25 Things I’d Like My Sons to Know

  1. It’s harder to take a punch than to throw one.
  2. Find the people who make you laugh and follow them around like a golden retriever. Laughing is like a vitamin.  You can never get enough of it.
  3. A guy who hugs a lot is comfortable in his own skin.
  4. Read poetry.
  5. There’s nothing wrong with looking at porn, but having sex with someone you care about is a thousand times more fun.
  6. When you feel like crying, for joy or out of pain, let ‘er rip. If you don’t those tears out, they will calcify in your chest and make it harder to love as fully and deeply as you would like to.
  7. Crank the tunes when you have to clean the house.
  8. Look deeply into the eyes of the one you are falling for to get a glimpse of his or her soul.
  9. Spend a chunk of time every year with people who are much less fortunate than you are. It will fill your heart with gratitude.
  10. Never lie about anything really important. The first lie will cause you to have to lie again and again to cover up the truth. And each time you’ll chip away an important piece of yourself.
  11. Find work that makes you happy. If you can change the world in the process all the better.
  12. If you get the chance to travel across the country or across the globe, take it.  You will learn way more from people who are different from you than the ones who are the same.
  13. Doing nothing is better than doing the wrong thing.  But you are going to make mistakes. Tons of them. The real question is what you will learn from them.
  14. Don’t be in any rush to get married. Divorce really sucks. A good marriage can start when you’re 21 or 61.
  15. There’s nothing wrong with a Cuban cigar once in a while.
  16. Money and power look good, but they won’t fill your being with joy the way your family will.
  17. If you like guys, I will fight for your ability to have equal rights in every way.
  18. Find a way to move your body that gives you pleasure. You don’t have to be an athlete to be a man, but your body is a temple and you need to care for it, enjoy it, and use it to express yourself.
  19. Drinking can be fun in moderation. Just make sure to ask for help if you find yourself blacking out or doing things you regret.
  20. Radical honesty will get you very far in this world. Most people don’t have the guts to speak their mind, regardless of the consequences.
  21. Always give your spouse birthday presents in bed.
  22. Find a spirituality that you can wear like a loose coat that keeps you warm no matter the weather. God should provide you comfort not make you feel ashamed of yourself.
  23. Sex is great but holding your spouse in the middle of the night is one of the best feelings any guy can have.
  24. Live passionately. Dream big. Don’t back down.
  25. Always remember I love you, no matter what happens. You cannot lose me. I will always be there.

If you enjoyed this piece you might like Tom Matlack’s Raising Boys (A Dad’s Advice for Moms)
About Tom Matlack

Thomas Matlack is a venture capitalist.


  1. Bonitto says:

    that was awesome.. 😀
    — but… isn’t #15 kind of illegal? LoL ~ hand-made/hand-rolled cigars from Puerto Rico (a USA territory) would be better… The Don Collins line, Don-Collins.com, are made by the oldest cigar company in the world, Puerto Rico Tobacco Corporation (founded in 1506).
    I was told that most of Cuba’s tobacco isn’t native to Cuba; some major fire wiped out most of their crops; they had to import from PR and other places and replant… a Cuban cigar, technically, isn’t likely to be really/authentically Cuban (well, other than it was assembled there). 🙂

  2. David Wise says:

    And don’t forget the sunscreen! Hee, hee. My apologies to Baz Luhrmann.

  3. Glad to see some people have called out the “there’s nothing wrong with looking at porn” nonsense. If you want a son who sees women as equals and is not a lousy, self-centred, unimaginative lover, don’t encourage porn use. We can all pretend “it’s just looking at sex” but we know that in reality porn is about abusing women (and supporting an unethical, exploitive industry), calling them degrading names, banging and hurting and acting contemptuously of their bodies and is also about older men preying on as-young-as-you-can-get-away-with girls.

    Not cool at all. Try a little hand cream and your imagination, son.

  4. Ola k ase says:

    I find this very, very accurate, I’d only wish to add one more thing:

    Wouldn’t all these great advises apply to daughters too? Cause I really think they are as good for men as for women.

