What do you give your son on his twenty-first birthday...? You won't find it in any store.
LETTER TO MY SON
On this, your twenty-first birthday, I sit down to collect some thoughts for you. Today, you are twenty-one. It is marked by nothing particularly remarkable: crimes are still being committed; automobile accidents are occurring; people are growing old, starving, getting sick, and dying; children are being abused; war is being waged; the country and the world are hurtling ever faster toward the uncertainty of the twenty-first century. So... what does it all mean? Are you unsure of what your place will be? Does it all frighten you? As a father, it is hard for me to answer all or even any of these questions. As your father, I will say the following to you: Your mother and I tried to set what we thought was an example of upstanding citizenry. We picked, as friends and acquaintances, only people of good character. Good character doesn't mean a person has never gotten into trouble before... it means that they try, within the frailties and limitations of being human, to do the right thing. We also tried to set in place a framework of reference for conducting life on a daily basis. Rules were clearly set down, and when you broke them, we tried to punish as objectively as possible, never with cruelty. You've been spanked several times, but never slapped across the face or beaten. And those spankings ended long before you became a teenager. We were always there to listen to problems and give you what advice we could, without, I hope, being too judgmental. We were young once, ourselves, but your world was, and is, different in so many ways. We tried to make allowances for that. Beyond good personal treatment, you always had a roof over your head, and food in your stomach. Your friends were always welcomed and trusted in our home. We strove to support you in all of your personal interests. We also strove to let you make your own decisions about where you were going in life. You grew into the ability to choose with a good degree of intelligence. You learned the difference between right and wrong, and made good choices. You learned to respect the generations which came before you, and also learned that, while many of us like to hear ourselves lecture, some of what we lecture about is good information to know. You learned that life can bring many problems, both physical and emotional, to weigh down body and spirit, and that how we handle those problems is a measure of our worth. In that fashion, you learned that your mother was worth much, and you came to have the respect for women which is due them. You learned that knowledge is very important, but so is fitness of body and soul. You learned that most problems can be worked out, and that violence is a regrettable last resort to solving them. You're also learning one of life's most important lessons... you're learning how much you don't know. All of us have to learn this -- or suffer the consequences of not learning it -- on a daily basis. And that leads you to another important lesson: a person must never stop learning. And so, now that you have reached that age where one is considered legally an adult... are you yet a man? What does "being a man" mean? Does it mean you can go out and get drunk? Does it mean you have won sports trophies? Does it mean you have had sex? Does it mean you own your own car? Does it mean you don't have to obey your parents any more? Does it mean you now share the responsibility of our country's future? Does it mean you have gone into battle and killed another warrior? My answer: It can mean any of these things or all of these things. But... I like to think it means something else. I like to think it means that you have reached a point in life where you are reasonably sure of the life path you have chosen; that you know that in order to garner respect from others, you must give them respect; that you realize it's not whether you control others that matters, but whether they choose to follow your leadership; that you understand that sex is not love and love is not sex, but when both occur together, a very special bond is created between two people; that you know that all the money in the world can never buy back your good name if you have disgraced it; that you understand that you can expect many people to treat you worse than you treat them, but you can never expect anyone to treat you better than you treat them; and finally, that you realize that there is a God, and that He cannot always protect you against life's misfortunes, but that failing to believe in Him will leave an empty place in your spirit. The only other thing I have to say is that I love you very much and I wish you all the best that life has to offer and as little misfortune as possible.
Your father, February 9, 1996
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|Reviewed by Karen Vanderlaan
|Wow-so well put-what an admiral job it sounds like you have done-very, very fortunate young man|
|Reviewed by Julie Donner Andersen
|OK...somebody pass the tissues. Doc, you've done well as a father. It's obvious by the heart of your writing here.
"...but that failing to believe in Him will leave an empty place in your spirit."
|Reviewed by Randall Barfield
|Really and truly a well-composed letter. It is unfortunate that the world has so few parents like you two. Thanks for sharing.|
|Reviewed by Michael Kersting
|Good advice and a good write. Doc, Perhaps you can read my poem "Daddy's Girl" and tell me what you think...Mike|
|Reviewed by m j hollingshead
|Reviewed by Carol Kluz
|This is a marvelous gift to your son. It's something he can pass on to his children. I wish every parent could read it and learn. Have you thought about submitting to Parents magazine?|
|Reviewed by Masarat Daud (Reader)
|What more could a son ask for? This is so true--> sex is not love and love is not sex|
|Reviewed by susie harrison
|Wonderful, can I use this on my kids? Is it copyrighted??? No, my children are leading some pretty destructive lives right now. Your good character and strength as a parent has been remarkable, and yes I have a few tears as well. I only hope my young children will grow into the kind of person your son has become. Perhaps one thing you have probably covered indirectly but might have added that in his life he should strive to use his abilities to help other in his carreer and personal life.
Wonderful letter, I will refer back to this as a reference for my own parenting skills.
|Reviewed by Claywoman
|Hanley, now that you've reduced me to tears. where do the years go, one day they are toddlers crawling around in diapers and the next, they are getting married and having children.
When my children all reached their majority, and I hate to confess this, but their ages are 33, 30, and 26. I think I did a good job raising them and the youngest by myself. None of them have languished in prison for anything stronger then a traffic ticket (my son now realizes that when you get them, you PAY them).
I don't know about you, but I still feel twenty-one...I may look 55 but I don't feel it....
|Reviewed by John Prophet
|I didn't write one of these letters for my son when he turned 21. He just got married at age 35. I know I need to leave something behind, just for him. The main character in my book, Casey Miller, is my son. What more could a son ask for than to see where the upbringing came from and to see it in the form of the person who has led the life reinforces it for future Hardings.|
|Reviewed by Mark J. Gallo
|Absolutely brilliant. Short and to the point. I probably use this in a few years.|
|Reviewed by Karen Dunn
This is so right-on that I have to send it to my sons. Your son is very fortunate to have a Father that cares and loves him to the extent to write a heart-felt letter. I was an only parent with 2 boys.....and I wouldn't wish that task on anyone. I am grateful they turned out respectable and independent. My oldest, is just graduating from NCO Warrant Officer Training at Fort Rucker, Alabama, and will be 27 on November 13th. I pray for his safety daily. My baby who is 23 lives in Michigan --this week he is in Hawaii on vacation, - - he works putting himself through College and travels in between. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree....but some can roll down the hill!
|Reviewed by Margaret Lecren
|I remember when fathers were expected to write such letters to sons, now an all but extinct practice. Thanks for reviving it for Authors Den! Margaret.|