My grandson Max turned 16 this week. From a preemie who spent his first seven weeks in the NICU, he has grown into a 5’ 11” handsome young man who builds robots and plays a mean sax in the school band. His mother, my daughter Alex, toasted him with 16 pieces of advice. I am sharing her words because I believe they are pertinent for all of us, not just a spectacular 16-year-old grandson. Here's her toast:
16 THINGS I WANT MAX TO KNOW ON HIS 16TH BIRTHDAY
You started off as a scrappy three-pound four-ounce chicken wing with red hair and a black eye to boot. I love you so much and I am proud of you. But as we stand at the precipice of your young adult life, there are 16 things I want you to know.
1. THIS IS YOUR LIFE TO LIVE. Not mine, not Dad’s, not your sister Maddie’s,
not your future partner’s. Be mindful this is your path.
2. YOU ARE VALUABLE. No matter what you do, or where you are in life,
know that you are always enough. Don’t ever confuse what you have
with who you are.
3. DON’T TAKE PEOPLE FOR GRANTED. Every relationship requires work.
You are loyal, patient and kind. You will always be surrounded by friends and
loved ones. Don’t stop saying, “I love you.”
4. YOUR HAPPINESS IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY. This is hard but it is not your
job to make others happy. People must ultimately do the work themselves.
5. YOU ALSO CANNOT BE HAPPY ALL THE TIME. No one is. There will be
ups and downs. True character is how and when you get back up.
Have faith that you will get through the tough times.
Know if you start to lose faith in yourself, Dad and I will always believe in you.
6. DEEP DOWN MAN IS GOOD. Don’t assume the worst in people. They are
not out to get you. Assume the best in others until they prove to you that
they aren’t. People make mistakes too. Forgive, but don’t forget. Always lead
with your good heart.
7. ALWAYS BUCKLE UP BECAUSE I LOVE YOU. Literally and figuratively,
take care of yourself. And no tattoos!
8. YOU CAN HAVE EVERYTHING BUT NOT AT THE SAME TIME. Things in
life that are valuable take patience and persistence. Be ambitious but be
reasonable on how long it might take to achieve those goals.
9. REMEMBER THE FIVE P’S. Proper Preparation Prevents Poor
Performance. This is Dad’s motto but it usually rings true. When that does
not work, wing it with duct tape and zip ties.
10. DON’T WASTE TIME WITH PEOPLE WHO MAKE YOU FEEL BAD
ABOUT YOURSELF. They are not worth it.
11. STAY CURIOUS AND LISTEN. Always keep learning. It’s impossible to know
everything. Keep reading, listen and watch. Talk and learn from others.
Always ask too many questions.
12. DON’T TAKE LIFE TOO SERIOUSLY. There is always time to laugh.
Remember when you fail, it’s not the end of the world — another door
opens. When you achieve a goal, it’s also not the pinnacle.
Don’t forget what you are doing it for. Remember to be happy.
13. HOME IS WHERE YOUR HEART IS. It’s not a place or a thing. While
you start to explore your big new world, know wherever you end up,
we are right there with you. Always.
14. SHOW UP. Be on time. You can’t achieve anything if you don’t try. The
challenge is to put yourself out there. You will not always succeed the
first time, so keep showing up.
15. BE BOLD. You have a voice. Your opinion matters. Always speak your
truth. This also requires listening. If you can’t listen to others, they will never
16. EVERYTHING YOU NEED IS INSIDE OF YOU. You have all the tools.
You are smart, you can learn, you can listen. You can adapt to almost
anything. The world is yours, which brings me back to my first point:
THIS IS YOUR LIFE TO LIVE. Happy 16th Birthday and I love you! Mom