I'm always telling my kids stuff. Some stuff is important and a lot of it is just mundane stuff… "Pick up your coat and put it on the hook." "Put your dish in the sink." "Remember to put clean underwear on…yes, again…You have to put new underwear on every day!" "Brush your teeth…yes, again…yes, you already did it once today. Do it again!" "Sit on your chair properly, PLEASE!" But I think those mundane things are important too otherwise they would be dirty, stinky pigs, living in a filthy home.
And yet, I don't want them to think back on their childhoods and remember only the discussions on hygiene and manners and simple chores. These days, I spend a lot of time with my kids, and I say a lot of stuff to them. So, yes, those routine commands and reminders and discussions are important for all human beings, but these are the messages I really want them to get and remember and live by.
To my boys:
Be Yourself. Whoever that Is. Express yourself through music, art, written words, creations, performances or any other form you see fit. Don't be afraid to be different. It's fine if you stand out or if you blend in or do both from time to time. Be true to thine own heart in all you do. You have much to offer, but you must first accept who you are and understand your strengths and weaknesses. You are not the gift to the world, but you have many gifts to offer the world once you understand who you are and work hard to fully develop these gifts.
Be Kind. This means being merciful, loving, generous, respectful and forgiving, be like Jesus…to yourself and to all others, even your brother….especially your brother. Do not be lulled by the loud, angry voices of the world. Those mantras lead only to unhappiness, discord and hurt. Instead, seek peaceful resolution and compassionate understanding and acceptance. This does not mean letting go of your own convictions and values. It's the opposite. It's standing tall for what you believe in and hold near to your heart even when pushed to the absolute breaking point.
Work Hard. You will never get anywhere or do anything of value or have anything worth having unless you work hard. This means doing even the shit work at the bottom of the ladder; the stuff you don't like or have no passion for, the stuff that doesn't seem to matter. But it does matter. It all matters. Get a job as soon as you can. Feel what it's like to earn money for working hard. Keep working your way through until you get to the stuff that you love. Try your darnedest to find a profession that fills you with passion and joy. But if you don't, keep working hard and build a life that fills you with passion and joy!
Dance. Always dance as you do now and always have since you could stand on your own two legs and groove. Don't lose this zeal for uninhibited freedom of movement. Refer to #1…be yourself! It doesn't matter if you look silly, you are silly and that's a good thing! For so long, I was not sure enough of myself to dance and that is one of the only regrets I have in life. Isn't that funny? You might not think that dancing or not dancing is an important enough issue to be a regret, but it is. So, never stop movin' and groovin' to the beat of the music…even if it's your own beat.
Keep Your Mind and Eyes and Ears Open to the World Around You. There is so much to learn. Every. Single. Day. Often, it's the places and times and people you least expect to learn from that teach you the most. Never shut your mind off. Do not ever think you know everything you need to know. You do not. Explore places and cultures and flavors. Understand the lessons of the past. Look to the future and embrace the ideas not yet realized. And when you encounter a question, a problem, a riddle in life, remember to look for the solution, the answer, the way through or around or under or over no matter how difficult or unsolvable it seems. You have the tools to solve it and find the answer. Never doubt that. Stop talking long enough to look and listen and really see and hear what is all around you. You learn more by listening than by talking. I have said this many times to you, my little chatter boxes.
And one bonus: I Love You! Always remember that you are loved so much that sometimes it hurts just thinking about you out in the big, wide world. And no matter how often we get upset with each other or have arguments or exchange words that are not kind or disagree on big or small things, I will NEVER stop loving you and believing in you. You are my heart.
These are just a few of the messages I want to imprint on my young men. Time goes by so fast that sometimes I wonder what they will remember or think back on and will they know the stuff that mattered more. So many times I hope and pray that I am not crushing, ruining, destroying, stunting these precious, still growing and developing beings from God. My prayer is that the important stuff sticks and all the filler falls away into oblivion. Over and out…