Dear Sadie, Noah and Miles
I think that every generation says, "You couldn't pay me to go back and be a teenager again in an age where there is xyz". Here I am, turning old and saying, "You couldn't pay me to be a teenager again with all the social media!"
Here's the thing. I love social media. This here blog? Wouldn't exist without social media. Even though right now you are too you for things like Facebook and Twitter and whatever the next big thing will be, I know that it won't be long until your friends start using them and telling you that you "need" to be on there too. Growing up is so hard. Growing up is even harder where every move you make is being put out into the world for all to judge and watch. I know that social media and being able to see what your friends are doing 24 hours a day will impact you deeply.
There's a story going on in the news right now about two boys who did something terrible to a girl at their school. It's a really bad thing. When the case went before the judge, lots of the kids involved had videos and text messages and things on Facebook about the bad thing that happened. Those things never go away. I'm a grown up with lots of common sense and still, sometimes I put things on the Internet that I later wished that I hadn't. Darlings, while you are growing up, your brains are growing too. While your brain grows, you'll realize that what you thought was a good idea one day, maybe isn't a good idea the next day.
I want you all to know that it's okay to make mistakes. It's okay to change your mind. It's part of growing up. But as you grow up in an age of social media, you have to be extra careful. Here's the big thing- when I say be careful? I don't mean be careful of being caught. I mean live in such a way that your integrity convicts you and keeps you from putting yourself in situations that aren't healthy for you.
I'm not dumb. I know that you are going to try things. I want you to blaze your own paths. But there are some things that just aren't good for you and I want you to recognize those things along the way.
Sadie, you may laugh about this now, but when you are a little bit older and you get your own phone, you will learn that lots and lots of girls in high school (and even middle school) take naked pictures of themselves and send them to boys. They think that it will make boys like them. I don't know any other way to say it, but to just flat out say, "Don't do it!" When you are 13 or 15, that boy that you are texting your pictures to is too immature to know what to do with that picture. He's young and his brain is not developed enough to think about this situation logically. Despite what he tells you, he may show it to his friends. Or lose his phone. Or his parents may see it. Or he may even post it on the Internet and remember, baby, that things on the Internet never die. Love your body. Marvel in the things that it can do. Be proud of it. But know that your body is a gift and does not need to be enjoyed by every person that you encounter.
You are my baby girl and while I wish that I could keep you little forever, I know that you have to grow up. I want you to be a strong woman. I want you to know that even when you make a bad decision that you are still in control of what happens to your body. Even when the decisions that you make tell a boy one thing, you still have the power to change that situation and say no at ANY TIME YOU CHOOSE. You deserve to be respected, no matter what anyone else tells you. You may feel pressure. You may feel conflicted. But when you know something is not right, you have the right to speak up. And be brave, my dear. Sometimes when you speak up, people will call your integrity and your morals into question. Be firm in your position and speak up for injustice when you see it- for yourself and for your friends. Never accept the notion that people will spew into you that "you got what you deserved" because of your past choices. And by all means, do not be one of the people who spews forth that kind of venom, either. These kinds of things can happen to anyone.
I want you to be a woman full of morals and a heart that is pure. But I'm not naive enough to think that temptations won't challenge even the purest heart or that you won't end up in situations that are not good for you. Keep a good head on your shoulders and treat your body like the temple it was designed to be and demand that others treat it that way, too. Society's standard for beauty does not have to be your standard. That is not an easy task, but I am here to support you.
Noah and Miles, you have an awesome responsibility. Girls are so stinkin' cool. They are smart and they are pretty and they can be so darn intoxicating. It's in your nature to be visually stimulated. When you see something you like, you can't help but admire it. But hear me on this- admiration does not mean domination.
I want you to know something about girls. We change our minds. Sometimes girls will show you through word and through deed that they want to do something. If at any time she changes her mind about that, your job is to respect that. Respect does not include pressure. Respect does not include ridicule. Respect does not include anger. Respect means that this girl deserves to have her voice heard- even if her voice is shaking. Do not mistake that shake for weakness. I know that it's hard to say no. That girl in a tube top? Society will tell you that that makes her "easy". That girl at the party that just drank herself into oblivion? Society will tell you that now is the time to make your move. But I'm telling you- respect yourself enough to know that the experiences you have now will shape you and be brave enough to resist. Human beings make mistakes. Be the kind of man who does not "capitalize" on people when they make mistakes. Be the kind of man who can walk away and who encourages others to do the same. Be the kind of man who does not tolerate disgracing women from his friends. I'm holding you to a higher standard.
Just as I told Sadie that I want her to be a woman with a pure heart and integrity, I want the same things for you. The world will tell you that you need to be tough. It will tell you that you need to possess things and people and show yourself as dominant. While it may seem that those kind of guys get all the girls, as you grow, you will discover that in the end, women want someone who will respect them and treasure them. When you treasure people, they will treasure you. I want you to be treasured in your relationships and choose people who will see you as precious- because, my sweet boys, you are precious beyond measure. Show people how strong and respectful you are through your willingness to not choose the easy path. That is the mark of a true gentleman. 15 year olds will not see it. But I see it, sweetheart. And as you get older, you will see it in yourself. Be the kind of man that recognizes that respect in a relationship is more powerful than dominance.
I want such big things for all three of you. So many of the things that happen to teenagers happen because they are searching- searching for acceptance or popularity. What I want you to know is that those things aren't always the best for you. We all want to be loved, but realize that when you are seeking it in places that you shouldn't that you find things you wish you hadn't. Living a life of integrity might label you as "weird". But you know what? In the end, it's the people who loved themselves enough to make good choices (and found forgiveness when they fell short) that find happiness in life- and happiness is what I want for each one of you.
Just know that no matter what, I love you.