“Every man needs a good watch,” said you this summer. Your best friend’s big brother, a man you admire, said as much to you so you took the words to heart. You took your own money and bought a watch.
You’ve been prepping to be a man for a long, long time and the watch was a visible reminder that, in your own mind, you were almost there. We bought you a suit last weekend because I believe every man needs a good suit. And as hard as it is I see you turning into a man.
Tomorrow you turn 16. A man. To me you will remain a little boy…but you know that.
As it is my job to help make you into the man you want to be; every year I give you advice in the form of a birthday letter. I’ve struggled with this one a lot. As hard as I try all I can picture is you jumping in a car and waving bye-bye as you head into the great big world.
But I can’t let you go without reminding you:
- With this freedom you are anticipating comes responsibilities. Don’t forget that every time you get into a car you feel free and I feel afraid. Calling before you leave and once you arrive isn’t a silly request; it’s a demand.
- Family first. You’ll be able to go and do more than before, you’ll be expected to work to support this new freedom of yours but never, ever forget that your 3 biggest fans, the 3 first loves in your life, are at home missing you. Make time for us. You are your sisters HERO. Take time for them. They look up to you. They look to you to as the example of what they will seek in a boy to like. Set a good example. Invest time in them.
- Open car doors even if you do get mocked for being old-fashioned. Open doors and let ladies enter first. Shake hands with men. Greet adults first when you walk into any room. Say please and thank you. Say bless you and you are welcome. Thank people who help you and look for ways to help others. Manners matter.
- Stand up for those that can’t stand up for themselves… even if you are afraid.
- Defend yourself but do so with honor and not in fury. Walk away if the fight isn’t worth it. The stronger man isn’t the one swinging…sometimes the stronger man is the one walking away.
- Speak the truth. You won’t always be liked for the truth but you will be respected and you will be trusted and that is far more important than saying what others want to hear.
- Drive with care and attention—not to get ATTENTION. ALWAYS. When you drive you are responsible for your life and those in the cars around you. It’s not to be taken lightly. Ever.
- Be you. Be authentic. The right people will like you and those that aren’t meant to be in your life…won’t. And that is okay.
- Pray. Pray when you are thankful, pray when you are afraid, pray when you are uncertain and pray when you are happy.
- Always have an emergency $20 tucked into the back of your wallet.
- Keep a clean car. I don’t see this happening as I haven’t set a very good example but as the saying goes do as I say, not as I do.
- Save ½ of what you make. Please. Please. Please. Make that a habit with your very first paycheck. You will never regret it but I promise you that you will regret NOT doing it.
- You will work for the rest of your life. You will only be in high school 3 more years. Don’t sacrifice the high school experience for a bigger check. There is no shame in continuing to ride with your Mama or taking the bus. You don’t get to go back and re-live these days.
- I’ve always told you that a good man does the right thing even when no one is watching. Practice what I preach.
- Be a gentleman first, last and always. In any situation ask, “what would my grandpa do?” you’ll never go wrong using him as your compass.
- Find something you are passionate about and learn to make money at it. Find work that is meaningful to you and it won’t feel like a job. Start thinking of that now.
- Pick up a book every once in a while.
- Always be mindful that you treat a girl with respect. Remember that you are creating memories for her that will last a lifetime. Make each moment special.
- It’s a privilege to drive and that privilege can and will be revoked at any time if you aren’t respectful, careful and mindful.
- You will feel like a grown up but you aren’t yet. Keep learning. Keep growing. Don’t get too big for those britches.
- Don’t waste time and energy wishing for things you can’t change. Don’t wish to be taller. You can’t do anything about that. If you wish to be stronger…THAT you can control.
- If you want something work for it. If you are unhappy about something, change it. If you are fearful of something-confront it. Don’t stand on the sidelines of life whining…be a doer.
- Before you are old, like me, drive across the country. Take a long, slow jaunt thru the United States and see what there is to see. I always thought I would do that with you but that just hasn’t worked out. I hope you will do it for yourself.
- Help others.
- Learn to argue and quit giving in and giving up. You have a lifetime of string females in your life.
- Write thank you notes. It’s a lost art but it matters.
- Study abroad if you get the chance.
- Go to the beach-alone-one winter. Trust me.
- Learn to listen…really listen when others speak.
- Learn to be romantic.
- Work as a camp counselor at a summer camp.
- Learn to live a little outside your comfort zone.
- Eat better. Eat something green every once in awhile.
- Don’t be so impatient to make your own stories that you forget to listen to the stories that your grandparents tell you.
The other night in the car you asked if I was proud of you. I told you that I was and asked what you thought I was most proud of…you seem surprised when your answers didn’t match. I am certainly proud of your accomplishments. But the things I am proudest of are the little things that have molded you into the man you are becoming.
- I am proud that you asked for help when you were struggling with concentration. Learning to ask for help when you need it is an important skill.
- I am proud of the devotion you show to your little sister. Every morning, without fail, you find her and hug her and snuggle with her if you can. I see you being patient with her. I see you taking care of her. I see you being her role model, her mentor and her protective and it makes me proud.
- I see and am proud of your efforts. School isn’t easy for you but you’ve stayed the course and have made it work.
- I am proud of you when adults compliment your manners.
- I am proud of you for the sweet heart of yours.
I am proud of you for too many reasons to list here. You, my Colton Henry Evans, stole my heart 16 years ago. You had a smile that was all mine and I still melt when I see it. You, along with your sisters, are the best part of me. You are why I do everything that I do. You are the best of me. You inspire me to do more, dream bigger and to be happy. You make me happy. You make me complete.
Go out and conquer your dreams my little fella. I’ll be here behind you all the way.
Happy day to you on the anniversary of the day that’s brought me more joy than I thought possible.