Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Dear Sons: Surround Yourself With Good People

Dear sons,

(Letter #27)

It's been a while since I shared a letter on the blog to you, but I wanted to do so this week as we have an extra teenage kid in the house. I really like him. He's a sweet kid with a good heart, a surprisingly wise and mature outlook on a lot of things and he's polite and always has my back. "Just listen to your mom." "Yeah, she's kind of right." Moms like kids like that. The ones that display behavior they like to see. He's a good influence.

Although he moved out of the area over a year ago, I love that you've stayed in touch. Back in my day, it may not have happened. You had to write a letter on paper. Put a stamp on it and put it in the mail. Or make a long distance phone call and talk on your kitchen phone with a cord that only stretched as far as the basement stairway. That's one benefit of social media. It enables people to better keep in touch.

Over the years you've had some great friends who have hung out to play video games, stayed for dinner, spent the night or hitched a ride. Nearly all were kids we were happy to welcome into our home, to our dinner table or into the car. Another thing, besides social media, that I didn't have growing up that you do is a diversity in your community that is reflected in your friendships. Collectively between all five of you, you've probably had as many or more Hispanic friends as caucasian friends. You've had several African-American friends hang out here. A feisty Asian friend. And I couldn't be more in love with the Indian friend who was way smarter than me when he was in elementary school and looked the part. At 10 years old in a suit and tie, he seriously carried himself like he could be running a Fortune 500 company.

Now that you're getting older (I can't believe I have been a mom for almost a quarter century) your friends are too. I've even become a an adopted grandmother to a little girl who enjoys visiting our house and it's nice to have a little girl here on occasion.

Not every kid you've brought home has been a great influence. I remember the one that went in your room and stole your 8th grade graduation money. And I had to go back and forth with his grandmother to try and retrieve it. And I'd be lying to say that all of you were always the best influence of your friends. I can't say that you've never been in any kind of trouble.

But for the most part, the kids you've made part of our lives are ones that I adore and were happy to have around. Sometimes, for some of them, when they were here it was because they needed a place to go that wasn't home. A fight with a sibling. Parents not home. Escaping a violent situation. Our house isn't fancy. Not even all that comfortable. But it was a safe, dry place. I was happy to be able to be there for some of your friends when needed.

Sometimes there were friends who were around because they liked being around our family. And that warms my heart. Many of them didn't have a dad in their life. You did. And they were drawn to that and wanted to hang around a home where there was a fun and funny dad who was grilling and tinkering in the garage and watching corny movies. Or they liked being in a place where there were both a mom and dad who actually liked each other.

There were times you had friends here who I knew were hungry. And feeding one more kid was never a big deal. I never minded it. And was glad to have that opportunity to provide something for a kid that needed it.

And I'm glad for the friends that have been there when you needed them. When you wanted someone to talk to who wasn't related. When you just needed to get away from your brothers. When you needed a ride. Or had a friend who was the key to getting an 'A' on your group project. Or if they just were lucky enough to have the game system you didn't and you wanted to play the Xbox game that just came out.

It is true that it takes a village. Technically, parents may be able to do it on their own. But a child's life is only enriched for the better when intelligent, kind people who can share difference perspectives and experiences are part of it.

As you get older, you might find that friends aren't as easy to come by. While you're in school, you might make new friends throughout the year or when you move on to junior high or high school or college. Once you're out in the real world, you might find yourself in a profession where you meet new people all the time. Or you may find yourself in a cubicle surrounded by the same handful of people day in and day out.

When you find a good friend, hang on to them. Treat them well. Like you would want to be treated. There are a lot of good people in the world. A lot of them are your friends already. Keep yourself among good friends. And look to surround yourself with good people that will become your friends.