10 Things I’m Teaching My Sons About Life

Late one night I went to the kitchen for a glass of water and found my teen son tipping a 2-liter bottle of Coke into his mouth from six inches away, like a caffeine waterfall. At first, I didn’t understand what was happening. 

“What are you doing?” I asked as he screwed the cap back on, placing the carton back in the fridge. 

“Getting a drink,” he said. “I didn’t want to have to wash a cup.”

I need to teach my sons MUCH about life AND hygiene. (Shutterstock: Lelechka)

I realized how much I still needed to teach my sons

This was probably because six other cups were dirty in the kids’ game room upstairs, but I admired his ingenuity. This never in a million years would have occurred to me. And it was a reminder of how much I needed to teach both my sons about life and hygiene—and being the kind of person that others might want to live with someday—before they moved out. 

I’d always planned to make them a survival guide before college like my dad did for me, but it became apparent that they’d need it much sooner. Their life skills needed some finessing. 

My nephew had told me that he hoped his future college roommate wouldn’t be a slob. His own room was strewn with clothes on the floor, rumpled bedsheets and a cluttered desk. I gently pointed this out and he said, “That’s right, I don’t want to live with someone like me.”

Teenagers, for the most part, are not great roommates. They may, in fact, be the worst. I decided to make a Top 10 Guide to Life for mine to point them in the right direction. I knew I’d probably lose them by #3, so I had to start strong and work my way down. 

Top 10 lessons for teen boys

1. Don’t smack your food 

You’re not a jackrabbit or cow, and no one wants to hear you chew so do it with your mouth closed so people three rooms away won’t know you’re eating. Don’t tip your bowl or plate into your mouth. Your lips should never touch the tableware, only the utensils. If you’re slurping, the beverage is gone. Let it go. 

2. Don’t leave one inch of lemonade in the pitcher 

This was admittedly clever the first time so you wouldn’t have to make another batch. Not so much the next 37 times. If you drink it all, please make a new pitcher. No one wants the powder at the bottom. Likewise, if there’re only two chips left in a bag, don’t get my hopes up. Toss it out and add it to the grocery list.

3. Eight-hour off rule

Your electronics, and you, must be off for eight consecutive hours each night. Gamer’s intermittent sleep hours, or disco naps in my day, don’t compute in the real world. I am very worried for your eyes, ears and hands being in constant combat. You need all these things to someday get a job and move out. 

4. Shower every day

If not for yourself, do it for the rest of mankind. You can’t smell yourself but we all can, and no amount of Axe will mask the scent of adolescent male. Swimming doesn’t count. Neither does baby powder, dry shampoo or wet wipes. Please stand under a strong current of clean water for 10 minutes—not an hour—and suds up your entire body.

5. Charge your phone every time you sit down 

We went on a vacation once and every time we got ready to leave the hotel room, my sons’ phones were in the 4% red zone. I need to know that they can at least dial 911 or text me if they need to. Keep your devices charged. 

6. Tell me if people are coming over

I can’t count the number of times I’ve been in my nightie or compromised in some embarrassing way and suddenly five teenagers are ringing the doorbell or in the foyer. I need a heads-up. I need lipgloss and a bra. I need to mentally prepare. 

7. If you don’t want me to yell (because of a game/movie/text/TikTok) when you’re asleep, please reciprocate

Who am I kidding? They’ve slept through car alarms, leaf blowers, thunderstorms, dogs barking, construction, a hurricane and the vacuum. It’s not an even playing field. Thank heavens for my white noise app. 

8. Laundry, trash and dirty dishes are multi-action tasks

Focus. See it all the way through. The laundry must travel from the washer to the dryer and back to your room. Set a timer. The trashcan needs a new bag, preferably within 10 minutes. Dishes journey all over the house but also need to end their day with a shower (rinse) and bed (dishwasher). 

9. Clothes should never touch the floor, let alone live there 

Some things are dirty every day and should go straight into the hamper: your shirt, socks and underwear. Pants and jeans can be worn until they are stained, stinky or wrinkled. Hang them up or air them out. Do your laundry (see above) once a week and you’ll always have what you need when you need it. 

10. Brush your teeth every day

If there’s only one thing you remember, please let it be this. Brush in the morning, brush before bed, every day for the rest of your life. Mouthwash, gum and whitening strips don’t count. Hopefully you’ll avoid cavities and root canals, but mainly you won’t knock the people out who talk to you with morning or Frito breath. 

Sometimes I think the best thing we can do as parents is prepare our kids to be decent roommates, which equates to being nice human beings. Pick up after yourself. Be quiet when someone is sleeping. Be self-aware and take pride in your appearance. And for the love of all that is good, don’t forget to start the dishwasher when it’s full. 

More Great Reading:

It’s Not Too Late to Teach Your Teen These Six Lessons

About Courtenay Rudzinski

Courtenay Rudzinski is a freelance writer in Houston, where she lives with her husband and two rescue pups. Her work has appeared in Newsweek, Wired, HuffPost and Business Insider. You can find her on Instagram.

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