This year, our son Parker becomes a teenager. Lucky number 13.
He was originally going to be named Patrick. Then, on March 17, as my wife was in the middle of hatching our second child, she proclaimed, “His name’s not Patrick. It’s Parker.”
From that day forward, Parker Whitfield Gibbons launched into the world full on. Because he has me as a father, he has the blessings and/or curses that come straight from me. He wears his heart on his sleeve. He can’t sit still for more than 3 seconds tops. Chattering? An art form.
But I’ve made it 30 years past my 13th birthday with these traits, and I think I’ve done OK.
So today, on the occasion of St. Parker’s Day, I would like to impart some wisdom to my son as he embarks on the next stage of life.
So, Parker, remember:
- Words matter. Sure, we all know the bad ones do. They sting. They hurt. If you’re receiving them, they’re tough. If you’re giving them, you know you have that voice inside that says, “That hurt someone.” Remember that voice. But also remember the power of kind words. You and I go on lots of adventures, tromping in nature and finding exciting things. You may not realize this, but more often than not, as we are wrapping up our adventures, usually in the car ride home, you say to me, “Thanks, Dad.” That means more than you will know, at least until you become a father.
- You will love someone and they will break your heart. Or, you may break someone’s heart. It is going to happen. And you both will be OK. Maybe not tomorrow, maybe not the next day. But you will move on. And you will find that person.
- Lift the lid. I grew up with three older sisters, so that was easily corrected in me early on. Trust me — this is an easy way to be a good young man.
- Never take your talents for granted, and never believe you can’t get better. As you have heard me say probably too many times, “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.”
- Play fair. It’s always better to lose with dignity than to win by deceit.
- Do the things you don’t want to do so you can do the things you want to. Life is hard work, and not all of it is fun. But doing the things that are not high on your list of Want To is a requirement for a fulfilling life.
- You are not the main actor in anyone else’s play. You are only starring in yours. And that’s the only one you have full control over.
- You were fortunate to be born into a very big family. And they will always be there for you. But you also need to always be there for them. And sometimes, you need to make sure they know you’re there.
- Your two biggest passions are sports and nature. Your favorite sports teams will let you down. A lot. But nature will always be there for you. If your team loses, remember nature. A walk in the woods cures many ills, including a heartbreaking loss.
- Negativity is the breeding ground for unhappiness. If you find yourself in that place in life where you are only finding the negatives in situations, recalibrate. If every time you go to a restaurant, you only focus on the thing that was wrong, you’re neglecting all the things that were right. Let the right things drive your experiences.
- Never stop being you. And never stop trying to be a better you. I’m 43, and I’m still a work in progress. And that’s OK.
Happy 13th birthday, my man. And here’s to many more adventures. And in case I haven’t told you lately: Thanks, Parker.
Mike Gibbons was born and raised in Aiken, S.C. A graduate of the University of Alabama, he now lives in Charleston. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @StandardMike.