Happy 18th birthday! I know you thought this day would never come. While it seemed like an eternity, it went by in a flash. I remember your birth as if it were happening this morning (around 11 a.m. if I’m not mistaken). Tim McGraw’s “Something Like That,” was playing on the radio as we drove to the hospital. I’ll forever think of you each time I hear that song.
I remember turning 18 too. It was only a couple of months before I started college. You have your entire senior year of high school ahead of you this year. Similar your 18th birthday, your senior year is also unique. You may find yourself getting antsy in anticipation of leaving for college, but relax and enjoy the moment. Soak up every second. It’s an incredibly special time. You’ll often reach back for those memories. Create a treasure chest full of good ones.
Turning 18 and graduating High School is exciting. It’s a new chapter in your life. It brings great benefits. It also demands more responsibility. You’re an adult now – at least as defined by the law. You are also responsible for your own actions. I’m sure you recall what I tell you when we’re together and you go off with your friends.
“Be safe and make good decisions.”
A former colleague and I used to joke that we’re only a sixteenth of an inch from doing something foolish every day. Truthfully, I think we’re much closer than that. There will be times when you have the urge to do something you know you shouldn’t. When that urge comes – and it will – stay focused and keep your eye on the big picture. That doesn’t mean you can’t have a good time. I want you to have phenomenal experiences at every stage of your life. I also want you to be proud of the majority of those decisions and live to tell your grandchildren about them.
Son, I’m very proud of you. Life always doesn’t go as we plan and you’ve endured a couple of rough bumps. Stuff happened that was out of your control, and you handled everything in a calm, graceful manner. You’ve had to make decisions no child should make. I pray they were the hardest ones you’ll ever face and the remainder of your life will fall quickly into place. In your own way, you loved everyone along the journey. You never hesitated to forgive. That is a special gift. Never forget you have it. If I have ever done anything that I need to ask your forgiveness for, then I humbly ask that now.
As time goes by you’ll remember the good times more so than the rougher moments. Fortunately for us, we’ve had plenty of them. Good always outweighs bad. That’s why we remember them best.
Some of our most special moments were you playing sports. That’s common for dads and sons. You always loved to play, and you liked to win. More than winning, I think you loved to compete. You wanted to be on the field, and you enjoy the comradery of a team. You loved being around your teammates, doing things as a team. You enjoyed the accolades when you scored or made a great play. You loved giving them as well. As you go forward in life, never forget that people like hearing their names and being complimented. If you do both, you will have many friends.
There’s another phrase you’ve heard me say a million times.
“Nothing ever happens without the ball.”
In baseball, you couldn’t get an out without controlling the ball. You couldn’t throw a runner out unless you controlled the ball. You couldn’t score a basket or a touchdown without controlling the ball.
Keep your eye on the ball. Watch it all the way in the pocket of your glove. Squeeze it. Protect it. Throw it with accuracy. Make the best play you can and move on. Sometimes you’ll miss. You’ll drop the ball. It happens to everyone. When it does, hustle, pick it back up. And when it’s all over, learn from your mistakes.
There were times when others thought I was too hard on you in sports. Dads are like that. I would have done a couple of things differently, but overall, sons need their dads to push them. Many guys who go far in sports had a parent behind them to encourage and prop them up when needed. I wish I could have had that opportunity the last couple of years.
One thing I know is you will do well in life. I see it. I sense it. You are smart, have a charming personality (a trait you inherited from me), and you have patience (not inherited from me). All three will serve you well.
Here are a few others tidbits I’ll leave you with:
– Communicate with those you love. It’s vital to our growth and for those close to you to know what you are thinking and feeling.
– Be patient with people, especially your litter sister. She looks up to you so help and protect her.
– We both like to win. Winning is exciting. It’s fun. But after you’ve won and when it’s over – when there is nothing left to achieve – move on. Don’t kick others when they’re down. That’s too easy, and only the bullies get off on it.
– You know this by now, but bullies will always be around. You can’t control them or allow them to get under your skin. You can control what you do and my best advice is simply to avoid them and walk away whenever possible. Believe me, it’s hard. Turning the other cheek does not come easy for me either.
– Relax and don’t sweat the small stuff. Not something I excel in, but as times goes on, I worry less about things I cannot control. My sense tells me you’ll master this attribute easier than me.
– Value those you love and give them more than you expect. We both like receiving more than giving. I wish the opposite were true so work hard at doing things for others. It will pay huge dividends down the road.
– Educate yourself and never stop learning. Find something you enjoy doing and put your heart and soul into it. It will never seem like work.
– Manage your resources responsibly. Save your money so when times are tough, or you need to help someone you can.
I love you very much, son. I am proud of you, and it is an honor to be your dad. I wish you all the love and happiness in the world and I look forward to seeing you move into this new chapter of your life. Remember, I am always here for you. No matter what, I’m in your corner.
I Love you so much,