Dear Aden and Connor: The secret to getting the girls (or boys) is to become a caring, thoughtful nerd

It is hard to remain an unapologetically curious nerd when you are growing up. It is difficult to define yourself as a kind and caring person right now. It is a challenge to learn how to respect women, and others different from you, from their perspective.  American culture in 2019 is good at promoting cruelty, dehumanizing others, bullying, misogyny (I hope you know this word or learn it soon), racism, tribalism (learn about this too), bigotry.  These traits will ultimately make you miserable, unsuccessful (even if you have tons of money) and very alone (even if you are with a supermodel who just desires your money).  The evolution of the human brain and mind have delivered us from these primal and destructive instincts.  But if you follow the crowd without thoughtful intention, you may find yourself captivated by these primal instincts and on a path to misery no matter how “successful” being a jerk makes you.  I pray by the time you are in middle and high school that you read about President Trump and our current culture in text books with shock and awe at how Americans used to behave. Growing up on a small isolated island near Seattle, I read about Jim Crowe and the Civil Rights Movement with disbelief.  When I moved to Texas as a young adult,  I was shocked by both the overt and discrete racism that appeared culturally acceptable.  Then I realized the only reason I didn’t encounter overt bigotry in my youth was because I grew up with all white people. Even if you are incredulous about the ugliness of 2019 culture, I suspect you will have a similar experience to me. I expect it will still be a problem. We will still be human and broken in many ways.

If you ultimately want the amazing girl (or boy) and a successful, happy life- figure out how to be kind, caring, thoughtful of others.   Figure out how to respect women, and anyone else different from you, the way they want to be respected.  And btw, there isn’t one way to respect any particular group.  Focus on how to best respect the person in front of you. Maintain your curiosity about the world. Don’t be scare to be a nerd. Ultimately, nerds are incredibly attractive to romantic partners, and just to people in general.  You will probably cringe as this is written by your mom, but smarts are super sexy. Focus on these good things. You will be delivered out the other end of this washing machine called adolescence with everything you are actually trying to achieve and more.  Run from the primal path of putting your boot on other peoples necks just to make yourself feel big and important- that is the path to sure misery and loneliness.  Other people on this path will want you to follow them because it makes them feel less miserable and alone- don’t fall for it. In this story, be the superhero with the partner of your dreams who saves the world with your geeky intelligence and generous, thoughtful spirit. This will take a lot of courage but you are quite brave enough son.

Dear Aden and Connor: Wisdom

Wisdom is like a woman shouting in the street, she raises her voice in the city squares. She cries out in the noisy street and shouts at the city gates.  “You fools, how long will you be foolish? How long will you make fun of wisdom and knowledge? If only you had listened when I corrected you, I would have told you what’s in my heart; I would have told you what I am thinking. I called, but you refused to listen. Proverbs 1:20-24

I love this proverb. Wisdom is a woman calling us to truth by just listening.

After getting cancer, I am learning to listen more. I am getting much better at it very quickly and it took this experience to make that happen for me.  I have generally been a poor listener. I want you to be a lot better at this skill than me without the pain of learning the hard way.  The older I get, the more I realize that wisdom is not linear with age or even experience. Wisdom is more linear with aptitude for listening. Pay attention. Listen to things that people both intend and don’t intend to communicate but do, you will put yourself in the fast lane to wisdom. This is way easier said than done, but I encourage you to be intentional about trying your best. I am not sure listening is a natural human instinct. For such a passive activity, it takes a lot of work.

I can offer a practical tip that I wish I had learned to do much earlier in life.  Strive to be the last person in the room to speak. If you are in a group of colleagues at work, in a conversation with a partner or close friend, or a community committee meeting- sit and just listen to everyone. This will not only make others feel heard, but it will also put you in a position to synthesize where others, sometimes others with diverging opinions, are coming from. Speak at the end. If you really listen to everyone well before you speak, your statement will often be the last because it is wise.

Don’t waste your time burying your head from wisdom, which has always been my natural tendency.  Your time and love are your most precious resources- please remember this.  Protect your time and your love as your greatest treasure- far more cherished than riches, fame or validation. You do this by pursuing wisdom through listening, watching, observing and seeking truth.

Wisdom is a woman calling you to listen.

Seek Wisdom Brothers!

Dear Aden and Connor,

Aden and Connor, you are loves of my life. My mother told me this same thing days before she passed away from breast cancer. I was confused and a little saddened by this, I thought it might be some commentary on marriage, but today I realize precisely what she meant. I am obsessed with your father. I am convinced I won the relationship lottery.  He has proven to be the man better than any of my dreams or expectations.  However, my love for you both is a supernatural kind of love that cannot be named or described- an unspeakable love. I would rip the flesh from my body an inch at a time to be here for you. There is quite literally nothing in the world I would not do for you. My love for you is like breathing oxygen or the unconscious familiarity of my own arm- I do not exist apart from it.  Facing a diagnosis of cancer at 36 is daunting because of my commitment to be your mom while you grow up. This is quite certainly the only thing that matters in my world right now, all other things are just noise.  This experience has illuminated the wisdom of The Giving Tree. I don’t fear for my own mortality right now, I only fear that my absence will bring harm and hurt to you.  Facing one’s mortality this way is perhaps something that mothers of young children experience more intensely, I don’t know, but it is remarkable.

The following words are written to you with loving intention. Today you are three and one years old. Since my diagnosis on March 18, I have been possessed by a desire to share with you my dreams for your future and whatever wisdom I can impart to help you lead happy lives. I pray that these notes might bring you solace, comfort, wisdom and hope when you need it.  I also want to document this tough journey that we are on as a family right now, and share any lessons that might help other people going through this. My prayer is that we look back on this time someday and see how good it made us.

Connor, below is a picture taken of us 10 days before my surgery sitting on an ancient tree on the walk up to Thomas Jefferson’s home. I brought you here to play when a woman came over to us and asked if I had a camera so she could take a picture of us. “Moms never get to be in the pictures,” she said.  What an angel. I will never forget this random kind act. As with a lot of pictures in the weeks before my surgery, I look a little sad. I promise though, I am so happy and grateful to have this picture with you, sweet boy!