A letter to my son on his ninth birthday

Dear Ian,

Happy birthday my darling boy! Your birth nine years ago brought so much joy to my life. You were an answer to prayer then as you are now.

We’ve been through so much together and have come out stronger and better because of it. You have taught me so much about life and love. I’m grateful beyond measure for every second of your life.

Before you were born, I thought there was going to be a huge difference between raising boys and girls, but the essential things are the same. Just like girls, boys are sweet and kind; they want love and understanding; and they want to know that their mommies love them no matter what.

The biggest difference between boys and girls, however, comes from the expectations society has of boys. You will have so much pressure put on you from outside sources to be their definition of a “real man.” As your mom, I’ve had to figure out what that means, so I can help prepare you for the world outside my protective embrace. I read a few books about raising boys, but most of my research came from the images displayed through the media and observing the boys, teenagers, and men around me.

What I’ve discovered is that our culture will tell you that a “real man” has to be strong no matter what; he has to be ready to fight at a moment’s notice; he has to value street-smarts over book-smarts; he must dominate whenever he can; he must have a lot of women; he must make a lot of money to provide an extravagant lifestyle for his family; and he must sacrifice his family relationships in order to provide that extravagant lifestyle. Add to that the list of don’ts: Don’t be a fool; don’t act like a girl; don’t feel any emotion too strongly; don’t cry…

I know I only have a few years left before you start noticing all of this too. It makes me sad. It seems that men are under pressure to fulfill a role that leads to pain and loneliness. I don’t want that for you. I want you to be a man who is confident to express all of his emotions. I want you to find and pursue your purpose in life, whatever that may be. I want you to be a man who is happy and loves deeply; a man who is kind and respectful to everyone, but not afraid to take a stand against the evils in the world.

With that in mind, my birthday gift to you is that I promise to continue to raise you with these goals in mind.

I promise to help you understand your emotions, so you can feel them all and not let them turn into anger because you don’t know what else to do with them. You can cry when you’re sad, laugh when you’re happy, yell when you’re angry, confront your fears when you’re scared, love completely and unconditionally, and embrace your dreams without fear…so that you can become a confident man who knows what he thinks, feels, and wants in his life, and so you can embrace the beauty all around you.

I promise to teach you the value of money, so you don’t confuse money with happiness. We all need money to survive in this world, but we need love and family more. If you remember that, you will never make bad choices that will threaten your happiness for the sake of money. I will teach you the value of hard work, so you can experience the joy of a job well done, regardless of the money involved.

I promise to teach you what kindness and respect look like, so that you willingly give it to those around you and will accept nothing less from the people in your life. Unfortunately, I know that kindness and respect will only go so far; there will be times when you will need to take a stand for what is right or make the decision to walk away. I promise to teach you the moments worth fighting for.

I promise to help you find courage through the times you are the most scared; to teach you to pick yourself up and brush yourself off, no matter how many times you fall; and to never give up on your dreams no matter what anyone says to you.

Finally, I promise to teach you to have integrity in all situations. The old adage, “a man is only as good as his word” is more true now than ever before: What you say and what you do must always be the same thing. It will be hard to stand by this, especially when most everyone around you won’t abide by this rule, but you can’t live a fulfilled life without integrity. There may be times when you think telling a lie will be easier; but you need to resist that urge, for the hardest truth is always better than the best lie. You may get in trouble, but not as much as you will if you lie about who you are. When you are truthful, no matter what, people will learn to trust your word.

I know those are some pretty big promises, but I will work every day to fulfill them, buddy, because you are worth it.

Close upHappy birthday, my darling boy. And always remember, I love you more.

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