    (I apology if it is indeed addressed to both males and females, I actually don’t know if it is or not, hence the question)

  5. That was a nice list. My parents were not very open with their children and that affected our communication, even to this day. We weren’t allowed to show “negative” emotion..no tears could be shed unless you were spanked. I’m just glad you encourage your children to express their feelings..whatever they may be.

  6. Number 10… Ugh! Never lie. For every good reason there is to lie, there is always a better reason to tell the truth, even if it simply means employing the choicest words and tact. Plus, it (number 10) then contradicts number 20. All-in-all, great stuff as usual. Keep up the great work!

  7. this post made me cry. My son has an absent dad and feels that affects him very much. I wish I had a man that could tell him these things. I’ve tried, but it doesn’t mean the same. He’s an amazing child, I wish he had an amazing Dad too.

  8. Jeff Coulter says:

    Tom, Thanks for writing this article. I admit I teared up. My parents divorced when I was young, and I never saw my dad again. I wish he had been around to teach me some of these lessons along the way, and say some of these words. I’m glad someone’s father says them, and that I at least got to read them.

  9. This brought tears to my eyes. Never thought I’d say this, but thank you for making me cry.

  10. Karen O'Connor says:

    Tom, how about a corresponding list of what you’d like your daughter to know about life/men/dads?

  11. This is a great list with a lot of great reminders to all of us dads. If I were making a list, which I won’t because your list is fantastic, my list would include to apologize when you’re the offender. I always tell my kids that I’m sorry when I mess up and let them hear me say it to others when I offend another person.

  12. #25 made me burst into tears. Losing their dad before they get to know him as adults is a huge fear I have for my sons. He is a wonderful man and I am so thankful to have him in our lives. Good Men, Good Dads… We need more of them.

    Also, “God should provide you comfort, not make you feel ashamed of yourself” is BEAUTIFUL.

  13. Your article is a reflection of the type of father the new century deserves, Tom. The 25 things you would like your son to know are messages of assurance that can only help to further develop confidence in their world and belief in a father to whom they can always look for support and strength. Some could critique individual points, but the totality of the message is clear and will go a long way.
    As a gay man respecting your spirit of being the best man and father you can be, I suggest you consider your #17: “If you like guys, I will fight for your ability to have equal rights in every way.” Though this message is the message many gay teens would dream of hearing upon coming out to their parents, especially boys to their fathers, there is still more you could provide in your message if you desire. Starting now to fight for the ability of your son (or daughter) to have equal rights in every way would allow you to say to them “If you like guys, I will continue to fight for your ability to have equal rights in every way, as I’ve been fighting for so long.” Not only will they know you want what’s best for them, but you’ve been fighting for them all along…and now they can trust that you will continue to do so. And if they don’t “like guys” you will be a man of honor who they can follow into adulthood fighting for the same rights for which you fought, though not for them, perhaps for their brother, sister, cousin, or other young person in your lives who will ultimately be looking to you BOTH for guidance and leadership one day.
    Our world needs more dads/men like you who would speak this way to their sons. Very impressive articles. Thanks.

    • Valter Viglietti says:

      I can attest that Tom (like anybody else on the GMP team) is already “fighting for the ability for everybody to have equal rights”. 🙂

  14. Good list. Some great advice in there. I also recommend Max Ehrmann’s prose piece; the Desiderata
    is also a great source of excellent advice for everyone:

  15. Hi Tom, First of all I would like to thank you for putting this list together. I lost my father when I was 15, and for the next 10 years I have felt lost by not having a male figure in my life. My mother did her best to raise me and protect me but for a young man trying to make his way in this strange and complicated world there is no substitute for a strong father figure. I have always looked up to my father because through him I learned unconditional love. Reading your list reminded me a lot of him and his wisdom. If he were to write out his own list I bet it would look quite similar to this one. Thank you once again.

  16. Thanks for this. I have 2 young sons (10 and 5) and never did really have a father. Much of this list gave me chills as I was reading. It will inspire me to be a much better dad. It also has me thinking of my own list of 25 things to give my sons! Tom – thanks for this!

  17. This was excellent. Really made me appreciate all the values my father instilled in me just a little bit more. Can’t wait to get out of work and go spend some time with him today. Thank you.

