A Decade of Development

My kids classify any outdoor walk where there was no elevation, mountains or much of a physical challenge as “nature walk.”  We were originally going to go out to a new spot about an hour and a half drive from our house, but when I looked the trail was only 4 miles and that was with adding some side trails, so we all decided to go to a closer spot if we weren’t going to be hiking that long.  We agreed upon the Alberton Road Trail in Patapsco Valley  State Park to go see Daniels Dam.  It is a flat trail, mostly paved and we added a bit so we ended up walking about 4 miles in total at a very leisurely pace. Our word of the hike was decade in honor of my son’s tenth birthday, and in honor of his double digits status, here are 10 nuggets I wish to impart on him.

1. “A reporter once asked Rockefeller how much is enough.  His answer: Just a little bit more.  And that’s all we want: to eat and sleep, to stay dry and be loved, and acquire just a little bit more.” -(Richard Powers) When you find yourself in the position of wanting “just a little bit more,” stop and ask yourself why.  Why do you want this?  Does this really serve you?  Are you complete without this?  The answer will almost always be that you have enough, and more importantly you are enough.

2. Oftentimes you talk to me at nasium about stuff I really just don’t care about (YouTubers, Minecraft, Legos) but I do my best to pay attention to your interests. People will want your attention, and being generous with it is one of the kindness things you can do.  If they don’t return the favor, stop giving them your attention.  

3. On your birthday you said to me that you were surprised that ten years had already passed, that it made you feel like life is shorter than you expected. Well shit child, ditto. There will be long minutes, hours, days and even weeks filled with everything from dread, anxiety and panic, boredom, anger and frustration. When you are miring through shit, keep in mind that this too shall pass. Life is too short to allow yourself to wallow, take the shortcut.

4.  “Young children discover one thing at a time. The tiniest detail sparks wonder. Because a young child doesn’t have the same awareness of time as an adult does, there isn’t a sense of “hurrying” to learn something. Adults often put pressure on themselves to learn quickly or come to a solution immediately.” (Julia Cameron).  Soak in sunshine, breathe fresh air, be in wilderness – allow yourself to return to that childlike wonder at the awesomeness of nature. 

5. Apologize when you’ve messed up.  Own your mistakes.  Then forgive yourself and keep your head up.  Don’t let someone continue to badger you after you’ve apologized.  You cannot control other people’s feelings, emotions or actions.  If they cannot forgive you, don’t keep them in your life. 

6.  “Play is called recreation because it makes us new again, it re-creates us and our world.“ (Stuart Brown, MD)  When you are stuck, engage with your inner child.  Do the things you loved in childhood- build a Lego set, hike a mountain, play a video game, anything that will allow you to get lost in playfulness.  Then you’ll be able to look at a problem from a creative perspective and the answer may just be right there. 

7.  I asked you and Charlie a series of questions for this post, one of which is what do you want to be when you grow up and why.  Charlie answered that he wants to be a chef, because cooking is fun.  You said that you want to be a YouTuber so that you can make a lot of money.  In the two years between 8 and 10, you are already outgrowing your inner child.  Most adults will tell you to follow a path that leads to financial security.  I will tell you that if your occupation is not your vocation, please at least have lots of hobbies.  If you decide to pursue what you love over being rich, I will always be behind you, supporting you whatever way I can.

8. Similarly I asked you what advice you would give a 5 year old about getting older.  Charlie said “you get older, stronger and taller.  Oh, and you should eat broccoli every day.”  You said “In 7th grade you’ll get made fun of if you’re not cool.” Fuck the cool kids, unless you are a cool kid, then don’t be a bully.  But in all seriousness, be true to yourself; do what you know is right even when it’s hard; if someone else is making fun of you, that is on them.  7th grade is likely going to suck, but it too will pass. 

9.  “When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.” (C.S. Lewis)  I am 28 years your senior, and for the majority of my twenties I was kind of an uptight bitch.  You forced me to get back down on the ground and play with blocks, sing out loud, dance, and play again.  You brought me back to a life of imagination, wonder, curiosity, learning and gave me the freedom to let go of trying to control everything.  

10. Read.  Please don’t ever stop reading. I learn something new every time I sit down and pick a book over a screen.  Today I was reading a chapter in Ryan Holiday’s book Stillness is the Key and he recounts a story about Garry Shandling’s difficult childhood, and this is the advice Garry shared – it’s the best I’ve seen in awhile, so pay attention!

“Give more.

Give what you don’t get.

Love more.

Drop the old story.”

Thank you for the last ten years James, can’t wait to see what the next ten have in store… I mean once you get through puberty.


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