My last post got my wheels turning. I apologize this wasn't out quite so quickly but it was a difficult one for me to write. It took me a bit of time.
I thought, you know, I want my kids to know that religion isn't just about going to church. But what else do I want them to know? Here's my list of things I want my children to know as they get older. I'm going to write it specifically to them because I hope one day to sit them down and let them read it all for themselves.
1) What you want and what you need are different: This is especially important when you become an adult. I know you WANT the newest game or the coolest shoes or whatever "Jimmy" down the road has. But you don't NEED it. When you get older and have children and a wife (it will happen, but I'm hoping it doesn't happen until I'm dead), this will be something your wife and children will thank me for. No one wants to marry a man who is constantly spending money on the cool things in life, but can't afford to pay his water bill. Trust me. Because when your wife throws you out for that, you can not come live in my basement.
2) Importance is important: This goes in all ways. It's important to remember that you don't like being made to feel less important than anyone else. Please don't make other people feel that way. That guy who wears pants that are too short in your Biology class may just be dealing with not having new clothes so his mom can pay for her cancer treatments. That girl in lunch who always brings a bagged lunch and never gets pizza from the cafeteria may be packing her own lunch because her mom works two jobs and still can't afford lunch. Be the guy that doesn't judge without knowing why someone is the way they are. If I ever hear you making fun of someone for what they wear, I will go shopping at the thrift store for the most ridiculous things I can find and you will wear it every day for a week. And you better believe I'm mean enough to make that happen.
3) Equality is important: Men and women are not set in these gender roles. Hopefully by the time you get older that's no longer the case. But I feel it still will be. For God's sake, don't leave your wife to do all the cooking and cleaning. Your arms aren't broken (at least not at the time I'm writing this) and you both have functioning legs. Clean something. Cook something. Fold some laundry. Be helpful. Your wife will go to work. And that's how it should be. Equality. Remember that. It will save you a lot of arguments in your life if you realize relationships work only if you contribute the same as you expect the other to contribute. And if you remember, you can not live in my basement when she throws you out for being a sloppy pig.
4) Life isn't fair: It never has been, it never will be. My job is to make sure you get what you should have. But I can't promise to get you everything you think you deserve. Kids may get trophies now just for playing, but you will learn that sometimes you lose and you get nothing. Not everyone can be a winner. I will teach you how to become a winner, but what you do with it from there is your own decision. I will not praise you for doing what you should be doing. Homework is a part of life. An unfair part, sure. I remember that. But do it anyway. And stop bitching about it (because I know both of you will). Bitching does not make it go any faster. Or make it any less unfair. I will also teach you how to be a loser. Because nothing is worse than someone who thinks they should win, and whines when they don't. I will beat you at card games sometimes. I will wipe your ass at basketball. And you will learn that losing doesn't mean the end of the world.
5) Your job is not your life: Your job is a way for you to be able to pay to have a life. It is not your life. Took me a long time to realize this one myself, so let me help you out. If all you ever do is work, you will miss out on life. And life is pretty damn amazing sometimes. Taking a day to do nothing but play with your kids can provide for some awesome stories. So don't always take the overtime. Don't always let your wife be the one handle the kids. Don't let your roommates be people you just see in passing. Take time to enjoy the life you have instead of working it all away. The man who dies with the most money is still dead. Don't go broke enjoying it, but remember to do something fun sometimes. Fun things don't always cost money. Go to a museum. Take your kids there. Go see a baseball game. Take a picnic to the park. Just don't let your kids always see you at work. It's depressing.
6) Family comes first: I wiped your little asses when you were babies. I expect the same treatment. I will one day be taking care of my parents, and you will watch that, and help with that. You will learn that you ALWAYS put your family first. If someone in the family needs your help, you go do it. It's what family does. And you, my boys, have an awesome family. Don't jeopardize that because you want to play video games all day and don't want to help your grandparents mow their lawn. They did a lot for you, it will someday be time to pay it back. And your Ya-Ya is a master at asking you to do things and not giving you time to say no. Get used to that, and just plan on doing what she asks. And by the time you're old enough to read this, she will have taught me how to do it as well.
7) Volunteer: I don't care what you volunteer for. Help the homeless. Become firefighters. Work in a cat shelter. It doesn't matter what you pick, but do something completely unselfish for no reason other than you have the ability to. It's humbling. It reminds you your life is not as bad as you thought it was yesterday. And there is no shame in helping other people. No one has ever had someone make fun of them for being the one that jumps in to help when they are getting nothing out of it. And never take money for volunteering. Ever. It's tacky. You do it because your mother said so. I promise, someday you will walk out of wherever you pick to volunteer and you'll understand what I mean. It will happen. If you ever need help thinking of something to do, come ask me. But I think you will enjoy firefighting and EMS. It runs in the family.
8) Men can cry: I know that society wants you to think that men are strong and don't cry and don't show emotions. Yes, they do. If the only person who ever sees it is family, that's fine. But don't play strong when you really just need to cry and let it out. You are always welcome to come home and cry to me. I will always be there to listen. If a girl breaks your heart, cry about it. Don't let it make you treat the rest of the women in your life like crap. If you lose a job and you loved it, cry about it. It will encourage you to look for a better one if you let it hurt for just a little bit. Life is supposed to hurt sometimes. If it doesn't, you aren't doing it right. And if it hurts too much, you aren't doing it right either. If you can't figure out the balance, ask your father. I can't figure it out sometimes myself.
9) Be nice to your damn brother: I know you drive each other crazy sometimes. I know that it will get worse as you get older. But someday, you will need your brother's help. Homework, fixing a car, moving furniture, taking care of your mother. Something will happen where you need each other. Don't make it an impossible relationship. You two will always need to be each other's rocks. Be friends. Or fake being friends for my benefit until you figure out how to really do it. And make each other the best men in each other's weddings. If you don't, I will not help pay for anything wedding related. And when you two actually do become real friends later in life, please tell me about it. After all the years of fighting, I'll be waiting for some good news about the two of you. And don't share women. Ever.
10) Just be you: Whatever people think you need to be, don't listen. If you absolutely have to have a Mohawk, do it. If you absolutely need to have a tattoo, do it (but only after you turn 18 and you pay for it by yourself). Don't let people criticize you for being you. Dye your hair weird colors. Pick a sport you love, even if people think it's dumb. Wear whatever you want. People will be less likely to notice your lime green Mohawk if you're a total gentleman. And if they don't talk to you because your weird, screw them. I was weird too and I lived. I still am weird. And as long as it's an okay weird, I'll be behind you. Don't lick windows or eat bugs or stick your tongue up your nose. Because then I will make fun of you too.
Life isn't so serious. At least it shouldn't be. Laugh at things. And if you can't, find someone who can that will remind you to stop being so serious. If you feel like dancing, then dance. Who cares if you're at the grocery store? Your kids will, but do it anyway. Sing if you're happy. The happier you are, the happier the people around you will be. And if you aren't happy, fake it. No one wants to be around a miserable person all the time.
Not all of us can do this every day. Some days life is just too damn hard to follow the rules. You hide, and you're mean and that's that. But don't let that become the every day you. If you have a bad day, have a bad day. But don't turn it into a bad year.
I love you. Your dad loves you. Your grandparents love you. And we all always will. That won't change. Remember that when we yell at you for not doing the things I listed above. HA