You are sixteen today. SIXTEEN! How on Earth is that possible?!!? I remember being sixteen. I loved being sixteen. And I’m pretty sure I was just sixteen about twenty minutes ago. (pausing to dab corner of eye) For the record, I think you’re going to be way better at it than I was. You are more centered. And driven. And well, let’s just say I didn’t have straight As on my report card at your age. Or even straight As and Bs. (sigh) Stupid Geometry.
Nevertheless, on this special day in October in the year 2015, I want to take a moment to mention a few pearls of “wisdom” I’ve cultivated over my forty-something years of life. (You don’t have to sit down. We won’t be here long.)
Stay focused. You have this amazing ability to shut the world out and get your work done. Every i gets dotted and every t gets crossed with all your books stacked according to size and positioned in right angles the entire time. I envy that kind of organization. You are a better version of me … me to the Nth power, you might say. So sometimes I feel like I get you more than others do. Of course, any time I hear someone use a term like “gentle giant” to describe you, I know that they get you, too. These are the people who are usually my favorite in all the world.
There’s more to life than sports. Don’t get me wrong. Football games, basketball games … they all have their place. I’m just saying that, if you’re as unlucky enough as your dad to marry someone who is completely disinterested in this form of entertainment, you might want to open your mind to theater, music or whatever other art form your future girlfriend and/or wife may enjoy. You’ll thank me for it later. (She sure as hell better, too.)
Popularity now means NOTHING. There were times I felt cool in high school. And there were times I felt like a big dork. I suspect I was probably a combo platter of both. The bottom line is (as any adult will testify) the things that make you cool as a teenager are almost always the exact things that make you a loser as an adult. Kids who are considered the coolest now will very likely be the jackasses pumping gas into your Mercedes later in life. I know that’s hard to believe right now. You’ll just have to trust me on this one.
No girl is worth making you feel like a puppy. Sure, in the world of dating, there’s definitely a game to be played. And played to perfection. But if you ever find that a girl is leading you around like a dog on a leash, dump her like yesterday’s decomposing trash. Or, so help me, I’ll sic your protective little sister on her. And we both know that’s a fate much worse than anything I could do to her.
Diversify your palate. Nobody likes cooking for a picky eater. And one day you just might have someone cooking for you besides me. Do yourself a favor and try shellfish again. There’s a reason that Americans eat more than 5 billion pounds of it a year. The shit is good. (You know I curse sometimes, right? Wait. You’re 16. Of course you do.)
Always own a pet. Disney vacations, XBox 360s, iPhones, Beats headphones, trampolines … hands down, the best gift your dad and I ever gave you and your sister was your cat, Milo. Sure, you begged us to return him the very night we brought him home. But, ever since we flat-out refused you and told you to get used to the newest member of the family, I think he’s actually become your favorite. Pets love you unconditionally. And pets reduce stress. Except when they cause it by biting you. And stalking you in the hallway. But that’s just Milo. Not all cats are such a-holes.
Call your mother. Yes, I know this sounds cliché. But there’s a reason we mothers say that. For as long as I roam this planet, there will never be a time that I don’t want to hear about the latest in your life, your friends, your studies, your job, what you hope to achieve or even just what you had for lunch. So call me. I will always, always be there to listen.
And just like I told your sister on her last birthday, always remember …
If I couldn’t be there sitting beside you
watching whatever it is that you’re doing,
it’s probably a bad idea.
Please find another activity.
Happy birthday, Dean. I’m ridiculously proud on a daily basis to be your mom. I know your future holds great things. And I feel privileged to claim a front seat in watching it all unfold.
I love you, now and always.
How many babies have a theme song?
You did … and I’ll never forget it.
I sure love that kid! Your letter to him rings so true – except good luck with the sports entry. You and Dave surely can pat yourselves on the back and say you did something right with your boy: he’s a winner in so many ways. He’s kind, courteous, thoughtful, smart, and focused. He loves his sister and his cat – not always in that order. And he loves, respects, and accepts his crazy grandparents. I know his uncle is proud that Dean is following in his footsteps at Jesuit. So from the whole family – Happy 16th Birthday, Dean!!