10 Pieces of Advice for My 11 Year-Old Son

Dear Gabriel,

Welcome to 11 and your pre-teen years! This is the impressionable time when the world comes into sharper focus, when your character (and body) begins to mold from child to teen. It’s also the year when you’ll graduate from elementary to middle school. When you’ll go to sleep-away camp for the first time, take formal art classes at an art museum, and stay home alone more. (It won’t be the year when you get a phone, sorry.)

There’s so much to look forward to in the 12 months ahead, and your papa and I will be here for you every step of the way. But, knowing that your desire to let us physically hold your hand is waning every day, we want to share the following advice to help steer you through the year ahead.

  1. Be yourself:You are the one and only ever you,” says one of my favorite books On The Night You Were Born. There will be days when you will feel down or when criticism from teachers or your peers might make you doubt yourself. But know that you are special, an individual, and hold your head high.
  2. Slow down: Your default mode is fast! Please try to pace yourself so that you can savor all the good times that are coming your way. (Related: don’t race though your homework, please take the time to review and check your work!)
  3. Be kind everyday: You never know how someone else is feeling. Be quick to offer to help, or to listen. Know that your smile or a few words of encouragement can make someone’s day.
  4. Ask questions: Lots of them. Always be curious. There are so many resources to fill in the gaps in your knowledge and even spark new interests.
  5. Be a good friend: Friendship is so much more than a playdate or being in each other’s Minecraft worlds. It means being there for your friends in good times and bad. Listening to them. Sharing with them. Making their needs your priority.
  6. Pursue your passions: While it’s important to try new things, knowing what excites and motivates you is important. Let it guide you.
  7. Try to make good choices (see #2): You already know right from wrong. But silliness, peer pressure and hormones can cloud any pre-teen’s judgement. You are a good, smart kid — so, please, use your head.
  8. Make mistakes: Yes you read that right. We’re going to let you make lots of them. It’s going to suck. But it’s one of the best ways to learn.
  9. Be grateful: Remember that you are extremely fortunate. Don’t take it for granted.
  10. Be satisfied with what you have (see #9): More doesn’t always mean better.

Happy 11th birthday Gabriel – we love you!

Mama and papa

How I Measure the Passing of Time

The sheer volume of Cheerios that can be consumed in one sitting

They still hold my hand

How quickly his buzz cut goes from sharp to disheveled

Her diminishing fear of auto-flushing toilets

They want their privacy

Volume of homework

Discussions waver at any given moment between poop, Pokemon and deep questions about religion, life and death and right and wrong. Also tooting.

Kids portions at restaurants are now too small (for him)

She still wants to snuggle with me at bedtime

Their beautifully expanding minds and vocabulary – including awareness of curse words

The escalating pencil marks and dates on the kitchen wall

Chapter books and intense reading sessions

The tooth fairy visits more often

Their bed times and mine are getting closer and closer

They need me less and yet they need me more

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