Earlier this year we shared Clean is Sexy and other bits of motherly wisdom for teen and young adult sons.* As our kids come home for the holidays the impulse to shower them with even more parental guidance seemed irresistible. So along with the gifts and good cheer here is our two-cents worth of advice for sons during the holidays, or anytime.
1. For years, your parents showered you with holiday gifts, even beating back other overzealous parents in Toys “R” Us to get you the last Talking Elmo. Now you are thinking of showing up at home for the holidays empty-handed? Who raised you? Buy something small but thoughtful that lets them know how much you appreciated your Beanie Babies, Pokemon cards and their love.
2. And while you are at it, siblings do not grow on trees. These are the only brothers and sisters you will ever have and, God willing, you will have them forever. They are the only people who will accompany you on almost your entire life’s journey. Show them some appreciation at the holidays, too.
3. If it is going to be a long night, make beer, drunk slowly, a big part of it.
4. When you were a child, holiday meals seemed to appear by magic. Now that you know the truth get off your behind and help your parents in the kitchen.
5. When you come home for the holidays you may realize how much you have missed your friends, want to spend every minute of your short stay with them and come away hoping that you will be close forever. Do not forget your parents feel the same way about you.
6. Some women love men’s hands. I am not sure why, but you might want to remember this when biting your nails.
7. Your dorm room or apartment floor may be covered in dirty clothing, indistinguishable from your laundry basket. That is your business. When you are home for the holidays things are done differently.
8. When you are driving never think, “WHAT’S the worst that could happen?” rather “What is THE worst that could happen?” and then drive accordingly.
9. Office holiday parties have long been an excuse for bad behavior. It is almost a cliché. Don’t become a cliché. The party is short and your career will be as well if you cannot remember to behave yourself.
10. Popular press will tell you to follow your dreams, but just remember you will need to afford them.
11. Being smarter or richer than someone else doesn’t make you a better person. It just makes you fortunate.
12. People who do not share their good fortune and their good cheer, especially during the holidays, but, truly, all year, are not a credit to their parents, or themselves.
13. If you want to be a better person give generously of your of your time, your wisdom and your wealth.
14. Your dorm room looks a little bleak? Apartment just doesn’t look like home? Take the time, and it really is only a little time, to put up a few decorations for the season. It will make you feel better for weeks.
15. Eggnog only seems like a good idea at the time.
16. There is a certain level of untidiness and disorder that your parents may have learned to tolerate from you at one time. They love you so much and are so happy to have you home for the holidays that they may tolerate it from you again. Don’t make them.
17. Travel will only open your world, if you open your eyes. Just being in a new place does not mean you have experienced it.
18. WiFi is not on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs, but love is. Put down the laptop and look at the world around you, and into the eyes of those whose love matters most.
19. Never lose more at a casino than you are willing to pay for an evening’s entertainment.
20. Always keep a decent untouched bottle of wine at the ready. You never know when you will receive a last-minute invitation to dinner.
21. If you get picked for secret Santa, go with food and you will never go wrong.
22. You will overeat when you are home for the holidays, do not try to fool yourself into believing otherwise or feel guilty for a moment. Plan for it. Just add a bit more exercise and some days of sensible eating to your pre-holiday routine.
23. When you are home for the holidays and your parents have not fully acknowledged your adulthood, don’t push them. If they are not happy with sleepover guests, or hangovers or having you walking around the house, in front of guests, dressed only in boxers, try to remember it is only for a couple of days.
24. In the end it will matter less how good an athlete you were and more how good a teammate you were. Talent fades, camaraderie and memories endure.
25. Never buy the large size of popcorn. It is overpriced, oversized and only seemed like a good idea.
26. If you have a girlfriend, boyfriend or partner and you wait until the day before and cannot find the right gift, the right size, or the right color or you can, but it cannot be delivered in time, it is not the store’s fault, it is yours. Blame no one but yourself.
27. A working knowledge of 1970s and 80s rock will make you happy and a stand-out in trivia contests.
28. Eating too much turkey once a year is not overindulgence, it is your birthright as an American. Go ahead, enjoy.
29. The first days of any experience are recorded in our minds in bright living color with routine dulling the memories of later days. Take it all in during those early days.
30. Manners are more important in the digital age when we are lacking the subtleties of facial expressions. Forget yours at your peril.
31. You are not a little kid anymore. If you are going to do something that might not thrill your parents, don’t just try to get away with it, talk to them first. They are proud that you are grown up and make your own decisions. They have no interest in seeing your inner 14-year-old.
32. Learn to cook at least one truly great meal. Underwhelming people with your cooking will never lead to good things.
33. Who you are working for can be every bit as important as what you are doing. Interview prospective bosses as they interview you, politely.
34. Holding doors open, paying for a check or swinging by and picking someone up may be old-fashioned, but that does not mean that those kindnesses will not engender gratitude.
35. Read great books, even if you read them slowly and infrequently. They will keep you in touch with human history.
36. Keep your mind open to other people’s life choices, and be happy for them.
37. Envy serves no useful purpose and is often misplaced. All too often we are mistaken about others’ lives so mind your own knitting.
38. Benjamin Franklin only had it two-thirds right. To the list of death and taxes, add your parent’s love.
39. Your parents cheered you on when you took your first step, rode your first bike and started your first summer job. Listen for that cheering sound when you most need it, I promise it will always be there for you.
* In the earlier post we remind our kids that, “Clean is sexy. Thoughtful is sexy. Being blindingly drunk is pathetic.”
Photo credit: SalzerE