A letter to my step-son

Getting ready for zip lining through the Hocking Hills Canopy. June, 2010

Hi L..,

I decided since you are a teenager it would be better to write to you instead of embarrassing you by doing that parental thing of…um…you know…talking.

Let’s get a few things out of the way.

First of I’m very proud of you.  Over the last several years you have consistently made sound decisions for your life and been an excellent influence and role model on your friends, for your school and in the community.

You are also a good friend to your friends. I couldn’t expect or ask any more of you.

Well maybe be a better student but that shipped has sailed. More importantly than the grades to me are you are a good person.

However, you are still a kid and there is so much more for you to learn. As such, I wanted to make a moment and tell you a few things and give you a few things to consider.

First of all, in your senior year of high school you are going to be encouraged, tempted, pressured and pushed to take actions that are not in your best long-term interest. What is in your best interest is to be a stand-up man and be willing to say “no” and walk away from situations that in your gut you feel are not best or that you know are not best.

Knowing the difference is what sets a leader apart from the sheep. Watching you over the years I think you are growing into a very capable leader. It isn’t always easy to lead but it is who you are.

That is a hard lesson for most people and if you don’t learn the difference now when you become 35 and a boss asks you to do something unethical or illegal or simply wrong it is very hard to say no.  It is the inability to recognize what is best and right that led to the current economic and political turmoil in our country. It is shortsighted greed without purpose that led to the melt down on Wall St and so many other problems.

It is what ruins relationships.

I believe you can make a difference.

You don’t have to be a teacher, banker, politician, lawyer or doctor to make a difference. You can make a difference by simply acting on what you believe is best. It isn’t the title that makes the difference but the person.

Because of your great qualities I think you would make a wonderful RA on a college dorm floor, an excellent leader in a fraternity or student senate and on your college’s debate team.  These experiences will provide you a safe environment to learn how to be a better man so that when you travel the world you know how to make appropriate decisions, take appropriate risks and in general live appropriately.

It is also the reason I have suggested the Air Force and Coast Guard for you. I think you would make an excellent Non-commissioned Officer (NCO) – especially with your linguistics skills.

As you look around I think you see that the world seems to be split between those people that act according to how they feel and those that act according to how they think.

However, there is another group of people that act according to what they know. I think that is your mom. I think you have the potential to develop that same wonderful quality. Like your mom you are a nonconformist, independent minded, well read and articulate – when you choose to be 😉

Yesterday you said to that you can find your own college. You don’t need help. Although your tone and response was hilarious, it is also a bit cocky.

Your mom wants to help.

Leading the Tubas

She has spent the last 17 years raising you, loving you, protecting you, feeding you and generally all around caring for you.

Now she wants to help you find a college.

Invite her to go on a couple of tours with you on a Saturday. She would really enjoy going to Kent State, U of Akron, Bowling Green, Ashland University, Hocking College and Ohio University to take the campus tour. It costs you nothing and makes her very happy.

Please consider letting her.  It is important to her.

There is an old expression that says, “The sins of the father fall on the child.” I think there is some truth to this. Our parents teach us what they know. If they are angry and fearful they teach us anger and fear. If they are cold and unemotional then they teach us to be cold and unemotional.

Although my parents taught me a lot of good things the most destructive were my mother taught me fear and my father taught me avoidance. As an adult looking back I only now realize how those issues have negatively impacted my life, my relationships and my aspirations.

I don’t want that for you.

At sometime consider what you don’t have in your life and think about what you want. Then start to make choices that help you get there regardless of what your parents or I may have taught you.

Your success is achieved through patient persistence not through impatient indulgences.

Every man and women have their secrets and sins. Some people hide them better than others. Some people gossip and spread rumors about others to deflect from their own indiscretions.  Rumormongers are haters. Haters are lonely angry people and end up building bombs in their basement and hoarding weapons.

As you go through life you will develop your own secrets. You will discover that you have hidden your own “sins”.  You will betray people you care about and that care about you.  You will have your secrets and sins too.

