A Mom's Letter To A Thirteen-Year-Old Son

Dear John,
You’re thirteen years old today. You are now an adolescent . . . better known as a teenager. You already know about the physical changes occurring in your body as you grow into manhood. You know what it’s like to attend junior high and deal with multiple teachers and classes. You’ve been on Boy Scout over-night camp outs in snow caves. You know your voice is changing and that you grow out of your pants every couple of months. But here are ten things you might not know.

First, times of transition are an on-going part of life. Every single person who has ever lived to adulthood is going through what you are going through right now. So, on those days when you feel awkward and insecure always remember that you have the whole human race for company. Every person you see walking down the hall at school is feeling the same way . . . especially the ones who don’t show it.

Second, worry more about the kind of person you are on the inside than what you look like on the outside. No matter what tricks your hormones play on you at present, they even out and all the things you’re self conscious about will disappear like a bad dream. While your body is morphing into adult form, be patient with all the changes and be especially kind to those around you who are dealing with their own insecurities.

Third, don’t let anyone make you feel incompetent, useless or hopeless. It doesn’t matter if you can perform every single feat your P.E. teacher requires. You will become a wonderful adult even if you never passed off a perfect cartwheel or did the required number of pull-ups. Teachers who fill your short stories, poems and essays with red marks aren’t the final authority on your writing abilities. They are just tired, underpaid people with one opinion – their own. Your peers will point out your faults. Don’t reciprocate. Point out their strengths.

Fourth, don’t be afraid to be your unique self . . . even if you don’t fit the popular norm of your peers. Being able to stuff a basketball is great but so is figuring out a difficult algebra equation. Winning an election is nice but so is helping a peer with a learning disability. Being asked to a dance is fun but so is inviting several friends who weren’t asked over to your house and showing them a good time. Everyone has a unique gift that can bless the world. Discover your gift and share it.

Fifth, shake off the tendency to compare and compete with those around you. Celebrate other’s efforts and abilities as you would your own. We need people who fix cars as much as those who fix our nuclear power plants. We need those who compose a symphony no more that we need those who grow our food. We need those who work in factories as much as we need those who run the company. It takes a wide variety of competencies to run this old world. Never let money be your measure of success.

Sixth, give what you want to receive. If you want to feel important, find ways to help others feel appreciated for their efforts. If you want to feel rich, give your material possessions away. It you want to feel happy, give your time and attention to others with unmet needs. If you want to be at peace, be honest with yourself and others. You will be tempted to hoard and acquire. Don’t. Use everything God gives you to bless the lives of as many people as possible.

Seventh, if you want to excel at something remember it takes more than intelligence or talent . . . it takes persistence and thousands of hours of hard work. Don’t give up right before you get over the hump. If you want to do something well like play the piano, write a book, start a business, compose an opera or create a loving family – you will be tempted to quit when the going gets tough. Don’t ever give up. You never see the other side of the mountain if you give up before you reach the top.

Eighth, don’t be afraid to be alone. It is nice to have people like you, but it is even better to like yourself. The only person you will never lose or leave . . . is you. You will be tempted to go along with the crowd when an inner voice says no. Listen to that inner voice. There will be times when you must be physically alone in order to keep your self respect. Remember you are not ever spiritually alone.

Ninth, remember that you deserve to be treated with kindness and respect. You will have people enter your life who will manipulate, control, take advantage of, belittle or threaten you. You must be your own best friend and decide today that you will only remain in relationships if they are safe and uplifting. Don’t be afraid to move on. There are healthy, caring people in the world waiting for your love and you will find them.

Tenth, remember that everyone deserves to be treated with kindness and respect. When you hurt someone, don’t justify your actions. Ask for forgiveness and then don’t do it again. If you see people hurting others you must have the courage to do something about it. Though you may live in a society that exalts some people over others, treat all men with dignity and honor. Each person is a son or daughter of God and has a divine potential. Don’t confuse their actions with their intrinsic worth.

Finally, please know that no matter where you go or what you do, I will always love you because you’re you. I’ll always be your biggest and most devoted fan.

Love, Mom