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To My Son: I Don't Know Much, But I Do Know This

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I am not afraid to admit, when it comes to motherhood, I have no idea what I'm doing. I don't know how I'll survive the endless nights or your tireless screams or your disgusting diapers. I don't know how I'll answer the unanswerable questions or teach the unteachable lessons or cure the incurable pain you, my son, will inevitably feel. But I do know this...

Falling down is the best way to learn, so ignore your mother when she is a frantic, paranoid, sobbing mess every time you're in pain.

Try not to fall down anyway. The struggle to avoid pain will make you stronger and your inevitable failure to avoid pain will remind you that life doesn't care about your plans.

Even though life doesn't care about your plans, plan.

When you go to the gym, don't pose in front of the mirrors and take endless pictures. No one is interested in your ability to get yourself to a gym. Be humble and allow your hard work to speak for itself.

Be proud of your hard work and what it says about you.

Women are to be cherished. Treat them accordingly.

Don't let a woman get away with making you feel less than you are. Her genitalia does not leave her above reproach. If she's being horribly rude or out of line or downright verbally abusive, you let her know. Or your mother will.

Sex doesn't have to be something you reserve for the "perfect" person or your wedding night, but it is something you need to respect. You will always remember the first person you had sex with. Always. Make that person someone worth remembering.

Having safe sex is not just the woman's responsibility. Ask questions, talk with your partner and always carry a condom. Always.

No means no, even if that no isn't directed towards you. If you see a woman in trouble, be it a friend too drunk, an acquaintance passed out or even a stranger unable to defend herself, help her as if she was your sister or your mother or the future love of your life.

Your mother and father are not perfect, but they are perfectly in love with you.

When you're old enough, drink like a gentleman.

In other words, when you're old enough, don't drink like your mother did.

Don't let anyone dictate what you like or do not like. Don't hate something because it's "cool" to hate it and don't love something because "everyone else does". That is the quickest way to lose your sense of self.

Your father is an exceptional man. Learn from him.

Your uncle is wise beyond his years. Listen to him.

Read. Read constantly. Read endlessly. Read the syllables and synonyms and soliloquies of the destitute and alone, the happy and hopeful. Their words are as invaluable as the ones you'll write yourself.

The world was meant to be explored. Stretch your comfort zone and get uncomfortable and test yourself with travel. Experience the unknown until it feels like your home.

You can always come back home.

Ignore what people will inevitably say about you. If you're upsetting strangers by simply being yourself, you're doing something right.

Don't upset people purposefully. Being purposefully rude won't get you respect. It won't get you the girl or the great job or the awesome friends. It will get you loneliness and unhappiness and a heavy reputation capable of weighing you down.

Running sucks. Do it anyway. One day you won't be able to and it will be the only thing you'll want to do.

Hold the door for women, children and the elderly. Always.

Say yes ma'am, yes sir, no ma'am, no sir, unless you are specifically asked not to. Manners are a dying form of currency you should fill your pockets with.

The men who are the loudest, puff their chest out the farthest, and wear the most muscle-accentuating shirts are the most insecure. There is strength in silence.

Your strength will come with responsibility. Never allow someone to pick on the less fortunate or hurt the already hurting when in your presence. You will have the ability to be their backbone and voice and if you refuse, you might as well be doing the picking and the hurting yourself.

The people you help will only succeed if they learn to hep themselves. Do not bear the burdens of those who refuse to do their part. Do not blame yourself when people refuse to do their part.

Your mother has made plenty of mistakes and, when the time is right, I'll tell you about them. I hope you learn from them but if you don't, that's ok. You'll have your own mistakes to learn from.

Your goals and dreams and aspirations do not have to mirror society's. You don't have to graduate college or get married or have children to be successful. You determine the benchmarks of your prosperity.

Don't be afraid to have a sense of humor. Some people are sensitive and others won't understand your brand of comedy but for the sake of your own sanity my child, laugh.

If you find yourself drunk at 15 or somewhere you aren't supposed to be or seeing blue and red lights in your rearview mirror, you can always call your mom. There's nothing you could do, no amount of trouble you could find yourself in, that would keep me from helping you.

There are consequences, both positive and negative, for every action you take. I cannot shield you from the negative, but I can see you through them. I cannot take credit for the positive, you will have earned them yourself.

Pay your parking tickets. Trust me, they add up.

People will always have more than you have. People will always have less than you have. Be grateful for what you have and know that you can double it or lose it at any moment.

I am not the only woman who will love you, but I am the only woman who loved you before you were you. I loved you in black and white and when you looked like an alien and when you kicked me in the middle of the night. I loved you when you took over my body and called the shots at 18 weeks and gave me horrible constipation. So if another woman decides not to love you when you're 16 or 24 or 32, remember you will always have the woman who loved you before you were you.

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