You’ll probably read this post someday, though I don’t know that I’ll show it to you just yet. This message, and the heart behind it, would likely fall flat today as you continue to operate under an ever-thinning cloud of youth and innocence. So I’ll write this message for myself and others, and I’ll let you read it when you’ve grown and you can better understand the weight of these words.
You’re twelve now – a young man. You are no longer a child, but I do love when you snuggle up next to me. You don’t fit quite as easily in my lap as you did a few years ago, but my heart-connection to you hasn’t changed.
You’re in middle school, and you’re learning new things. Your view of the world is expanding rapidly, and sometimes I wish I could freeze time to keep it from slipping away. But mostly I enjoy watching you grow and process the beauty, and the heartache, of this world.
You’ve officially reached the age when your developed worldview will dictate and filter all of your conversations, your friendships, and your experiences. No longer sheltered from both the good and the bad of this world, you will have to make choices in the days and years to come. These choices will determine how you treat others, how you respect yourself, how you value family and faith, responsibility and outreach.
I wish I could say it will be easy, but it won’t. I can’t sugarcoat that. You’re already being bombarded with messages from the world. Messages that tell you so many things contrary to what we believe as a family. Will you stand strong in the face of such bombardment?
Society tells you that popularity is a necessity. This fame culture in which we live screams at you to seek acceptance through outward appearance, through accomplishments, through skills, through all things visible.
The world tells you that the number of “likes” you get determines your worth.
I tell you that you’re worthy by the character of your heart.
As you grow, there will be so many things that you learn, and we will constantly be here to guide and train you in the things you should know. But for today, I’d like to share the three things that will most help you navigate the next ten years of your life.
1.) Look to your dad *
Your dad is here to model for you what it is to be a man. He will point you in the right direction, will help you walk through the days when life feels confusing, and he has the wisdom and experience that you lack. Go to him for direction. Look to him for an example of manliness, of godliness, and of wisdom.
2.) Remember that kindness goes a long way
I’ve heard it said that middle schoolers are the meanest people on the planet, and I’m not sure that’s too far from the truth. When others are bent on tearing one another down, you be the one to build them back up. When others point and laugh, you be the one to show friendship.
People will tell you that in order to fit in, you need to conform to the mold, but that’s not true. It’s far easier to admire one who’s willing to stand apart, even if his actions or convictions make him seem different.
Don’t be afraid to stand apart from the crowd.
3.) Beware the internet
You’re growing up in a culture that hungers to be seen and known. The internet is a beautiful place where connections can be made, and influence can be affected. But the internet can also be dark, and it will suck you into its underbelly before you even realize you’ve been taken.
Don’t forget that real life – the life happening right here in your midst – is the storer of all memory. The online world won’t fill a longing for companionship, so don’t seek it there. Live in the present. Look people in the eye. Be a man who sees the value in personal relationship over online interaction.
You, my son, are navigating through a whole new world, entirely different from the days in which I grew up. And you’re doing just fine. I’m proud of you, and I have confidence that you’re going to make it out the other side of these crazy years a strong man who will one day lead his own family.
Until then, know that I’m going to be right here. Maybe you can’t quite fit onto my lap anymore, but you’ll never outgrow my arms.
*While this letter was written to my son, many of you may apply it to your own children. Perhaps they don’t have a dad around, but there will be other men you can direct them to – men who will show them what it is to be strong and courageous and wise. Take advantage of those willing to help in the areas where you, mom, lack.