I had originally planned to write a sentimental letter to Zachary full of all the heartfelt things I would want to say to him on his 16th birthday. And I wanted to write them now before he is actually a teenager (read: before he can actually speak), so that my sentiments are not colored by his…. teenager-ness (read: jack-assity). But I am not feeling like a schmaltzy letter today. My mood is shaping a far more matter-of-fact list.
You see, I am surrounded by teenagers– all day– Monday through Friday. What America’s youth is lacking in terms of character is my area of expertise. (That, and teachin’ them youngins how to talk good.) So anyway, as the regular source of my work stress comes from the parental guidance my students’ lack, I’m trying to get a head start. Here’s what I’d like to tell my 16 year old Zac…
1. Use please and thank you, ma’am and sir, and hold doors for people. It’s called manners, not being a kiss-ass. That being said, sometimes it’s a good idea to kiss a little ass.
2. Pay attention in school. Use the resources that are provided for you. And don’t you dare waste a teacher’s time with lame excuses… they’ve already heard them all and they don’t believe you anyway.
3. The world is a scary, scary place, bud, and very rarely fair. And sometimes disappointments are more frequent than rewards, but all you can control is YOU. So ask a lot of questions and think before you speak or act.
4. Your dad and I love you very much… even when you’re an idiot. So turn to us first when you’re in a bind. We’ve probably been in similar (or worse!) ones.
5. If you let your underpants hang out of the top of your pants…so help you, god.
6. Take people for who they are and know that you aren’t going to change them. Only allow people to add positivity to your life. If someone is only dragging you down, cut em’ loose.
7. That being said, family is family, and they come first. Regardless of how busy you get or how annoying they may seem to you at the time. If your life is too complicated to make time for family, then uncomplicate it. There WILL be a time when you wish you had spent more time with them, and regret is a messy roommate.
8. You’re better than a lot of people, son. (We raised you to be!) But don’t you ever for one second act like anyone is beneath you. No one likes “that guy.”
9. Always do your best… And never let anyone convince you that your best is not good enough. If someone tells you that you can’t do something, work your tail off to prove them wrong. There is, at least, satisfaction in that.
10. Be safe. One poor choice could change everything.
I take my job of raising a son very seriously. Seriously enough to plan 14 years, 3 months, and 4 days ahead to give good advice. (And seriously enough to wear celery sticks as walrus tusks when need-be. Pppfft!) This is a work in progress. I know there will be a lot of additions and revisions to this list over the years as Zac grows and changes…
Hopefully by June 10th, 2026, I wont be handing him a manuscript as long as War and Peace.
Feel free to add a comment below with any advice you would give (or have given!) your 16 year old son or daughter.