An Open Letter to My 16-year-old Son


Dear Kenneth,

You have experienced more loss, pain, abandonment, and rejection in your short life than many will experience in a lifetime.  These circumstances and events have left your heart bruised, your sense of worth scarred, and your ability to discern real risks from percieved threats severly impaired.  I have wanted nothing more than to be able to erase all of these memories from your mind.  To free you from the fears that haunt you and create a place where you are safe.

Yet, I now realize, that do to so is to also rob you of the opportunities these experiences have presented.  These events have served you in many wonderful ways.  You have an absolutely golden, shining heart.  Your compassion and joy with young children may well be a gift that was wrapped in the package of your own lonely childhood.  Your voracious reading, a tool used to escape your sadness, has fueled your brilliant intellect and creative thinking.

My attempts to protect you from your past, and the world from your anger and fear does not serve you.  What I lulled myself into believing to be helpful to you, really only served my needs to be needed, to be right, and to prove that I was tough enough to handle anything.  The truth is we can both only reach our most inspired goals by being vulernable, brave enough to not always be right, and to meet our needs in direct, open and honest ways.

When I try to protect you from yourself, and the world from your lashing out in pain, I am dishonoring both of us.  I am acting from a place of fear.  Fear that I am not enough.  Fear that I will lose you.  Fear that I will fail.  I am teaching you to be afraid of your own emotions and the world.  That is not how I want to serve you.

From today forward, I commit to serve you in love – honestly and with courage. 

From your perspective, it may not look like that.  When I hold you to expectations of talking to me and others with respect, of contributing to the family and the household, of contributing to the community and others who are less fortunate, when I expect you to excel in your efforts and to live for more than just the immediate pleasure at hand – you will not necessarily see the gifts that these expectations are.  You will likely perceive them to be burdens and limitations.

Thus, I want to tell you why this paradox must be.

Together, we have chosen for you to leave high school and get your GED, with the intent of then enrolling in a technical school.  You will be taking yoru GED test within the next few weeks.  When you enroll in school, you will be out in the adult world.  The passes I have given you are not recognized tender in that world.  Your childhood and past experiences will not be considerations.  Your intellect, behavior, efforts and initiative will be what counts.

If your instructors tell you that food and drinks are not allowed in the computer lab, they will not care that you disagree and that authoritative directives remind you of Ron.  They will expect you to follow the rules.  If you don’t, you will not be allowed to stay in the program.  If you do not complete the program, you will not get the job you dream of having.  Your choice is to decide you would rather not eat/drink in the lab or not get the job you dream of having.  No discussion.  No exceptions.  Yet, I have allowed you to break the rule of eating in the TV/computer room again and again.  I have taught you that you can do what you want because I would rather not take the chance of you calling me a bitch, throwing or knocking stuff over, stomping up the stairs and creating havoc in the house.  I have allowed you to believe that your behavior is an effective option for dealing with the things you do not like.

That ends today.

Your choice is to live in my home, with all of my rules or choose to live elsewhere.

I insist on this because I love you so immensely.  I love you so much that I am willing to risk losing you, letting other people think I have failed, and admit that I have been wrong.  I love you so much that I will no longer teach you to behave in ways that will not serve you.  I love you so much that I will only accept the greatest you have to offer – and nothing less.  If you decide this is not what you want – I still love you with all that I have.

Here is what I will accept as the greatest you have to offer:

  • You are up and out of bed by 9:00 am every weekday
  • You walk the dog once a day
  • You are engaged in some productive, helpful activity at least 4 hours every day – outside of the house, and/or helping out around the house
  • You keep your room clean
  • You do your chores everyday
  • You make dinner 3 days a week
  • You exercise at least 30 minutes, 3 times a week
  • You respect all house rules
  • You use only respectful language, even when you are mad
  • You treat household property with respect, especially when you are mad
  • You spend at least 4 hours, once a week engaged in an activity with the family

I believe that to ask any less of you is to set you up to struggle throughout your adult life.  I want to afford you every possible opportunity to be happy, healthy and successful in life. 

So this is my gift to you.  I hope you see the value in it and someday even treasure it.  For now, I trust myself enough to know it and to fulfill on this promise to you.

Regardless of your choice, I love you with all that I am and I always will,

Aunt-Mom

copyrighted 3-4-10

8 Responses

  1. Meg, I love your blogs… they are always so insightful! And, even though I’d never met your Mom, I am certain she is very proud of you! I am also positive that Mary is right there beside her and thanking God that you (and Tom) have the understanding of what her kids had and are going through to handle each individual situation with love, patience and grace. ❤

  2. Thank-you, Terri! I love writing, and knowing that others read my words and are touched by them inspires me to write more! I have so many blessings and friends like you are among my most cherished! Thank-you for all of your support! ❤

  3. Meg,
    I wonder if Kenny (i’m not sure if that is the name he goes by) can ever understand how much he is loved. Your letters are always so well written and yet hard to read. They make me happy for you because I know you have recieved back much of the love you have given and have had the opportunity to learn so much from those kids. And then I feel you have had to endure so much sorrow, it just makes me sad for you. As always you seem to have kept an amazing outlook on life that seems to get you through. You are truly inspirational. Just thought Id let you know that. Heres a huge cyber hug for you. Love Susan

  4. Wow. I am forever moved by this blog. You do not know me, I was on Facebook and saw the link from Jaimes McNeal’s comment to the blog. I have a teenage son and you have no idea how this has moved me. I will print this out and refer to it when I get confused about what is important to teach our children. I could cry reading it. I have struggled with making demands on my son that I know will shape his character, but are very hard to stick to. This is an amazing journal, thank you.

    • Tiffany, thank-you so much for you kind heartfelt words. I have stuggled with this, as you can see and having attended the Basic Course with Jaimes this past weekend brought me to this clarity. I am so touched that you found this to be helpful to you in your parenting. I pray you and your son find peace and joy! ❤

  5. Meg,
    You are a beautiful Mother, a beautiful spirit and a beautiful writer. I see so much of your generosity and love coming through in your blog postings. In this latest post I also see loving strength. Your children are so lucky to have you to love and care for them which I pray they will grow to understand. I will also be thinking about your family and Kenneth and praying for his success.
    Love to you,
    Pam

    • Thank-you, Pam! The love and support of friends like you does much to help me keep my clarity and focus. Your thoughts and prayers are greatly appreciated!

  6. We’re a group of volunteers and opening a new scheme in our community. Your site offered us with valuable info to work on. You’ve done an impressive job and our entire community
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