men have to make it as much a priority as women. In a fascinating article in The New York Times OpEds, Philip Cohen talks about how men can help us reach equality. Men and women have to stop adhering to gender norms. More men need to be nurses and stay at home dads. Follow your heart and if it means taking a less traditional path, go for it.

5. Stand up for those who can't stand up for themselves. Keep in mind the perspective of the world; do not condone jokes when women are teased or made fun of. Stand up for anyone when you feel they are being treated unfairly or bullied.

6. Remember there are no shortcuts. You know your mother is a big fan of Malcolm Gladwell. He says that the key to success in any field is logging 10 years or 10,000 hours of practice. While some may disagree, the point is that input equals output. If you put in your hardest, expect to get out a lot. If you put in a so-so effort, expect to get the same results.

7. Help others. Whatever you do, remember to think of the less fortunate. Save your allowance and give to charity. Donate your time, or even your goodwill and thoughts. Try to help someone everyday.

8. Cultivate a practice of gratitude. Write down what you are thankful for every day. As a teenager with today's social media, I know there are a million ways to document how you feel -- both publicly and privately. So use your iPhone, our gratitude wall, or start a notebook to express gratitude.

9. Write down three things you love about yourself. Whenever you are having a bad day, check out your list and give yourself a little self-pick-up. As your mother, I could write down a million reasons why I love you, and why you children are above and beyond what I could have ever asked for. You need to have that same belief in yourself -- it's what will motivate you and keep you pursuing your goals when times are hard.

10. Always remember you are surrounded by love.

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