Today is my son's 16th birthday. I wrote a letter to him, some of which I will share below. He will either save the letter for posterity or not, it doesn't much matter I guess. At age sixteen, any influence his mother and I might have on how he develops into adulthood is pretty much over. I hope we have done a good job.
Today is August 9, 2008. We are celebrating a very special day, your 16th birthday. I turned sixteen in 1961 and I wonder sometimes, and I’m sure you do too, whether any of my experiences, and those of your considerably younger mother, are even remotely relevant to the way we have tried to raise you into the fine young man you are today.
I think our experiences and our values are relevant. Your mother and I take great pleasure whenever we are told by teachers, parents and other people we know, how nice a person you are. Our experiences and our values definitely do have some part to play in that.
Our genes too have played an important part. You have your mother’s genial and easy-going nature when it is appropriate and my intensity and focus when you feel challenged. It is a toss-up whether you or I would win a challenge of wills. The secret, dear Zachary, is to know when to stand up and be counted and when to back down from confrontation. Even someone with your intellect needs the wisdom of experience and enough time on earth to know whether something is right or appropriate or if it is worth the inevitable fight that results if you won’t back down.But you really don’t cause us much trouble, do you? Mom and I both know that. You are a very special kid and always have been. We are proud of you in a way that you will only begin to understand when you are yourself a parent. We love you because of who you are, because of your potential to be whatever you wish to be, and because you will live on and represent the genes bestowed on you by your mother and father, long after we are gone. And then, when you are ready and have found that perfect mate of your own, you will pass those genes on to another generation. We will live on through you and your children, as you yourself will one day.
This is a very special birthday. We could have given you a car, or some other expensive gift to mark the occasion. Instead, mom and I are going to give you a big hug and a big ‘Thank You!!’ for coming into our lives and enriching our remaining time here on earth. We could do no better than having you as our child and we will always be grateful that you came along.
And we will love you always, unconditionally.
Happy 16th birthday, son.
Love,Dad and Mom