Warning: Read at your own risk. This is not a masterpiece, so if you’re looking for that, stop here. It’s a goodbye letter to my son’s friends, who have brought me so much joy over the years, and a thank you note to the women who raised them. They’re going off to college and we’re all a little sleep-deprived, a little crazy, and a whole lot poorer………
My boys are going off to college. I say “my boys,” because if you have even one son, you have about 50 “boys”. Girls are different. They travel in pairs and trios. Not boys. Boys travel in packs. The packs come in all sizes, shapes, and colors. Where there’s one, there are at least four more. I owe the mothers of my son’s friends a debt of gratitude for sharing their boys with me over the years.
Thanks to the women who raised “my boys” and raised them so well.
They’ve been handy for things like eating the food that’s been in the freezer too long, bringing in my groceries without me even asking, and moving heavy stuff. It’s no secret that I’m a mom with a sense of humor and not easily offended, so they’ve excelled at making me laugh so hard I lost my breath. They have reminded me what it feels like to be young and on the edge of something great. They’ve watched sports with me and kept an eye out for my teenage daughter like she’s their sister too, weighing in on who she can and can’t hang out with. They’ve made me hope that when my daughter does start dating, she’ll find a boy even half as wonderful as her brother and his friends.
Thanks for teaching them to say, “Yes, ma’am” and “thank you,” and for giving them permission to come to our house. Thank you for teaching them to pick up after themselves. They may not do it at home, but take comfort in knowing that at my house they make you look good.
Climbing in bed on Friday night, without even my own son at home yet, and waking up Saturday morning to a family room full of sleeping boys was a blessing to me. I’ve cooked for them and loved doing it, despite the fact that my kitchen skills are marginal, at best. I turned our backyard into a basketball court and allowed the living room to evolve into a “man cave”, with gaming systems, a mini-fridge and a giant TV, in hopes that they would come and stay.
Initially, that was my crafty way to keep Jake close so that I knew he was safe. It wasn’t long before I realized how much it mattered to me that your boys were safe too.
Thanks for sharing the love of your life with me. Your boys have been great friends to my boy and that is an invaluable gift. I promise you, I will walk through fire for any of them. Their presence grew my heart to triple its normal size and, for as long as I live, they can always seek refuge here if they need it.
I wish I had the resources to give them something more than the promise to walk through the proverbial fire for them, as they head off to change the world, but alas, Jake is going to be paying off college loans until he’s 102, so I’ve had to scale back my spending.
What I can do is send them off, armed with some advice. I’ve been told our attention spans have deteriorated to the point where most people won’t read a paragraph that’s more than four lines, so I’m going to put it in list form in hopes that they will accidentally read a little before a squirrel happens by.
Pearls of Wisdom for “My Boys”
- If it needs to be a secret, you shouldn’t be doing it.
- This is your chance to evolve into the person YOU want to be. Reinvent yourself. Don’t buy into the labels assigned to you in your youth. You don’t know it yet, but your mind and your life are about to expand in ways you can’t imagine.
- GO. TO. CLASS. There is no substitute for your physical presence. Someone, maybe you or maybe your parents, is paying somewhere in the neighborhood of $70,000 for you to get an education. The least you can do is get to class.
- Surround yourself with people who have similar goals and ambitions. Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future. I didn’t make that up, but I wish I had. No truer words have ever been spoken.
- Avoid the girl who needs to be the center of attention. Why? Because the minute your focus is redirected to your studies or your job, she will go out and find someone else to feed her ego. Let her go off and break someone else’s heart. Otherwise, I’ve got to hunt her down, and well…..that’s not going to end nicely for anyone.
- Forget your SAT scores and high school GPA. They’re irrelevant now. New ballgame. Prepare to work your ass off. Determination and perseverance will take you so much further than you realize.
- Be bold. Meet new people. In addition to determination and perseverance, you need connections. When you graduate and begin looking for employment, connections are everything.
- Professors are people too. Let them see that you’re serious about being successful. A wise man once told me, if you make a good first impression they’ll give you the benefit of the doubt when you most need it.
- “O Captain! My Captain!” Yes, I’m talking to you. You are your own boss now. If you don’t have a great deal of self-discipline, you better find some. There are going to be distractions and opportunities to derail you, like you’ve never imagined. Your education has to be the priority. You need to be better qualified than the other applicant. If you flunk out and go home you won’t be.
- Do not, under any circumstances, bring a strumpet home to meet your mother. You should all be able to recognize them on sight. I know your mamas and they’ve all worked hard to raise you right. Don’t make us act ugly, because we will.
- Take care of yourselves, both physically and mentally. We’re not naïve, and we expect you to have some fun, but know when to say “when”. There is nothing attractive about a drunk guy. In one glance you are sloppy, stupid, uncoordinated, and helpless. Not a good look.
- Take care of your friends. Partially developed frontal lobes sometimes lead to stupid decisions. If someone has too much to drink or is visibly impaired, do not leave them alone. You were raised better than that. Be the responsible one.
- Get a job. It will greatly improve your time management skills, and you will meet some incredible people.
- Step into this new experience with an open mind. You’re going to be surrounded by people from a multitude of regions, religions, backgrounds, ethnicities, and belief systems. Learn from them and appreciate the insight they’re able to give you. I promise, it will pay off in the real world.
- Call your mama. We’re proud of you, we’re confident in your abilities, and we want to see you grab the world by the tail, but when we look at you, we still see a chubby little boy with fat cheeks and muddy shoes, who loves us more than oxygen. That will never change. Never.
- There will be drugs. Don’t do them. Just don’t. Nothing good can come of it.
- Embrace your mistakes and learn from them. If you don’t make some, you aren’t trying hard enough. It’s okay to fall down, as long as you get back up with renewed purpose.
- Call your dad. He misses you too, but may not be as obnoxious about it as your mother and I are. He has knowledge that can benefit you; access it while he’s on this earth.
- Be kind. It’s free and it changes lives. Yours, as well as someone else’s. Be a positive voice in this world of ours that is so fast, complicated, and at times, self-serving.
- Don’t come home too much. This is your time to really discover YOU and practice adulting. If you’re home every weekend, you’re still absorbing the energy of who we want you to be and what we believe is best for you. Separate from us a little. We’ll hate it and it will hurt, but we will survive; and then we will marvel at this man you’ve become with your own identity, belief system, and ambitious plans for the future.
Make us proud, your mom and me, because we both love you to pieces. I know you will. And when you’re home, mi casa es su casa. Come by, give me a big hug, and tell me how great you’re doing. This old lady is going to miss looking out the back window while you play basketball, listening to your seriously awful music, and having free labor at my disposal.
Now get out there and kick ass. You owe us at least that.