17 Things I want my son to know on his 17th birthday…


It’s baffling to me that Spiderman is 17!

Seventeen, to me, is the beginning of growing out of the teen years…heading into adult territory…1 year away from university and a whole new chapter in life.

While there are 17 years behind him and a lifetime of being an adult ahead, there are a few things I want him to know.

1. Do more than you’re asked. If I ask you to “empty the dishwasher”…refill it and wipe off the counter. If I say “pick up your clothes”…make your bed while you’re at it. This may sound trivial but the thing is, people will notice whether it’s me, a teacher, a coach or your boss. Always exceed expectations…you’ll stand out…and feel a lot better in the process.

2. There’s a difference between confidence and cocky. Be confident. Step into a room like you’re supposed to be there, shake someone’s hand like you know what you’re talking about, stand tall…feel good about who you are. But, don’t think you’re so awesome that you forget the rest of the people in the room…that you look down at the person whose hand you’re shaking or that you think you’re better than others. While you’re busy making yourself shine, make sure you point out how amazing everyone else is as well.

3. Work hard. I will always be disappointed about a “C” on a report card if you did very little to achieve it. At the same time, I will be exceedingly proud of that “C” if you worked your butt off to get it. Ask for help. Don’t sit back and “hope for the best”…make the best happen.

4. Own your Mistakes. You’re not perfect. No one expects you to be. You’ll make a ton of mistakes in your lifetime…you’ll hurt people and you’ll be hurt yourself. Own what you said or did…apologize, make amends…ask for forgiveness. Be humble.

5. Check in, call home, send a text. When I send a message that says “Just Checking In”…what I’m really saying is “are you alive?”…”are you in a ditch?”…”is everything ok?” Answer immediately…I’m checking in because there’s a Mom Gene that makes me act all crazy and spins my imagination out of control making me think all kinds of unimaginable thoughts. In order to reset my brain back to normal…please ANSWER. If you don’t answer right away, I promise to give you a few minutes and assume that you’re driving…but answer, just as soon as you can.

6. Family first. Know that there’s a massive crowd of people around you who love and support you and ALWAYS want the best for you. Give them the same regard that they give you. Put them first…they deserve to be put first. Do your best to arrange your schedule so you can be at your sister’s games, your uncles birthday, your grandmother’s Sunday dinner and family game’s night…be at each and every one of the family celebrations because simply put, you’re a big part of what makes this family who we are. Family first. Always.

7. Love your siblings. Your sisters are the only ones who’ll know exactly how you grew up and what makes you who you are. Some day, you’ll sit in a room and laugh at all of the ridiculous stories. (And likely, there’ll be a few tears as well.) Treat those girls like gold…show them what it’s like to be treated by a loving, caring, thoughtful and wonderful man. That’s a tough burden but trust me when I tell you this…you’re doing an amazing job.

8. You don’t know everything. You know a LOT…and you continue to learn more every day. But, believe it or not, I know an awful lot as well. Remember that you can learn from others, listen to their advice and opinions. Consider that you might be wrong before you decide you’re right.

9. Listen to people. Like, really listen to them. In fact, spend more time listening than you do talking. Learn. Let their words sink in and take them into account as you make your decisions and build your opinions. OH…but here’s the clincher…listen to the ADULTS around you a bit more than you listen to your friends. I love your friends…truly I do…but they might not be the best people to get your advice from!

10. Be careful with girls’ hearts. My goodness there are a lot of beautiful young women who come in and out of our house. Please remember that each and every girl who enters your life should be treated with a great amount of respect and admiration. So often in young relationships, girls tend to be “givers” while boys tend to be “takers.” Hearts break very easily. Don’t be a taker.

11. Boys are looking up to you. On our street…at the rink…at your Dad’s house…there are younger boys who are looking up to you and watching what you’re doing as they’re forming in their minds who they want to be. Take time to notice and pay attention to the boys who are a few years younger than you are. It will mean more to them than you realize.

12. Brush your teeth. Iron your clothes. Smell nice. Girls notice. Mom’s notice more! Oh, also, put away your dishes, get the hockey gear out of the front hall, change over the laundry and empty the garbage in your room.

13. There is no difference between boy jobs and girl jobs and as I type this…I’m half giggling because YES…I still expect you to mow the lawn, shovel the driveway, carry all of the heavy things and deal with all of the stuff that might entail killing bugs even though I know you hate bugs as much as I do! However, cleaning the kitchen, washing the floor, tidying the bathroom, vacuuming, dusting…you can do all of those things just as easily as I can. Help me around the house and I promise, your wife will thank me someday.

14. Life is hard. Sometimes, it’s incredibly unfair. However, how you respond to the tough stuff, your reaction as you move forward, how you hold your head up through adversity…that’s what defines who you are.

15. You don’t have to know what you’re going to be when you grow up. We ask kids all the time…”what do you want to be when you grow up”…it’s ok not to know…to still be figuring it out. I didn’t know until I was well into my forties so do me a favour…take a little of the pressure off. You’ll figure it out.

16. Be careful what you post on social media. When I grew up, we didn’t have to worry about all of our actions showing up on the internet and thank goodness for that! You do. So…don’t post anything in a status or a photo that you wouldn’t want showing up in your grandparents’ news feeds! Be nice, do everything in moderation, be kind to others, don’t get in ridiculous twitter fights and remember…things you post are out there forever.

17. Trust yourself. I’ve been nattering in your ear for 17 years now and I think I’ve given you all of the tools you need to help you make good decisions. I’m not saying I’m done…not at all…in fact, far from it! But, I have great faith in you. I’m proud of you. You’re going to make a lot of mistakes and I’ll be there with even more love, encouragement and advice when you do. Trust yourself…as much as I trust you.

Happy 17th Birthday to my wonderful, thoughtful, generous, hilarious son. You truly are an amazing young man.

I love you, Mom.

11 Replies to “17 Things I want my son to know on his 17th birthday…”

  1. I honestly tried to read this out loud to my family and couldn’t get past number 2 without blubbering. I’ve no doubt your boy knows all of these things. As he celebrates his 17th birthday, you deserve to celebrate the awesome job you’ve done as a mom! XO

    • Yeah…this isn’t one of those “Read Out Loud” posts…there’s something that get’s caught in your throat a few lines in! Thanks for being there when I brought this awesome dud into the world! I’ll never forget the comfort your brought to me that day! xo

  2. OMG Colleen, I still have tears rolling down my cheek, that was beautiful and perfect. I wish I could communicate as well as you do. I guess I will just have to copy your words as they are exactly what I would like to pass on to my kids. Thanx so much for sharing xo

    • At what point did you start to lose it Susan! LOL Glad you liked it…it was a difficult one to write…to get all the advice in 17 comments. Wait until he’s thirty!!!

  3. Just read this now So glad I did. You have a way of writing things that touch people in a personal and gentle way.

  4. My heart can’t stop smiling! Thank you for openly sharing this wonderful message with the world. It captures what every good mom wants to share with their own sons (and daughters). I was looking for ideas to celebrate my son’s 17th birthday and came across this. These words are the greatest gift of all. Although I am sure my Tyler is still looking forward to something expensive and shiny.

  5. My b/g twins turn 17 next month. You have captured everything I want to be able to say to both of them. Thanks for posting this.