"Don't do as I do, do as I say" was a popular line in the Stewart household growing up. My dad had his habits, good and bad. And he determined it would be much easier to just inform me of which ones were acceptable for me to pick up on, and which ones were not. Smoking - bad. Meatloaf (the band) - good. Foul language - bad. Hot Rods - good. Feet on the couch - bad. Grilling - good.
I just grew up assuming everyone's parents barbecued, drank and played darts every weekend. I've since learned, that's not the case. We all have the opportunity to learn from the good things, as well as the bad things that we experience - as a child, and as adults. Even through the mixed messages growing up, I deciphered between right and wrong, which habits I would hold onto, and which ones I should pass on - in my opinion. And since learning I, myself, am going to be a father, I started thinking about some of the things I would go back and whisper to my five year old, eight year old, twelve year old and teenage self. Here's what I would say:
@ Age 5: "Your little brother isn't that bad. He's just different from you. He looks like your mom, and he's the baby, and he'll get a lot of attention from her, and from her friends. Don't take that personally, because you'll always be your dad's favorite. They'll never say that, but trust me, it's true. Later in life, your brother and you will become the best of friends. He'll stay young a lot longer than you, which will be a breathe of fresh air at times, and make you scratch your head equally as much. He'll figure it out, and it will be in large part because of how you act as an older brother. Don't be too hard on him."
@ Age 8: "Savor this. Enjoy this time. The next few years of you playing little league baseball will be critical. Don't take it too seriously. I know you hate losing, but relax. It's just a game, and you'll end up winning much more than losing. Your dad is your #1 fan, and your coach, which isn't easy - for either of you. Life right now is a big game, play it right. Oh, and be nice to girls. You'll have your hands full before you know it!"
@ Age 12: "Ok, remember I said not to be too hard on your brother? He's only eight, so don't kill him. Lighten up. No matter how bad something is, it's not that bad. And, no matter how good something is, it's honestly not that good. Don't be so dramatic. You'll be starting high school in a couple of years, and it's ok to be different, you don't need to copy every one else - just be yourself. Read more, you'll learn to love it. Write more, you'll learn to rely on it. And brush your teeth, for your own sake - it gets expensive."
@ Age 16: "Listen, life is more than just girls and sports. Stop rolling your eyes. And no, before you ask, we're not done here yet. I'm not ruining your life, trust me. Neither are your parents. In fact, I think you're ruining dad's life more than anything. Let me share something with you that you'll read someday; For the first twenty years of your life, you think everyone is thinking about you. For the next twenty years of your life, you don't give a damn what people think about you. And for the next twenty years, you realize no one was really thinking about you to begin with. Instead of being overly moody and awkward, try being less selfish, and realize the world doesn't revolve around you. You've got a lot on your plate, and even though your parents aren't "perfect", you turn out just fine. College will be an option for you - but don't freak out if you don't go. Again, you turn out just fine. Get a job, save some money, and stop speeding! Oh yea, remember I said to be nice to girls - not that nice!"
What would you tell your younger self??? What do you know now, that you wish you knew as a kid???
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