When I was pregnant with my son, I was so afraid that I wouldn’t be capable of loving him like I loved my daughter. Not in the cliché way that my heart was already full because of the love I had for my then 4 year old daughter – but because I always had a love-hate relationship with the opposite sex. Truth be told, my father broke my heart before any boy had the chance to, when at the age of 9, he sacrificed me, his flesh and blood, and left my mother to do all the work in raising me. The effects of my father abandoning me followed me well into my adulthood. So, the thought of having a little boy growing inside of me caused me to experience a lot of fear and anxiety.
But the moment I held my sweet baby boy in my arms for the very first time, all of those worries left my body, and I knew my heart would be his forever. As I stared down at my son’s tiny, perfect face, I realized that my love for him would be different, not more, not less, but different. Little did I know that I would soon refer to him as my “Sunshine” because of the way he lights up my life and how my whole world revolves around him.
The love between a mother and son is unlike any other; I honestly cannot adequately put it into words. My son has filled a place in my heart that I never knew was there – I can’t even imagine that there was a time when I was worried about having him. He is a such sensitive soul, and it’s a love that I never expected. I didn’t know I needed a son. I honestly didn’t know. The bond that we share has converted and transformed me, and in a way, healed me. Even though I always thought that I’d be destined to be a mom of all girls, I am beyond blessed that I got the chance to be a “Boy Mom” – I wouldn’t trade it for anything. And now that I have my little man, I never want to let him go! (The thought of him dating one day makes me think that I’m already having a heart attack).
Now my smart, handsome, charming son is on the verge of turning 10 years old. Something happens to me each year as my children reach another birthday milestone – I get incredibly sentimental and emotional. (I also wrote one of these letters to my daughter on her 13th birthday). I’ll be honest, it makes me a little teary-eyed to think that there won’t be anyone with a single-digit age in our household anymore. And at the same time, I realize that in the very near future, my son’s hands will outgrow mine, he will be towering over me, his skinny arms will be replaced with big muscles (and maybe tattoos), and I will no longer be the number one girl in his life.
I didn’t know I needed a son.
But in the meantime, our sweet, fearless 9 year old is just really good at being a kid; we are just savoring every ounce of his innocence and pure heart. We love his zest for life and his indescribable wit. He is playful, goofy, and at times, a bit of a prankster. His humor, silliness, and energy will definitely serve him well in the future as he learns how to channel those traits into worthwhile pursuits.
Raising children to be good, honest, and kind human beings is a high calling, but raising a son who will one day become a husband and head of a family is on another level. As my one and only son’s 10th birthday quickly approaches, I’ve written a list of 10 significant values and truths that I hope he will learn, know, and internalize as he evolves into a man. And though the words may be beyond his years, and there is still so much that he hasn’t even begun to comprehend – or even question – about the world, I know that ten years from now, when he’s well on his way to becoming a man, my words will make a lot more sense to him.
To my number one dude:
A few months ago you told me that you wish you could be a kid forever! As we were pulling into the driveway from one of our road trips, you exclaimed, “I am so happy that I’m a kid, and I don’t have to bring in the suitcases, do the laundry, or pay taxes!” All you wanted to do was be reunited with your video games in your little man cave. Although you are growing up right in front of my eyes, you totally get it. And I love it. You are enjoying your youth and you’re in no rush to grow up – you know that those grown up responsibilities will sneak up on you in a flash. So, in honor of you officially being one decade old, I have written a letter to you about the top 10 things that I want you to know about life and about the type of man I hope that you will eventually become.
1. Always be kind
If you live by one rule, let it be this one – you’ll be the better man for it. In every negative situation, you have the choice to respond with kindness or not. Bite your tongue, hold your head up high, and always take the high road. Never belittle or hurt anyone in order to fit in with the crowd. Hopping on the bandwagon in making someone else feel inferior because you want to appear “cool” will never make you bigger. Instead, be a person of integrity and stand up for those around you and offer your talents and skills to serve others. Be humble and kind – true joy is found when we build others up.
