To Gavin, on the Occasion of Your 13th Birthday

Gavin,

When your mom asked me if I would be willing to contribute to the book she was creating for your 13th birthday, I jumped at the chance. There were 3 reasons why I accepted; the first being respect for your mother, and knowing her love for you, the second … it’s rare that someone wants to hear your opinions and advice (though you notice she was asking advice for you, not herself), and thirdly, I have a grandson a year and a half younger than you, I want him to hear the same ideas that I am passing on to you.

Where to begin? The transition from boyhood to becoming a man does not happen at a specific age or chronological point. It happens early for some and never for others. There is no guidebook or manual for this journey. Like most things in life it is often messy and confusing. It is a stew made from relationships, character, learning, self-awareness, kindness, patience, self-control, and perseverance among others. It is stirred with experiences, successes, failures and time. Done properly this topic would take volumes, following are just a few highlights, things that I am working on during my journey.

  1. Always be learning, always stay curious. Staying curious will be the closest thing you will find to the fountain of youth. It’s a big ol’ crazy world out there, packed with different people, cultures, ideas, music, food, literature, etc. Sample as much as you can and learn from everything … and not just once. At age 13 sushi may not appeal to you, at age 25 it might be your favorite. At 13 you might shake your head at be-bop jazz, at 30 you might be the drummer in a local group. You can’t possibly know or experience everything, but there is enough to keep you busy your entire life.
  2. Accept that life is not fair … never has been, never will be. Bad things happen to good people, good things happen to bad people. You can’t control most things that happen to you, but you can control how you react to those events. When bad things happen (and they will) don’t give in to feeling sorry for yourself, and don’t take on a victim mentality (ever).
  3. Learn to be comfortable in your own skin. Develop the skill of self-awareness. As you grow and mature you will learn your strengths and your weaknesses. Think about the people you are most at ease with, chances are they are comfortable with themselves, They have learned that they are not perfect, neither are they losers. It’s likely that you also know people who feel the constant need to impress others, or pretend to be something they are not. Learn that being Gavin is a good thing, that God created you exactly as he wanted.
  4. Hard work beats luck every-time. Hard work is hard, and there is no substitute. Hard work can also bring joy and happiness. We don’t often think of hard work and happiness together but nothing will give you greater sense of satisfaction than setting a tough goal for yourself and achieving it.
  5. Just a few good friends. Aside from your family, your friends can be the biggest influence on the kind of man you will become. Choose wisely. Friendship like any relationship will take work (see point 4). A few solid friends are worth more than a hundred “friends” on any social media site.
  6. Walking among immortals. I can’t make this point half as well as C.S. Lewis, so I will just quote him,“There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal … it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit.”
    This was eye-opening for me. I don’t always succeed, but I try to view everyone I see, first as a child of God, before I make any snap judgments based on their looks, dress, speech, etc. You will never meet anyone who is 100% good or 100% bad, but everyone will have a story to tell and something to teach you.
  7. Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none. I purchased this t-shirt for my grandson a few weeks ago because I wanted him to remember this. There is a lot of wisdom to unpack in these 9 words. Though this comes from William Shakespeare and not Holy Scripture, we all could do a lot worse than trying to apply this to our lives.

Gavin, I look forward to seeing the grown man you will become. Godspeed.

Poppy

3 thoughts on “To Gavin, on the Occasion of Your 13th Birthday

  1. I love this so much! I’m going to squirrel it away for when my boys (now 8) turn 13. This is just wonderful. And Gavin (and of course your grandson) are so lucky to have you in their lives to impart this kind of wisdom. (At the moment, my boys and I are listening to a book called _Ghost Hawk_. In the book, set probably in the 1600s, an 11 year old Native American boy is sent out into the woods alone for 3 months with only a knife, his tomahawk, and his bow and arrows, to become a man. It’s encouraged all kinds of interesting conversations around what makes a man, today–and always. Number 1 in my book is having good men to emulate. Well done–and keep it up!

    Like

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