My son turns 16 today. When he turned 13, I wrote him a letter explaining what was probably going to transpire of the next few years. When he turns 18, I'll write him another letter and probably again when he turns 21. Here's the letter I just wrote him:
December 11, 2008
Wow…16 years old!
You are halfway through your teens.
You are halfway through High School.
You have two more years until you’re old enough to vote and be drafted but not old enough to buy beer!
A lot has changed since my last letter to you when you were 13. Some of the things I told you would happen have happened and some are still waiting to happen. You’re hair is longer, your taste in music has changed, you have a girlfriend who is also your friend (the best way to go!) your voice is changing, you’re taller than everyone else in the house and you are beginning to drive!
There have been some rough patches in the last three years but those were to be expected. Your Mom is having a tough time with it so I think it would be best if you were a little more sensitive to her feelings. As for me, I see it as all part of growing up. You have two parents who love you very much and want the best for you. Sometimes what we want and how we go about it can conflict with what you want and how you go about it. But I think in the end we both want the same thing; for you to be a well-balanced adult at the end of all of this.
Your thinking is becoming more abstract. You are beginning to formulate ideas and thoughts about life, the universe and everything and sometimes those thoughts and ideas might be different than what your parents and teachers believe. The goal here is to make sure that what you believe is good and true. Continued time in the Bible, talking with God, talking with Godly people you trust (other than your parents) is always a good thing. It can help you discern that which may be potentially harmful to you and that which may bring you joy to your life.
I know sometimes you think your Mom and I have no idea what’s going on in your life or what you’re feeling or how things are different for you. You’re probably right. But don’t discount the fact that we’ve “been there, done that, got the t-shirt” or the fact that we’ve been around teenagers for many, many years. Your life, in this day and age, is so much different than ours was 25 years ago. But in the same way, we faced many of the same things you do, just in a different context. So we “feel your pain” so to speak and sometimes we don’t.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that this period of transition from childhood to adulthood is going to be rocky for the both of us. I know there is a time when you will be gone. You will be making your own decisions about many, many things and all I can do is hope and pray you make good ones. You’ll probably make some boneheaded mistakes but that’s life. You’ll learn from them while you experience the consequences of your actions. All I can do at this point is pray for you, answer your questions, point you in the direction that looks best for you, give you the benefit of my experience and, in the end, send you on your merry way. (And then I’ll buy a motorcycle and have a second adolescence!)
The world is a very uncertain place. Always has been, always will be. But it is also a place of incredible wonder and amazement for those who keep their eyes open. Take risks but take calculated risks. Explore the world. Only do so not with blinders on but with care and consideration for those around you. At 16, your world is the here and now. Every once in a while stop and consider the long term. Occasionally pause and look ahead. See if the path is still the one you should be on.
I really wish today we’d be going down to the DMV to get your driver’s license. Unfortunately, I dropped the ball on that one and I apologize. I do look forward to you driving. It scares the crap out of your Mother but I’ve always loved cars and driving. It gives you a freedom like you’ve never experienced before. It was always the one common denominator between me and my Dad when we had nothing else in common. I know we have more than cars and driving that are common between us; music, movies, and a common sense of humor are just a few. I treasure those things.
My advice for you now, at 16, is to remember your past, remember how you got here, and remember that God and your parents love you very much. Keep those in mind as you head into the future. And one more thing, don’t forget to scoop the poop when it’s your week!
I love you Matthew,