A Letter To Jason On His 12th Birthday

It’s hard to believe that it’s been 12 years since I became your dad.

While I knew that it would change my life, I didn’t know how much it would affect both my daily activities and my overall perspective.

I still remember being 11 years old, and wishing I could stay that age forever.  Even then, I knew that I would probably never have so carefree an existence again.  I dreaded that 12th birthday.

Yet as the calendar shows, I’ve managed to survive turning 12.  And 13.  And a lot of other birthdays (though I’m not going to say how man).  And as an old man who was once a boy, I wanted to share some advice that I hope you’ll be able to use for the rest of your life.

  1. The most important part of growing up is figuring out who you are.  You’re still learning about the world, and that’s fine.  That knowledge will come with time.  But self-knowledge will only come if you seek it out.
  2. The best way to figure out who you are is to try doing different things.  Life is complicated and difficult to imagine without first-hand experience.  Go out and get that experience, but do so safely–there’s not a lot that risking life and limb teaches you.
  3. No one has the right answers, so don’t rely on other people to tell you what to do.  Even I, in my incredible wisdom, have been known to get things wrong.  Seek wise counsel, but make your own decisions.
  4. The best way to learn from others is from their actions, not their words.  People are terrible about predicting how they’ll feel or what will make them happy.  Instead, use the power of surrogacy.  Find people who feel or have what you want, and learn from their example.
  5. It’s bad to lie to others, but it’s disastrous to lie to yourself.  I believe that the truth is the best policy (if nothing else, it takes less energy than remembering all your lies) but even if you decide you need to lie to others, never lie to yourself.  Either you’ll start to believe yourself, or worse, you’ll stop believing in yourself.
  6. When in doubt, be kind.  There aren’t many situations where treating someone badly is the right decision.  Even if you need to say no, or thwart someone’s desires, being nasty rarely helps you, let alone the other person.
  7. In the words of Abraham Lincoln, “This too, shall pass.”  Sometimes good things will happen.  Sometimes bad things will happen.  Sometimes you’ll be ecstatic.  Sometimes you’ll be bitter.  Whatever the circumstance, recognize that all things are temporary, and everything changes.  That may help you stay calm and grounded.

(There’s other advice I’ll need to give you in a few years, but let’s just leave that for the future, shall we?)

3 thoughts on “A Letter To Jason On His 12th Birthday

  1. Chris,
    I love this. It's all so, so true and so right. I can't believe TWELVE. xoxoxo

  2. Puneet

    Come on Chris, you’re not that old! Good advice for Jason… and the rest of us.

    Very sweet post from a father to a son. He's a lucky boy.

  3. Becky

    Such words of wisdom Chris. Jason is so lucky to have you as a dad. Happy b-day Jason!

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