My grandchildren are a gift from heaven. I have three and I’m hoping for more. Their success in the future is now my number one priority, and even though they all have wonderful parents, I want to do my part to mentor them. Here’s what I want to tell them.
Some basics. Be respectful to everyone, especially your elders. Choose carefully who you want to emulate. And get a good education so you know the meaning of words like ‘malleable’ and ‘emulate’.
Be nice. Just a little tool like having manners can take you far in this world. You’ll stand out because, unfortunately, politeness is no longer something we expect from many young people. Say ‘yes’ not ‘yeah’, ‘please and thank you’. Hold your head erect and smile. Listen more than talk. And never brag unless you’re joking with friends or talking to me.
Don’t ever let anyone talk you into doing something when your gut or heart are telling you not to do it!
Be careful of fads, especially those that have no redeeming value. It could be, when you become teenagers that wearing a pressure cooker on your head will be popular. Does that sound ridiculous to you? Well, I would never have thought wearing your pants below your butt would be popular! However, it’s happening among some young people these days. Represent yourself well.
Then there are tattoos. I have to admit that tattoos work for some people. World War II vets, motorcycle gangs, carnival workers, professional wrestlers or very artistic people seem to pull it off well. But tattoos probably won’t work for you. So unless it’s a tiny butterfly or a very important symbol of love, I’d pass on the tattoos.
Expression. If you want to have pink or purple hair, or a Mohawk, or have a piercing through your tongue, go ahead. You can live through that. Even I could live through that. Many people have a need to express themselves in a non-traditional way. At least you can change your hairstyle if you have a job interview outside of the circus. But if you have a tongue piercing, please take it out of your mouth before you come to see me or your grandmother. Being respectful to elders doesn't mean you have to agree with them.
Smoking! Nowadays, if you’re smoking and you’re under 40 years of age, you may just as well put a sign around your neck that says “I’m stupid”. You can’t convince me that you haven’t heard the warnings or seen the evidence. I know there are many successful people who smoke, and some survive to see their grandchildren. But it’s not worth it. You don’t miss what you never try, and it’s a very unattractive habit. Peer pressure is most likely the leading cause of smoking. And pressure to be cool by smoking doesn’t really exist any longer. Don’t do it!
Drinking. Yes, when I was a kid I drank a little bit. I even drove a car while intoxicated and I am damned lucky to have not hurt myself or someone else. Like everyone, I’m not perfect and this experience gives my opinion on drinking some credibility. Isn’t it a shame you sometimes have to be flawed to be credible? Street gangs live by that. But I really didn’t drink much at all. Liquor was actually an excuse to act like a fool. But what I really know about drinking, I learned mostly from my alcoholic father. Believe me, it wasn’t pretty.
Illicit Drugs. Don’t do it. Don’t even think about it. I’ve never experimented with any drug, not even marijuana. I knew that if I tried them, I might like them. I DID NOT want to like them and I didn’t want drugs to have any control over me. I hope you feel the same way!
If you decide you need to protest a cause important to you, I think that’s wonderful! Protest anything you think is wrong. But if you do, please read a book, or a newspaper or two. Understand what you are doing. And read both sides of the issue. There’s always another angle to the story.
I know I may sound old fashioned and boring. But I haven’t had a boring life. I have flown a jet faster than the speed of sound. I have seen the sun shining at midnight, been in Dublin on St. Patrick’s Day, written a book, and photographed the fiords of Norway from a helicopter. I’ve done these things pretty much following the advice I just passed on. I didn’t need to alter my consciousness or appearance to get what I wanted. I just treated people with respect, emulated mentors who I trusted, and I got a decent education.
There are many wonderful people with tattoos. I have friends and siblings who smoke. I know really nice kids with dyed hair of various colors. I know of people who have survived and fallen to drugs and many who drink too much. That doesn’t mean they have nothing to offer. But as for you three, give yourself every advantage and don’t take unnecessary chances.
I love you all very much!