Things I Want My Son to Know about Independence

One thing that is universally true about teenagers: they want their independence. The thrill of freedom is intoxicating to them. They want the ability to spread their wings and fly, but rarely do they stop to think about the consequences. The reckless abandon that often accompanies a teenager who is testing the boundaries of their independence is one of the things that gives me many sleepless nights. My 16-year-old son believes he’s grown up and, like most kids his age, thinks he knows everything. He’s ready to take the world by storm, and has grandiose ideas of what his life will be like as a grown-up.

Like most parents, I really look forward to the day when he realizes his mother wasn’t as clueless as he thinks she is. Until that day comes, I pray my son takes a moment to look before he leaps, and to remember that with every action, there is a reaction. So, to my fella who thinks he’s ready to be fully independent, let Momma share a few things with you…

  1. It may sound harsh, but I’m going to love you enough to say it: What makes you so special? For example, if you decided to do something completely stupid like drink and drive, what would make you so special that you wouldn’t become a statistic? You’re not above becoming one. Don’t do something that you’ll regret for the rest of your life.
  2. Being the super-hero junkie that you are, you have heard this a million times from Peter Parker’s uncle in Spiderman: “With great power comes great responsibility.” I greatly admire that statement because of the wisdom so simply stated in those six little words. Independence and freedom are forms of power. Be prepared for the responsibility that comes with them and use them wisely.
  3. I promise you…as much as you crave to be independent now, there will be a day when you will long for the carefree days of your teenage years. All those tedious hours of algebra class are going to be remembered longingly in just a few short years when your paycheck goes to support yourself and a family. You will miss the simplicity of having someone else in charge of taking care of you.
  4. I know you want to be a professional skateboarder now, but let me tell you something. . . . Your mother’s former classmates all have “Save this, I’ll be famous someday,” written in their yearbooks. My plans of being famous haven’t quite worked out the way I’d envisioned them when I was 18. That’s not me being dismissive of your dreams. That’s me, telling you that life often sends us in a different direction. Be open-minded to where life takes you.
  5. When you make plans to conquer the world, remember, you’re not the only one making plans. The world is fiercely competitive. Brace yourself. There are people in the world who will happily stab you in the back and never look back to make sure they beat you to the finish line. Stand up for yourself, don’t be a doormat, but remember the Golden Rule—“Do unto others as you’d have done to you.”
  6. For every action, there’s a reaction. Sometimes positive and sometimes negative. Whatever choices you make, be ready to accept the outcome.
  7. When negative consequences come your way, please remember that no one owes you anything. Don’t whine about life not being fair. Life doesn’t owe it to you to be fair.
  8. It’s been said for generations, “If all your friends jumped off a bridge, does that mean you have to?” If you want to be independent, then be strong enough and brave enough to think for yourself.
  9. It’s easy for kids to blame their parents for their lot in life, but I hope that with the wisdom of age, you’ll understand that kids don’t come with a how-to manual. Parenting is hard. I admit, your dad and I have made mistakes. But whatever mistakes we may have made, they don’t have to define you. You have the power to choose and that, my son, is a liberating kind of freedom.
  10. I promise to do my best to give you the space to stretch your wings, but please remember, as you prepare to take flight, you still have roots. And no matter how big you get, no matter how far you go…you will always be my boy whom I will want to protect.