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Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Dear Daniel: 10 things my teen needs to know before he leaves home.

Dear Daniel,
This is such a big year for you. You are graduating from High School and going on to pursue your dreams. Your life is now one big adventure!
As your parents, we support your choice of joining the Canadian Air Force and we are so proud of you following your dream and being accepted into the Fighter Pilot program and Royal Military Collage to complete your degree.
For the past seventeen years we have devoted our lives to molding you to be the person you are becoming, but parenting is not a job you get laid off from. It’s a job that lasts a lifetime. So before you go I am going to save you from making years of mistakes by telling you everything you need to know about surviving in the real world.
10. As you join this organization that will become your life and your career you will meet some men and women who will become your second family. You will also meet some assholes. Learn how to tell them apart. Your second family will have your back; the assholes will be the ones putting a knife in it. Don’t waste your time wondering “Why me?” Move on and know that people have issues. It’s not about you. Sometimes people you trust will be the assholes. Remember the old saying, “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” Stick with the people who are truly happy for your successes. Remember the only one who can stop your dreams from coming true is you. Don’t get in your own way and don’t let anyone else get in your way. There’s no getting away from the assholes in the world, but you can learn to work with them. Just don’t kiss them. You’re too smart and talented to have to kiss assholes to get ahead.
9. Be nice to everyone. Acknowledge people. Every time the cleaner comes into my office to empty my garbage bucket, I say “Thank you Mike.” When I go to the cafeteria I always ask our cook about her granddaughter. Make it a point to know people’s name and use it when you talk to them. Thank people who work around you. It’s a sign you were raised well. It’s also a sign you are a good and grounded person. By taking the time to talk to people I found out that Mike (Our cleaner) served 30 years in the Canadian Navy and took the cleaning job to keep himself busy while waiting for his wife to retire. He just likes spending time with people. Our cook saves me the biggest raison bun every morning because I take a minute to talk to her. This is not India. We do not have a class system in Canada. I have raised you to believe that all people are equal. Treat everyone with respect and they will treat you with respect. Remember, no one is “only a cleaner.” Someday you’ll appreciate getting the biggest raison bun.
8. Stay connected with your sister and brother. You are very fortunate to have a sister and brother who love you very much. They will always have your back. If someone harms you in any way, know your brother and sister will take them out. No questions asked. These are the only people in the world you can call and say “Help me move a body?” and they will answer “OK” and never ask any other question. You are following your brother into the Canadian Forces and that’s not surprising. You’ve followed him around like a puppy dog for seventeen years. As parents, we know his opinion and advice is worth ten times what ours is worth. (Which is why we always get him to tell you what we want you to do.) Continue to talk to your brother about all the important decisions in your life. He will always have your best interest at heart. For the past seventeen years I have always told you “You sister will believe she is the person you tell her she is.” If you tell her she is smart and beautiful. She will believe it. If you tell her she is stupid and worthless, she will believe it. Your opinion of her will be the mirror she will forever see herself in. Now that you are moving out, she will be lonely without you. Take the time to call your sister and ask her about her life (then tell me later). She will find the house empty now with just Dad and I. She no longer has her brothers to blame for broken lamps and spilled milk. She is operating without her safety net now. A weekly text, email or phone call will let her know she still has backup. Take a minute to talk to her.
7. Be stingy with your money. It’s so easy as a young person to spend your pay cheque at a gaming store or run your credit card through the roof with on-line shopping but these things will come back to haunt you. Pay off your credit card every month. Don’t use it unless you really have to. Save at least 10% of your pay cheque every month in some kind of secure mutual fund. Take the time to educate yourself on money. It took me years of grief until I discovered this. Having debt is the number one thing that causes stress, breaks up families and ruins lives. This is where I also tell you that you’re cut off. That’s right. No more access to Mom and Dad’s money. The next time you get anything from us will be in our Will which won’t happen for a very long time and that’s only if Dad and I don’t spend your inheritance on travel. You have a pay cheque now. Spend wisely and I’ll expect better birthday and Christmas gift from here on in.
