Every mother has dreams for their children, and I am no different. You were and are the recipient of those dreams. As my first born, you were also the guinea pig. I have learned so much from you through the years that I’m not entirely sure who was in charge. Maybe that’s the way it’s supposed to be. The two of us learning from each other, and in the process co-creating the man you will become.
While you share so much that is me (did you get no annoying traits from your father?), you have gifts, quirks, and challenges that are uniquely your own. One of the challenges you face is deciding what kind of man you will be. I’m not sure it was easy in “the good old days,” but the task seems to be ever more challenging today.
I would be remiss as your mom if I didn’t try to guide you in this process. I hope you take these in the spirit of love and process them through your perspective as you always do.
- Emotions aren’t just feminine.
As one who tends to be left-brained, it is easy to dismiss feelings as less important than observable facts. But they are the brain’s way of quickly processing information with life and death consequences. The gut feeling that a car is about to change lanes into you or the sound you heard in the night isn’t normal is just as valid as any information you can prove in a laboratory. Just because you can’t measure it or even see it, doesn’t mean it has no value. Emotional intelligence is what makes for real success in life.
- Vulnerability isn’t a weakness.
To be vulnerable is to be able to care. To love is to be vulnerable. To love opens us to hurt and that can be scary. But a life without love is even more frightening. We are all vulnerable in some way, whether we admit it or not. Running from it is what makes us weak.
- Who you are matters more than what you have.
A big bank account or a fancy car doesn’t mean much if you have no soul. A smile or a kind word cost nothing but can change someone’s life. Your reputation is your legacy. Once damaged, it is tough to restore.
- Never ask anyone to do something you won’t do yourself.
This is the sign of a real leader. It connects you on a more fundamental level because you truly understand what is involved. It also will keep you from being a hypocrite. You will engender trust and respect for standing in your authenticity.
- Compassion is more important than comprehension.
Humans seem to have an insatiable desire to understand. Living in uncertainty is uncomfortable, but understanding can be overrated. There are many things we will never understand, but we can always care. Being able to sit with someone in pain or loss and just be present, not try to fix it or minimize it, is the greatest gift you can give.
- Let go of being “right.”
Most disagreements are not about facts. They are about opinion, how each person interprets the facts, or even how each of you perceives them. The temperature can be a measured fact. Whether it is warm or cold is not. Taking a stance of being “right” means the other must be “wrong,” when, in actuality, you both just have a perspective. Being curious is a much more inviting and, ultimately, effective approach.
- It’s okay not to know. It’s not okay not to learn.
The fact is none of us know everything and never will. Being able to admit when you don’t know something is a recognition of reality. Being willing to learn is a sign of maturity. This is especially important to remember in relationships. All you know is your own experience. Being open to learning about the other person’s is a sign of courage. And you don’t have to figure it out on your own. Asking for help will get you there faster.
- Don’t apologize for your gifts but be humble about them.
You have gifts, both what you were born with and what you were born into. While it makes you unique, it doesn’t make you special. Everyone has gifts, but not everyone has an equal chance of capitalizing on them. Be grateful for the opportunities that come your way but recognize you had a solid head start.
- Respect the rights of others.
Everyone has the right to their personal integrity. They have the right to set appropriate boundaries that protect that integrity. Their boundaries are about their needs, not yours. They are not something being done to you, but something for them. It is always okay to ask. It is never okay to demand.
- Have the courage to take a stand.
There are things in life worth fighting for. When you find one, be willing to risk your comfort. Yes, you may be challenged. Yes, you may be criticized. But it is more important that you can look yourself in the eye and know you made a difference.
I know this can seem like a lot, but I watch you make progress in each of these areas every day. Perfection is never the goal. It’s the focused effort that matters, and I know you give it your best.
That is all I hope for you. That is all anyone can hope.
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