  18. Tom, you sound like an amazing father. As a 21 year old gay male I WISH I had a father who would have said HALF of those statements.

  19. Thank you Tom. I couldn’t have said it better myself!

  20. Disagree with a number of these posts — there are MANY problems with porn addiction that have destroyed families and marriages… as well as a hosts of others. There are nice sentiments to this, but it is purely subjective.

    • Valter Viglietti says:

      @Patrick: “there are MANY problems with porn addiction that have destroyed families and marriages”

      Any addiction is a symptom, NOT a cause.
      Alcohol doesn’t make an alcolist (otherwise every drinker would become one), there’s a deeper reason for the addiction, and alcohol is just a mean to that.
      In the same way, porn use never makes (in itself) a porn addict, it’s just a way to an addiction when there’s a deeper cause.

      Pointing to the addiction instead of investigating the real, deeper cause, is myopic, superficial and – above else – useless. 😕
      It’s making a fuss above the “finger”, while there’s a big “moon” hovering above.
      But, of course, understanding is hard work, while judging is SOOO much easier… 😎

    • People are by nature curious, he is simply saying that when this curiousity does not come at the cost of other things it is okay to explore it…. instead of preaching perfection- which is unrealistic.
      His advice is very warming
      Thank you for sharing

    • Soo many good points in this post, but yes I agree with you on the porn. It’s healthy to explore sexuality in a healthy manner, but I don’t deem porn to be a healthy means of education in any stance. teaching our children about intimacy and faithfulness is more important, neither of which is advocated by porn.

      • I completely agree. The only healthy lesson about porn is to stay away from it. There is absolutely no good that comes from it. But I guess we all have our opinions.

        • Hi Tom

          You tell your young sons that porn is OK.

          I do not want to he disrespectful,but let me ask you a questions:

          If your son or daughter wants to become a porn star, or a producer of porn would you support this wholeheartedly ?

  21. Thanks for this insightful list, Tom. I shed a tear when I read #6, your description of what happens if you don’t is very true. I also appreciated the advice of marriage, I am engaged to the love of my life, and this advice is just what I needed this week.

  22. Love this, great list. Very important stuff.

  23. #17 made me tear up. My dad was very cool when I came out to him, but it certainly would’ve been a less terrifying prospect if he had said something like this before the issue came up. If one of your sons turns out to be gay, he is very lucky to have you as a dad.

  24. Valter Viglietti says:

    Excellent list, Tom. You’re always as smart as you’re heart-warming. 🙂

    “Laughing is like a vitamin. You can never get enough of it.”
    Actually, you can get TOO MUCH of vitamins! 😉
    It’s called hypervitaminosis and it’s not nice ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vitamin_poisoning )

    Of course this doesn’t apply to laughing! 😆

  25. Love this! I have a son (and a daughter) and will be sharing.

  26. Stacie Lancaster says:

    Tom – I love this list. As a mother of 3 boys, I know how important fathers are to their sons. One suggestion…please think about editing #5. It’s important not to shame boys about their sexual curiousity…however, the women and girls in porn pictures and movies, 85-95% have been sexual abused. As I heard one DCI officer state, sexual abuse is the bootcamp where sex workers are taught how to be used and abused. When boys (and men) use porn they are supporting the abuse of women. I know for most men it’s not intentional and it really does look like the women in the pictures are enjoying themselves, but for the vast majority, it’s not true. Another way to think about it – how would you feel about a man or boy thinking the thoughts they think about women/girls in porn about your daughter? Please think about helping your sons see women and girls with a more positive sexual perception.

  27. J P McMahon says:

    Mr. Matlack,
    An excellent list that obviously sprung out of a lot of introspection, experience, and love. Could I add a few?
    -In any endeavor, be it your job or your relationships with other people, being on time and present when you say you’re going to be there is the the single most important thing you can do.
    -In your dealings with others, be as polite and positive as possible, but assume that they are going to look after their self interest first, until they prove otherwise.
    -If it sounds too good to be true…
    -Greet everyone you meet with a smile and a kind word. It might be the best thing that happens to them all day.