2. Showing emotion is not a sign of weakness
It’s OK to cry (despite what your dad says). Crying doesn’t make you any less of a man. It means you’re a person with feelings. It means you have a heart. Being strong has nothing to do with the size of your muscles. You can be strong and have feelings at the same time. In fact, allowing yourself to feel makes you stronger. I have always loved your sweet sensitivity, and I never want you to lose that. So, when you’ve had a bad day, take time to feel your emotions, learn from your mistakes, but then dust yourself off and try again.
3. Keep writing and falling in love with words
You love to write and you are so good at expressing yourself through writing. You amaze me every day with your vast vocabulary. Please always use this creative side of yourself – one day you’ll understand that a man who can write well is a man of substance.
4. No means no. Period.
When a girl says, no, it means no.
5. Always be accountable for your actions
Everyone makes mistakes; there will be times when you let people down and times when you wish you could take back something that you did or said. In order to avoid situations like these, I pray that you’ll always be in control of your body and your mind. Do your best to stand up for what’s right, but admit it when you do something wrong – real men own up to their mistakes, apologize and try to make things right.
6. Stay close to your sister
You should always hold the people you love close to your heart, but your big sis should always be on the top of your list. Always love and protect her, for she is irreplaceable. If there’s one thing that I always wanted as a child, it would’ve been to have a sibling. It makes me so proud that I was able to give you and your sister the gift of each other. You two are my greatest blessings. Your treatment of your sister (and your mama) is how you will treat your future wife, so keep working on being a good brother and son. Even though you fight and bicker as any brother-sister-duo do, she will be your longest and best friendship in life. And one day, she will be the only person who will remember your childhood and will know what makes you, you.
7. Always be a gentleman
The way you treat others will say everything about you. Be the guy who always holds the door for others and who always smiles first. The little things, the extra steps, will always be more beneficial for you than for the other person. Say please and thank you. Always look people in the eye when you’re speaking to them. Extend a firm handshake and say your name with pride. Think before you speak and act, but never hesitate when it comes to complimenting others. Write thank you notes. Be nice to girls. All girls (young and old). Every girl should be treated with a great amount of respect and kindness. Yes, even your sister. Reread #6.
8. Set a high bar for yourself
Be the young man who has integrity, character, and self-control. Always try to exceed expectations, but know with every failure there is a valuable lesson, and accept that this is how your character will be built. Surround yourself with people who lift you up and who want you to succeed and be equally committed to their success. Be the kind of leader this world needs. Be brave enough to take a stand and always choose right over wrong, no matter the personal cost. Live honorably and ethically. Don’t lie. Don’t cheat. Don’t steal. Your character, who you are, is more important than what you know, or what you’re able to do. And please don’t be a know-it-all. Learn to take advice. There’s a big difference between confidence and cockiness. Learn that difference.
9. Be a man of your word
Always do as you say you will do and never give excuses as to why you didn’t follow through. Standing by your word matters. Remember that trust is earned, and once it’s broken, it’s really hard to get it back. Your reputation is sacred and must be kept in-tact. Keep your promises and commitments, without exception.
10. Be fearlessly and unapologetically yourself
As long as you stay true to who you are, you will always be content. Son, you are brave and you are strong. Never change for someone else. If someone doesn’t like you for you, let it be their problem, not yours. Your real friends will accept you for who you are. In the entire world, there’s only one of you – don’t waste your life trying to be someone you’re not. What makes you unique is also what will give you strength in life, so pave your own path and own who you are. I believe, with all of my soul, that you can be anyone or anything you choose.
You are an amazing kid, and I don’t want you to ever forget that. Keep an open mind and never stop learning – wanting to know more will make you grow and evolve. Stay curious about the world, and keep doing what you love, but also be willing to explore new things. My heart melts whenever I watch you do the things that you love – you’re one incredible soccer player, writer, and B-Boyer. On top of your many talents, you make me (and your entire class) laugh on a daily basis. I can’t wait to see what else is in store for you as you reach your God-given potential in life.
So there you have it, my dearest son. You are so deeply and unconditionally loved. I wish for you all the things in the world that every mom wishes for her son, and as much as I want you to live a life of uninterrupted happiness, we are all shaped and made stronger by our struggles. So just know that your dad, big sister, and I will always be here for you, cheering you on, and fighting in your corner.
You are my boy. My Sunshine. My Somewhere over the Rainbow.
Happy 10th birthday, Buddy!
Love your #1 fan,