Note: This is a letter I recently gave to my son on his 13th birthday. He is a good kid, tall, smart and muscular. He has every reason to be on top of his game but has issues with socializing with other kids his age. He lacks confidence in himself, and it shows through fits and temper tantrums. Public school teachers would classify him as ADHD. But beneath it all, he has a strong desire to do the right thing and be honest.
Unlike that letter I proposed to send to my daughter, this one focuses more on his stage in life and the issues he is dealing with, rather than a broad overview of life. I will probably give him another as he gets into his last years of high school.
I want to start off this letter by saying how much your mom and I love you. We think highly of you and are impressed with who you are. You are a very intelligent, athletic, and a joy to have in our home. Although I may not show it at times, I am continually impressed by your character. You have a propensity to do what is right and hold yourself to standards that you need in order to succeed.
The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. – Romans 8:16-18
We are the literal offspring of God. Think about it, if we do our best to live Christ’s example, God will bless us with everything he has. Your potential is unfathomable. We love you, and are here to help you succeed in this endeavor that we all are on. It isn’t easy, but it is well worth it.
You are coming into your teenage years. For me, it was a very rough time. You and your peers are all trying to figure out how to behave grown up. Far too many think that being manly and tough involves picking on others, whether physically or mentally. Know that this is a passing phase. I was a smaller kid in 7th and 8th grade, and some of the kids were brutal. You have an advantage on being a bigger kid, which can also serve as a disadvantage. A common tactic for a kid your age to gain status is to find a bigger kid (maybe you) and to pick fights with him and to rely on his good nature or the people around him so he doesn’t get the snot kicked out of him. Looking from the outside, it is quite pathetic. But, when you are caught up in it and being the kid picked on, it can mean the world to you.
My advice is to look at it for what it is, and to stand your ground. Verbally, just ignore or throw it right back at them, you may want to get all emotional about it, don’t. That is a sign of weakness on your part, and will encourage them further. Remember that wormy little kid that teased you in (our old town)? He is not liked, some may hang around him to form a pseudo-gang, but they don’t like him either. It is just their defense mechanism. If you ever get into a physical fight, I won’t be mad provided you were prudent in avoiding the fight and you don’t throw the first punch. In 8th grade, I think I went too far in avoiding fights and was picked on by others as a consequence. To them, being peaceful is a sign of weakness. One thing though, there is risk, and you can get hurt. Be careful out there.
You are also coming to an age where you will start to look at girls. I don’t blame you, they are beautiful. I am very attracted to the fairer gender. God has instilled this attraction within us for good reason. This passion, however needs to be controlled. Only in the right time and in the right circumstance (marriage) can you morally let your passions go. Until then, not only is it immoral, it is destructive and dangerous. Lots of guys (and girls) have made life changing mistakes because they were unable to keep that fire in check. For this reason, the church recommends, and your mother and I will enforce the rule that you are not to date until you are 16. At that point, I would encourage you to date lots of girls.
Girls are funny when it comes to dating. In our society, the princess complex is real. Media teaches young men and women that they need to invest vast amount of time and energy to gain the attraction from girls. This creates an atmosphere where young men play the “nice guy” to gain attraction from women, and women expect extensive favors from guys for existing. Not only does this not work, it has a tendency to backfire. If you invest too much energy into a particular girl, you will come across as needy and lower value. Of course you need to be nice, but if they are wanting you to invest more and more into them, don’t. It is not worth your time or heartache. Throughout high school and into my college years, I had a terrible propensity to get oneitis (an infatuation with one particular girl). It creeps girls out. (Mom) will often bring up that I did that prior to our dating steady. I could not get her to really be attracted to me until after our missions and I asked other girls out. It was showing her that I had other options that elevated my status and made her want to be with me. This is why I would encourage you as you are older to date lots of girls and show that you have options.
Dating is tough for young men. As I mentioned before, a woman’s dating market value is high early on. Guys are more attracted to the physical. Consequently, guys of all ages find the younger women more attractive. This pushes you out of the market. A guy, on the other hand, develop attractiveness as they build status through wealth, skills, personality and knowledge. All of this takes time, and increases with age. This makes it tough when you are young, but things get better. It does not mean you can just fritter away your youth, it means you need to be developing your skills so you can cash in and marry when the time is right (probably the tail end of college after your mission). Moreover, keep your nose clean. Be the type of guy that will attract the virtuous girls. Do these things, and you will be successful in your endeavor to find a worthy mate, even if it takes a while.
College is a funny thing, you may decide that route as I did, or you may choose a vocational school of some sort. Most people will tell you to figure out what you are passionate about and pursue that. Frankly, I think that is hogwash. Any job becomes mundane after spending years in it. Even rock stars will come up with songs about the pains of living on the road (AC/DC – Ain’t no Fun, Journey – Faithfully) My advice is to decide on an occupation that will facilitate your needs in life. I chose engineering because it pays well and affords me the free time on the evenings and weekends. I don’t enjoy dealing with the bureaucracy, but it feeds my family, which is my true passion in life.
Above all, stay firm in the gospel. I can’t tell you what a difference it has made in my happiness and outlook in life. Within the church, you are taught how to have a happy marriage, to feel good about yourself, to have some comfort in knowing you are being looked out after. Take a look at my brothers and sister, and their situation, and compare that to mine. Even with good parents, the difference is so apparent. God loves you, your mom loves you, and I love you. We all want the best for you, but that is up to you to stay on that path. We cannot do that for you.