Friday, May 13, 2016

Advice I Would Share With My Son… If I Had One

I have a daughter of my own, and soon enough I'll "officially" have two step-daughters (although I've
considered them my family for quite some time).  I love our blended family and wouldn't change a thing about it, but there have been times when people realize that I don't have a son of my own that they look at me as if they are sympathetic.  I've had people ask if I ever plan to have more children and if I'd like to try for a son.  I have even had complete strangers approach me when I'm out with my family and make little jokes or comments about how difficult it must be to be the only male in the family or act as if they pity me for having to deal with all girls.

I have to tell you - it isn't a pity.  In fact I feel as if I hit the family lottery and I consider myself very, very lucky to have the family I do.  I have never in my life, even for a single second, thought to myself that I would have preferred to have a son instead of a daughter.  I've heard comments about how I won't be able to pass on my name (do people really care about this in the year 2016?) and how I won't be able to teach a boy how to play baseball (trust me... I'm in no position to act as a mentor for anything that involves athletics).  The thing is, I don't think in those terms.  

Yes it is true there are many differences between boys and girls, and yes there are things about girls I simply won't understand because I never had to deal with some of the same things as they have - but I think I'll manage.  I was a single dad for enough years yet I still figured out how to braid hair, paint fingernails, and coordinate an entire outfit consisting of pink and purple clothing.  I may not have had experience with these things when I was growing up, but I did ok even if my braids still aren't nearly as good as they should be.  At the same time this likely means some of the knowledge I've gained as a male isn't necessarily applicable for my girls, because they just don't think the same way.

Yes I will admit it - I acknowledge that even in a world which is striving to become more and more gender-neutral there are still many inherent differences between boys and girls.  I know my girls are capable of anything, and I know they aren't about to let gender stereotypes get in their way, but I can already tell that their predilections suggest there are certain things they just won't have any interest in.  So when I'm getting excited about a home improvement project or when I'm drooling of a new electronic gadget they just might not care.  When I see a Tesla Model S on the road and start talking about the powertrain or the horsepower they likely will just tune me out and would be more likely to point out the pretty yellow VW Beetle instead.

Differences are ok.  I have no problem with there being differences and we shouldn't push people and make them feel that their differences are a weakness because that simply isn't the case.  Yet I acknowledge these differences and realize there might be a few things I could have taught a boy that just won't be as useful to my girls.  Granted much of my advice could be applicable to anyone regardless of gender, but from the mind of a father I started thinking about what I might try to tell my son if I had one, and this is what I came up with.

The Advice:

