An Open Letter To My Aging Teen
BOSTON (CBS) – Dear Andrew,
Happy birthday son. Numero 18. A rather impressive milestone for obvious reasons. Soon you will graduate from taxpayer-funded public school to parent-subsidized higher education (come to think of it, I paid a boatload of those taxes didn’t I?).
As was the case with your sister, tuition is the one BIG check (ridiculously so) that we actually look forward to cutting. Your mom and I have worked at it long and hard, and with the support of the extended family, we will be able to cover your college tab. You deserve it having paid your academic dues and worked hard at your part time job for quite a while. You have always been a team player, chipping in wherever you could to help the family’s cause. So it’s time for the rest of “Team Rich” to pull together to help you navigate the college trek. I consider it a most worthy investment.
I thought I’d offer a little fatherly advice as you celebrate your 18th birthday. It is friendly advice, always friendly, from someone who values your love, respect and companionship.
First off, there are things you shouldn’t ever think about changing. Your curiosity, desire to learn and love of creativity have suited you well with the excellent grades and academic awards through the years to prove it. Odds are you’ll continue that winning streak in college. But don’t put undue pressure on yourself. No one has ever aced every test and if someone out there has, what does it prove? Take it from a committed B student—do your best and the best will do.
There are so many attributes of yours that I admire. Your sense of humor which is quick, witty and insightful; your ability to work with others and the respect you show them; the respect you get back in return from fellow students, teachers, family and friends. I think I am most proud of your decision-making skills. Since you were a wee lad, you have walked a clearly defined path. Peer pressure has not taken hold as it does with so many kids. Thinking for yourself and acting independently during the teenage years requires a fair amount of inner strength. To be an effective leader one has to know when and who not to follow. In your college essay, you wrote about being a nonconformist, about going your own way through high school. In today’s world, this wonderful mission statement will serve you well.
Now, some advice on things you might consider doing a bit differently. It doesn’t mean you’ve been wrong all along. Call it wise counsel from one who has messed up plenty along the way but has benefited from setbacks.
First, I’d remind you to recognize that temptations are only going to get more intense as you enter early onset adulthood. Your vote counts, you’re eligible to be drafted, your signature matters for real on legal documents, and you can’t buy or drink beer. Seeing that you don’t drink or smoke now, I’m not concerned about that last issue. But it’s likely you’ll end up experimenting with certain things or at least be tempted. Just remember the “M” word applies. Moderation is a well proven rule of thumb. Andrew Rich has always been responsible. Getting older means having to up the ante on responsibility. Again, I’ve seen you in action and feel confident that you’ll continue to make good choices, treat others well and look after yourself.
You’ll soon need to adapt to living on your own. That means getting in shape and staying fit. I’ve always been the food nag at home. But face it; you’ve got it easy here with the empty cookie boxes, chip bags and soda bottles to prove it. A few simple suggestions—eat a little salad every day, drink more water and don’t skimp on sleep. Treat your body well and it will work wonders for you.
Remember, that without mom and me putting away the orange juice, washing the dishes or folding your laundry, none of it is likely to get done. Try sliding from Oscar Madison a little closer to Felix Unger on the neatness scale. Just not too close to Felix. Best to end up somewhere in the middle. Nobody likes a showoff.
Expect to have your heart broken by one or many of the opposite sex. Trust me, it will happen. You’ve had the benefit of learning about the angst of relationships from your older sibling. The road to romance is paved with disappointment, but when you meet somebody you genuinely like and she ends up caring just as much for you, you’ll know it. And you will most definitely like it.
OK, I now interrupt this letter with short bursts of wisdom from an overly protective parent. These are quickies, guaranteed to make sense somewhere down the road:
*Eat more fruit along with that salad I talked about.
*Floss—it’s no fun but you’ll get used to it.
*Change your oil every three to five thousand miles.
*Pay cash whenever possible.
*Be wary of anything promised in an infomercial.
*Read lots of books written by comedians.
*Call your mother often.
*Don’t let anybody—professors, students, customer service reps—push you around.
*Emulate gentlemen (the ladies will love you for it)
*Stay loyal to Boston teams.
I consider myself an adequately functioning adult. What I have learned over the years is that we all continue growing each and every day. Growth equals adjustment. Adjustment leads to change and with change there is often pain. You’re intelligent enough to realize that there will be tough times ahead. Some will appear as mild speed bumps, others as damaging potholes. Just know that wherever life takes you and whatever you end up doing, we’ll always be here for you, standing by to help, applaud, comfort and console.
Mom has been saying that when you leave for college I’ll be moping around knowing that my best pal is no longer a fixture at home. She is right of course. It is going to take some getting used to on both of our parts, yours and mine, come next fall when you’re in a dorm and I’m here in front of the big screen TV.
But the cool thing about being your dad is knowing that despite the inevitable moment when we part, our relationship will grow stronger and more meaningful. I’ll have eighteen-plus years of happy memories stowed away with nothing but anticipation about the years to come.
And then there’s the prospect of having you treat ME to a burger and a movie when you become that world famous best-selling novelist someday.
So enjoy the milestone Andrew. Have whatever kind of party you want. Celebrate. Know that you’ve been the best son a fellow can have. And the best is yet to come.