In less than six hours from now, I will no longer, technically, have kids.
My youngest child will turn 18 and will legally become an adult. Yes, I will always be a “parent” (my “children” will vouch for this) but I can no longer accurately describe them as “kids”…they’ve become adults.
This might not seem like a big deal, but I find myself filled with melancholy right now. My brain is awash in all the things I could have, should have done…
Was I the best parent I could have been? Absolutely not…I failed on many occasions, sometimes on an epic scale. Do I wish I could go back and do things differently…be a different parent…be a different person…you’re damn right I do. My “kids” deserve the best and I failed them in that.
What I can say is that I tried. Yes, I failed at times to achieve perfection, but I did the best I knew how to do at the moment I was in at those points in my life.
During their lives, these guys lost their older brother after five years of suffering, watched their father lose his career on the fire department as the result of the disease of alcoholism, waited for their dad while he did 39 days in jail (I cannot imagine many scenarios more crushing than calling your child from jail and awaiting the automated voice that tells your child they are receiving a call from the city jail), see their parents through an acrimonious divorce, see their mother remarry a man that they hated, and struggled to find themselves in the midst of these challenges.
And find themselves they did. Both “kids” have matured into exceptional human beings. Kind, caring, ambitious, intelligent citizens of their communities. One at George Washington University pursuing her passion to change the world and another embarking on his dreams at the University of Oregon.
Lest this digress into an exercise in self-flagellation, I will admit to this: I turned it around.
I set an example.
I got sober and I worked hard. I devoted my life to their emotional and intellectual well-being. I didn’t have the financial resources to give them half of what they deserved, but I can unequivocally say I gave them my heart and soul and am guided by an overriding desire to model the axiom that if you get knocked down…no matter how far…you can get back up and succeed.
Every year since they were pre-teens, I write them a letter. Here’s the letter I’ll be presenting to my son in his eighteenth birthday tomorrow, the day he becomes a man:
I have no idea if you save these, but if you don’t, please save this one. It contains the keys to a happy, rewarding life. That’s a big claim, I know. But it’s true. And it’s deceptively simple. Here are the keys:
- Fear is the root of all negativity in your life; find a power greater than yourself to place your faith upon.
- The key to genuine happiness is getting out of your own head. Put others needs ahead of your own. Service to others is the only way to achieve true happiness.
- Be disciplined. There are no shortcuts. Work hard and you WILL be rewarded.
- Life isn’t fair. If you are counting on this, you will be constantly disappointed. See #3 for the corollary to this.
- Be on time. Be trustworthy. Be respectful of all people regardless of their station in life. These three things will give you a HUGE advantage in your professional career.
- Be humble. No matter how successful you become, remember #2. Humility will pay dividends in your life. Karma is real…I lived it.
- Have fun. Surround yourself with positive people.
- Keep your side of the street clean and let God handle the rest.
- Own up to and admit your mistakes, no matter the cost.
- Do good things and good things will happen to you.
If you strive to do these 10 simple things in your life, you will find success beyond measure. Good luck son…I am always here for you!
I love you,