  1. Take chances.  There are no rewards without some level of risk.  Many of the most influential and well-regarded people throughout history failed many times before getting it right.
  2. You only get one set of eyes and one set of ears.  Safety glasses and hearing protection might seem like a hassle until you spend 20 minutes removing a splinter from your hand or a piece of sawdust from your eye.
  3. Do everything in your power to ensure the "one who got away" doesn't actually get away. 
  4. Don't confuse correlation with causation.
  5. Apologize if you hurt someone and always be willing to be the bigger person.
  6. The easy way out is rarely the most beneficial in the long run.  Take the harder classes, accept the punishment if you did wrong, and ignore the short term while looking forward to the big picture.
  7. If you have five close friends in High School, chances are you won't even know the home addresses of four of them by the time you graduate college.  Enjoy your friends while they are there, but realize as you evolve, your relationships will evolve with you.
  8. Don't get rid of your Legos.  Ever.
  9. Read the entire magazine - even the boring parts.  If you only read what appeals to you, then you'll never really know what appeals to you.
  10. Go for it.  A year from now you won't remember the feeling of embarrassment if she says no, but I guarantee you'll remember how excited you are if she says yes.
  11. Learn how to sharpen a knife and how to tie a necktie.  You may not need either skill very often, but you'll be glad you have it when the need arises. 
  12. Find your creative side.  Whether it is building, painting, writing, or playing an instrument it is a side of you that will be important throughout your entire life.  It will serve as your therapist, your outlet, and your voice - so embrace it early and often.
  13. Avoid the word "someday".  Define your goals in concrete terms.
  14. Shop at thrift stores.  Not only will you save some cash, but you’ll see things, and people, you had no idea even existed.
  15. Introduce yourself to the new person in the room.  You just might make a friend for life.
  16. Practice.  Most people are not born with specific skills or abilities and had to work to be the best at what they do.  The only thing that sets you apart from those around you is how bad you want it.
  17. Don't ever cheat on her.  She may never know, but you always will.
  18. Before you get that tattoo, look at your school picture from 10 years ago and tell me if you would be willing to be stuck with that outfit and hair style for the rest of your life.
  19. Don't be ashamed of what you like.  If you enjoy it, you shouldn’t feel the need to defend it.
  20. Some teachers are better than others, but you can learn something from all of them - even if it has nothing to do with the subject they are teaching.
  21. Don’t submit to peer pressure.  Leaders make the decisions, followers just take orders.
  22. Save often and keep a backup of your important documents and pictures.  One day something tragic will happen to your phone or your computer and you'll be thankful you were prepared.  You can buy new things, but you can't buy new memories.
  23. Acknowledge when it comes to politics, religion, or love… there is more than one acceptable viewpoint. 
  24. If you aren't comfortable being average then prove it.  The standard pace is designed so everyone can keep up… so don't be average.
  25. You will meet people throughout your life which are toxic and who will poison your relationships, your career, and ultimately your happiness.  Don’t ever feel bad about eliminating these people from your life.  They feed on drama and you are their food source.  Without you they cannot survive.
  26. There will be aspects about yourself you are powerless to change, but they shouldn't get in the way of the things you can.
  27. The time you spend in a gym should be for yourself.  You will always know when you gave it your all or when you cheated.
  28. Buy a nice stereo - it will be worth it.
  29. Opinions are personal, facts are universal.  Learn to separate the two.
  30. If you put it on your head or your feet, don't shop based upon price.
  31. Even if you aren't a famous politician, actor, or athlete you can still make a positive difference in someone's life.
  32. Learn how to change a tire and your own oil.  You may opt to pay someone else due to convenience, but at least you’ll know they did the job right.
  33. Learn to sew on a button and how to cook a meal from scratch.  You'll eventually find yourself needing to know how to do both.
  34. Cynicism and selfishness aren’t attractive and never will be.
  35. Ask questions.  Don't take everything at face value.  Challenge universal truths and don't believe something just because everyone else does.
  36. Never let anyone else define your priorities.
  37. Calculate your next move and the move after that.  Have an exit strategy and a plan… even if it is subject to change.
  38. The only way to solve a disagreement is for at least one person to be willing to admit they were wrong.  If that person is you, then admit it and move on.
  39. Don’t assume you know all the facts before you actually know all the facts.  Experts spend entire careers studying the same subject and they continue to learn something new each day.  You won’t be an expert based upon a semester no matter how hard you might study.
  40. You don't need to understand why flowers mean so much to her… just buy her the flowers.
  41. Always remember that although you are special to someone, you aren't special to everyone.
  42. Hard work is always rewarded even when nobody notices.
  43. Impress others with your words and actions rather than your things.
  44. When a tag says “dry clean only” or “lay flat to dry” it actually means it.  It isn’t a recommendation.
  45. As soon as you have your own place, put together a very basic toolkit.  You don’t want to be the guy who is trying to hang a picture by pounding a nail into the wall with a can of tomato sauce.
  46. People listen to managers because they have to, people list to leaders because they want to.  Be a leader.
  47. If someone asks you a question to which you don’t know the answer, your response should be “I don’t know, but I will find out”.
  48. Nobody will ever be perfect, so give people second chances and they will do the same for you.
  49. Each time you fall in love it will be different.  Don’t ever confuse ‘different’ and ‘better’ and remember you decide whether your future is based upon fate, luck, or action.
  50. If you can purchase someone’s loyalty or integrity, then be prepared to be outbid.

So there it is.  Does this mean I don't have any advice for my girls?  Of course not - and as I said much of this could apply to them as well.  The truth is, this was just an idea I had that was sparked by so many of the comments I've heard over the years.  Eventually I started to wonder if I was missing out on something by not having a son helping me on a carpentry project or someone I could teach how to wire up a three-way light switch.  Perhaps it would be nice to have a boy who expresses interest in electronics or who wants to help me mow the lawn.

But after really giving it serious consideration, I don't think I'm missing out on anything.  Because I have girls that have a way of teaching me things.  I am being introduced to new things and seeing the world through their eyes which is far more fascinating than teaching a boy how to solder or cut a miter joint.  

So am I saddened that I'll never have a son?  Nope... not at all.  Because I have daughters.

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