6. Don’t take yourself so seriously. I know you have six grueling years of university and training ahead of you but don’t forget to have fun. You’re young. Enjoy it. Give everything you do 100% but relax when you can. Don’t get so caught up in achieving goals that you forget to laugh at yourself. It’s important to get good marks and you would certainly give Dad and I bragging rights if you make the honour roll and won a few awards along the way, but if you don’t that’s ok too. We still have your sister. The point is, do your absolute best always. If you can walk away from a test saying “I really gave that my all” then we’re proud of you. If you have to ask for help with a subject, do it. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness it’s a sign of strength. Nobody makes it on their own. That’s why the buddy system was invented. Finding the humour and laughing at yourself instead of finding the negative and being depressed, is so much better for you. It may also get you a “Mental Health day” too which is ok.
5. Fall madly in love. You’re seventeen, the age when you actually believe the poems written on Valentine’s Day cards. The next ten years will be an amazing time for your love life. Don’t worry I am not going to have the whole “Birds and Bees” talk with you again. My advice on this is simple. Fall in love. Fall madly in love. Then fall out of love and start all over again. Relationships are not hard. Either you love someone or you don’t. If it takes five years to decide if you’re with the right person, then you’re not. You shouldn’t have to constantly “work” at a relationship. You shouldn’t have to change who you are or bend your moral values to please someone. If you break up every few weeks, end it. It’s not working. You’ll know in the first twenty minutes of meeting a woman if you want to marry her. Then wait until you’re 30 years old. No one should get married in their 20s. But fall in love. Wear a condom (even if she says you don’t have to). Then, marry a girl like your mother. You can’t go wrong there.
4. Call home. Phone, email or text your parents three times a week. Put a reminder in your phone calendar for Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays to call home. Take a minute and do it. If you don’t make contact at least three times a week I will assume you’ve been kidnapped by a psychopath and killed. I’ll drive your father crazy trying to convince him to contact the police. Then I will cyber-stalk you until I pinpoint on Google Earth where you are. It will be very embarrassing to you when a police swat team crashes through the window at Starbucks (where you’ll be having coffee with your friends) and rescues you because I’ve reported you as “missing.” Save yourself the embarrassment, your father the grief and me the worry. Call home.
3. Buy new socks and underwear at least once a year. When you receive your degree, you should not be wearing the same underwear and socks you wore to your prom. Once a year, around New Year’s Eve is good, go buy new underwear and socks. When holes show up in your underwear or socks, throw them out. Also make sure you wash them once a week. To clarify this point even further, when I say “Throw them out” I mean in the garbage, not “Donate them to the Salvation Army.” Poor people don’t need your underwear. You should note that I did not write your name on the back of your underwear like I did when you went to camp. So you’re going to have to remember what they look like. Especially since you are going to have a roommate.
2. Eat some good food. I know you’re on your own and you can eat what you want but try to fit at least one vegetable in your day. For years I have told you “Eat your vegetables, they’ll make you grow big and strong.” It’s true. I wasn’t lying. I know I lied about Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and your uncle being Scottish and that’s why he wears women’s clothes but trust me on this one. Vegetables are good for you. You make fun of Dad’s belly extending a little more than it should but thirty years from now you’re going to look just like him. So do a few sit ups and eat some vegetables they are good for you. Trust me on this one.
1. Know you are loved. As a Mother I love my children the same amount. I never prefer one over the other and I don’t play favourites. So, although I may love you all the same, I did love you first. You were my first baby. You made me a Mother. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for you. If you need something, I would be there in a second. I know I smothered you over the years, controlled your life and made you crazy at times but it was only because I knew this day was coming. The day I lose control. But don’t think that just because you are moving out that I am going to stop being your Mother. I am still going to worry about you every day because it makes me feel needed, I am going to send you texts that say “Good night” and emails that remind you to brush your teeth because “Nobody wants to talk to someone with bad breath” and I’ll hate every girlfriend because I am afraid she is taking my place (eventually I’ll like her, if she’s ok with me moving in your basement.) The bottom line is, no matter what you achieve in life or don’t achieve, you are loved. You have a home and a family who love you. The supper table will always be empty without you. I will always wish you were home. I will always with your were six years old again. I will always miss you. I will always love you.
Enjoy your life, but always remember you are the biggest part of mine.
Mom J