You will also discover people you care about and that care about you will betray you. They will keep try to keep their sins secret too.

That is human nature.

We are all fallible and although I am not a religious man I think there is benefit to having a spiritually centered perspective on the importance of forgiveness and acceptance. I hope you begin to examine your spiritual beliefs and find appropriate teachers.

Your mom and I probably didn’t do the best job discussing or teaching this with you. However, your mom is actually very spiritual and just doesn’t talk about it.

It might be an interesting conversation with her sometime.

Lastly, there are ALWAYS going to be people that tell you the end is near – the end of society, the end of the world, the end of your country, the end of opportunity, the end of life. They will also get the most press because it sells ad space.

Ignore them. They are sophists. They are making their living by selling fear to people that live in fear. We live in a great world. Go out and live in it.

There is more I want to say to you L…

How I believe in you. How I think you are capable of being anything you want to be. How proud I am of you for all the risks and chances you took in high school to be your own person. Truthfully, L… I think you are a good person and I am grateful you are in my life. You have been very good for me. Thank you for teaching me how to be a better man.

I love you.


Just some thoughts and clichés for you to consider:

  • Your success is achieved through patient persistence not through impatient indulgences.
  • Read poetry
  • It isn’t the title that makes the difference but the person.
  • Surround yourself with safe, trustworthy people so that when you take a risk you know someone will have your back
  • Listen more; speak less
  • Don’t listen to the echo chamber.
  • Before forming an opinion get the facts by asking questions and being self-educated
  • Never, EVER, fish from the company dock or dip your pen into the company inkwell (In other words – don’t EVER fuck, bang or sleep with your fellow workers, your boss or your employees. If they are truly the one find a new job or start a business together)
  • Regardless of what you major is in college get on a debate team
  • Don’t judge people for their failings.
  • Don’t judge people by their successes
  • Judge people on how they treat their dogs, their cats, their kids, spouse and parents.
  • If you are a cat person don’t get involved with a dog person.  And vise versa…
  • The better way to judge a person if a person is safe is how they treat their ex (if they have one).
  • Find someone that supports your ambitions and goals and keep them close to you
  • The best way to judge someone if how they treat you
  • The popularity of shows such as Jersey Shore, Housewives of Orange County and the Kardasians are what happens to a society when image becomes more important than substance. Always be a person of substance. Choose to live a life of substance.
  • Don’t waste your time in pointless fights, conversations or relationships
  • ALWAYS wear a condom until you are in a committed monogamous relationship
  • ALWAYS wear a condom if you choose to be polyamorous
  • Never date three Kim’s at once (Oh wait that is my lesson. Never mind)
  • Han Solo shot first
  • Remember that ALL religious hide kernels of truth between the lies
  • Remember the State always hides lies between the kernels of truth
  • Remember that both the State and Religion are about power and control but despite that truth they both are capable of doing great things
  • You have free will to believe and think as you choose but at least spend some getting the facts
  • Marijuana and LSD should be legal but they aren’t so be smart and if you use your free will to ignore the law than don’t bitch about the consequences…and there will be consequences.
  • Science is science. Religion is religion. Don’t confuse them.
  • The Hunger Games is a stupid book and a dumber movie. There is nothing new here.
  • Seeking only wealth will not make you happy
  • Accept and love people for who they are and don’t waste time trying to change them
  • Never trump your partners Ace in Euchre
  • Always surround yourself with people smarter than you
  • Really great sex is not love. It is a gift and should be treated as such.
  • Make sure your loyalty is deserved
  • If you get bad service at a restaurant ask for a refund
  • Believe in something greater than yourself
  • Commit to something greater than yourself
  • As you get older read lots of Dr. Seuss
  • Apologize and take responsibility when you screw up
  • Haters get the most press because it sells ad space. Ignore them.
  • The world is a beautiful place full of wonderful people doing wonderful things. Ignore the haters.

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