Dear Son,

This weekend you turned 14. Congratulations! You are turning into a young man right before my eyes. You are a bright and talented individual with your own unique personality. I am proud of the young man you are now, and excited to see the man you will become. I suppose it’s only natural at a birthday for a mom to stop and reflect on the passage of time, so indulge me for a few minutes and allow me to impart some wisdom from one generation to the next.

Time is your most precious limited resource, Son. Invest it wisely. I know this is difficult for you to understand, but time really does fly. I remember when we took you home from the hospital as a tiny helpless newborn. I hadn’t the first clue how to raise a child. Your father and I were typical first-time, overprotective parents. We certainly made mistakes, and continue to do so. Some of the days (and sleepless nights!) seemed endless. But somehow, looking back now, I can’t believe it’s already been 14 years. It seems much less. And no matter how I spent those years, I can’t get that time back now. So speaking from experience, I advise you: spend your time wisely.

According to an extensive study on hackernoon.com, the average American spends a little over four hours a day on his or her cell phone. Now, there’s nothing wrong with a little down time. And obviously, we use technology for much more than playing games. But consider that on average, Americans spend five years and four months of their lives on social media alone. That’s a lot of time. We also spend about seven years and eight months watching TV. In contrast, we spend approximately three years and five months eating and drinking and one year and three months socializing (face to face). That’s a staggering thought. Will you really spend 13 years of your life watching TV and on social media? Think of what else you could be accomplishing in that amount of time. Keep that in perspective for future reference. Don’t waste that kind of time. But at the same time, don’t become a slave to time.

There is a time and place for relaxing and having fun. I’ve told you before and I’ll say it again: don’t allow the urgent to overshadow the important. There will always be something that demands your attention—one more email, one more report at work, one more thing to cross off your long to-do list. But the important things lie quietly, waiting for your time, never demanding it. Be sure to make time for those things—taking an aimless walk with your toddler to look at fallen leaves, volunteering, building relationships. You might not be accomplishing anything on your to-do list, but it’s worth the investment.

Son, you are an intelligent young man with a thirst for knowledge. I can tell you from experience, you will never stop learning. One of the best ways to expand your world is through books. You already love to read. Please continue to read as you get older; not just fun books, but books that challenge you to think differently, even books that make you mad. That will help you define what you believe and why. Read biographies and autobiographies, even of people you don’t necessarily agree with. Exposing yourself to differing viewpoints is key to understanding and dialoguing with others. Read Shakespeare and Chaucer. Read classics and modern-day novels. Reading allows you to visit places you may never be able to go. Travel extensively, and travel often.

Girls. Ah, Son, this is uncharted territory for each of us. You’re at the age when girls are taking notice of you, and you’re taking notice of girls. Just remember that each of those girls is someone’s daughter and someone’s future wife—not necessarily your own. Treat them with the respect you’d want other boys to show your own sisters or your own future wife. Don’t give away your most intimate gift carelessly in the heat of the moment. Save it for your wife after you’re married. It will mean so much more to her and to you.

As you start high school this coming school year, the focus will shift ever so slightly towards what you want to do after you graduate. That’s a weighty question, and you may change your mind multiple times along the way. That’s okay. I want you to know that we’ll be proud of you no matter what you do. Any legal vocation is honorable when you do it with integrity and determination. God has given you special and unique gifts. Use those to determine what you want to do with your life. Your vocation is a way of providing for your family and serving your neighbors. It’s not just a way to get rich. The world will tell you that the more money you make, the more valuable you are. Don’t fall for that lie. Money has nothing to do with your intrinsic value. Money is a blessing when used rightly, but don’t make it a competition to see who has the most toys. Don’t be afraid to give your money away. Give offerings to church, contribute to charitable causes, help a friend in need. The payback will be intangible, but you’ll find that the more you give away, the more you get in return.

You have strong opinions and beliefs and aren’t afraid to speak your mind to your friends even when you are in the minority. We need people like you, Son. You may get flack from people when you speak your mind, but this is still a society of free speech. Don’t allow others to intimidate you or make you back down from what you believe. Stand up for the truth, even when it’s unpopular to do so.

Live life to the fullest, dear Son. Life’s too short to waste. Invest your time wisely, expand your horizons, keep learning, and make wise use of the gifts God has given you. You have such potential in you. God has blessed you mightily, and I don’t want to see you squander those blessings or settle for anything less than the perfect plan He has for your life. In short, don’t be average, Son. There’s so much more out there for you.

With All My Love,