  28. Sharing this with my two adult sons. Thank you for helping me articulate what is in my heart.

  29. I love this… great incite. Except for #5:?
    I’m someone who has experienced the affects of porn as a child into adulthood and it’s anything but pretty. I think if we look at the idea of pornography and then place our daughter into that picture it easily changes how we view it. I think the desire to look at beautiful women isn’t something to be shamed by but the action of it taken to porn is. My body or my daughter’s, my mother’s, or my sisters, really no one I love do I want being used, objectified or even abused. Rather women should be cherished and protected. Beautiful women like me (and someday my daughters) need and want men who are strong enough to rule their spirits and value people not just strong enough to recognize a real person is better. Porn is degrading to women and men, it is a cheap substitute and lying allusion that turns what is full and meaningful and good into a domineering often dirty animalistic act, no matter how pretty the picture is painted at times. Addiction, abuse, slavery (human trafficking), and child pornography or heavily linked to the porn industry. I think it’s the easy way out to say men will be men. Rather men need to be men and not compartmentalizing their adolescent desires as if they have no real world affect. I liked this article for the most part I just think this is a very important and weighty issue. So thanks for the good:) I hope you’ll research and consider my objection.

  30. A great list, Tom. Immediate and to the point. Having read a number of your posts about kids, I’m grateful to you for writing them. The way you speak to your sons is the way I hope I am speaking to mine. Seeing these ideas in print means a lot to me. So thanks.

    • Tom Matlack says:

      Thanks bro. I do try with my boys but to be honest it’s easier to say than do. And the proof is in the doing.

  31. Jaime Tomé says:

    “#13. Doing nothing is better than doing the wrong thing”. Hmm? Perhaps that statement might be qualified somewhat since doing nothing in the face of doing wrong is also wrong? Nah, don’t mind me. I’m only trying my darnedest to offer something, but this list is perfect: practical and inspiring. Loved how it all leads to the perfect ending in #25.

    • Tom Matlack says:

      Jamie if you’re mind was as twisted as mine, you would understand how much safer the world is for my doing nothing rather than what I might contemplate most of the time…that was my point, perhaps not stated very well. In the end we all do a lot, perhaps more than we should, and in all that action we fuck up. What happens next is the stuff of life that really counts.

  32. Nice list. I won’t nit-pick but after #17, I would have inserted, “protecting his right if he was born love and mate with multiple partners.” Let’s first start with stopping them from being arrested and charged with a felony.

  33. Typo in #14 – should be you’re

    #16 – Not every person is meant to have a family

    Great list otherwise!

    • Tom Matlack says:

      thanks for the nit on 14. in terms of family I guess I was thinking family in the broadest possible context meaning human connection whether that is a nuclear family or something completely different.

  34. Sandra, women look at porn too. There’s nothing wrong with looking at porn. What’s wrong is not knowing the difference between porn and reality. The rest is nobody’s business.

  35. Over-all a great list. But I disagree with looking at porn being okay.

  36. Tom Matlack says:

    Thanks for the kind words Carla and Adam.

  37. Lex Moran-Solero says:

    #7 is my favorite. #6 is good advice, but not always possible to follow.

    • Tom Matlack says:

      Agree on the crying. I used to all the time when I was in my 20s and 30s. Now in my 40s it seems like it has completely stopped. Not sure why but don’t think it is a good/healthy thing. Would like to crack it open.

  38. Actually got me choked up while I was reading at the office. Bravo, sir, bravo!

  39. Tom,
    It’s always illuminating for a woman to listen in, on the advice and insight shared father to son. Particularly as a women with three daughters/no sons. As opposite genders we remain fascinatingly different and as human beings, surprisingly the same. Suspect the conversations around #5 will become more and more important to this internet generation. Absolutely adore #21. Will be sharing it with not only the near and dear men/boys in my life but my daughters too,. Thanks!

  40. Nice one Tom. Thank you for this. I will share with MKP peeps.

  41. Tom, Well Done! Awesome idea.

    I remember a book from the 80s or 90s. “Letters from a Businessman to His Son.” It was good, but the “son” is never likely to read it…at least not MY son.

    You mind if I borrow the idea for a my little guy?

    BTW: Awesome new picture!


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