Raising Richmond: 50 things to teach my son before he goes

Wait. Don’t panic. This isn’t a weird way to tell you all that my child is ill and on his way out or something. How inappropriate would that be? Anyway no, it’s just that lately I’ve been very aware of the fact that Father Time is a cruel, fleeting son of a bitch.


Missing your weekly dose of Raising Richmond? Fear not, Val will be back next week with a new installment! For now, we thought you might enjoy this oldie but goodie.

Wait. Don’t panic. This isn’t a weird way to tell you all that my child is ill and on his way out or something. How inappropriate would that be? Anyway no, it’s just that lately I’ve been very aware of the fact that Father Time is a cruel, fleeting son of a bitch.

The other day my husband and I decided it was time to make another mark on the doorway to our son’s closet–that’s where we track his height, all old-school-like. It’d been four months since we last measured JR, and (judging by our recent grocery bills) he’d been through a couple growth spurts since then.

When JR stood in front of the door’s molding, up against the series of marks that started when he was six months old, I couldn’t believe it.

Almost four inches in four months.

I’ve been reeling ever since.

Granted JR is only three-and-a-half, so my husband and I have many years left of this parenting gig. But I swear, sometimes it feels like he was born about seven seconds ago. It’s as if I turned around and my gurgly little blob of baby suddenly became this walking, talking person, with insights and opinions, who will be out of the house and avoiding our calls before we know it.

So, I decided to do what any normal, Type-A person does when presented with a situation out of her control: I made a list. Specifically, I made a list of 50 things I think my son needs to know before he leaves us (or as he continues his slow and steady exit). Here they are, presented in the random, hodgepodge order in which they popped into my mind–the somewhat frantic but always well-meaning place that it is. Some are practical, some are more abstract, but all are important (at least in my opinion) in helping my son make the most of this world and his place within it.

— ∮∮∮ —

  1. What we do on Facebook echoes in eternity.
  2. Always call if you’re going to be late—to come home, for a date, for a meeting, whatever. Do it and people will know you value their time; forget to and they’ll think you don’t.
  3. Use conditioner. It really does make a difference.
  4. Under Pressure is the best song ever recorded. If given the opportunity to participate in an “Under Pressure” sing-along, grasp it with both hands and go for it.
  5. You’ll often find that the quietest people in the room are also the funniest–just give them a little time to get warmed up.
  6. There’s no such thing as too much mayonnaise…especially if it’s Duke’s.
  7. After you put your groceries in the car, please remember to return your cart to the corral in the parking lot.
  8. Along the same lines, when leaving a dressing room, don’t just leave the unwanted clothes hanging in there. If there’s a discard rack, use it. If not, put the clothes back where you found them. You’re not too important to clean up after yourself.
  9. Mean is not funny.
  10. If you’re dating a girl (if that should happen to be you’re inclination) who has no female friends and insists “she just gets along better with guys”, tread carefully.
  11. Don’t buy cheap garbage bags, plastic wrap, or toilet paper.
  12. If you decide to get a tattoo and have something specific in mind, your father and I suggest waiting two years before going under the needle. If you still want it by then, go for it.
  13. Speaking of tattoos: nothing tribal. Or involving barbed wire. Or featuring anyone’s name but mine.
  14. If you start losing your hair (which, sorry, you probably will), just shave it all off. Work it. Own it.
  15. Don’t put your hands on people unless it’s out of love and you have permission.
  16. There is such a thing as free lunch: it typically happens with your Papaw and usually involves appetizers AND dessert. Just make sure to say thank you.
  17. Never turn down a breath mint or a piece of gum.
  18. When apologizing, just say you’re sorry. Don’t follow it with a “but” and an explanation. That’s not an apology; that’s an attempt to talk someone out of feeling hurt.
  19. Use “Reply to All” sparingly, if ever.
  20. There are three things in life guaranteed to make you feel stupid: doing your taxes, buying/selling a house, and having children. As you embark on any of these undertakings, stay positive but expect it to be completely impossible. You just might be pleasantly surprised.
  21. Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back is the best of all the Star Wars films. You already know this, but I don’t want you to get any funny ideas.
  22. When ordering food, try saying “May I please have…” rather than “Give me a…” Yes, the person working at the counter is there to serve you, but you don’t need to boss him around.
  23. Vote.
  24. Be a good sport. Fuddy-duddies are tiresome and often miss out on the really good laughs.
  25. Yellow is not your best color.
  26. On the other hand, blue looks dynamite on you.
  27. Sweatpants are not appropriate attire for school.
  28. It is never acceptable to call a woman a bitch, slut, whore, or anything in any way resembling that sort of insult. EVER.
  29. While we’re at it, just don’t call people names.
  30. If someone says to you “Don’t tell your parents,” that’s a good sign that you absolutely, positively should tell us.
  31. We will always pick you up—no matter what time it is, no matter where you are, no matter what you’ve been doing.
  32. Unless you’re in jail. If you’ve done something bad enough to end up there, we’ll probably let you stew for a while before coming to collect you. Out of love!
  33. Wear sunscreen. I mean it. You come from gingery, pasty stock.
  34. Trust your gut. If you have to talk yourself into a decision, it’s probably not the right one.
  35. The proper way to eat an Oreo cookie is to take a sip of milk, put the cookie in your mouth, let it sit there for a while, and then chew it up. Everyone who is reading this right now thinks I’m crazy…well, at least people who haven’t eaten an Oreo this way. Those who have are slowly nodding their heads in approval.
  36. You don’t have to like something just because everyone else likes it.
  37. You also don’t have to hate something just because everyone else likes it either.
  38. Set your phone to vibrate. Leave it there. Forever.
  39. Be sure to always have a properly fitting dark suit (and coordinating shoes) in your closet. You can wear it to pretty much any wedding…and no one wants to go shopping for a funeral.
  40. Make your needs known. Even the people who know you best can’t read your mind.
  41. Shake hands firmly and with confidence.
  42. And when you shake hands with a woman, don’t do that weird flip-move where you force her to sort of rest her fingers daintily in your hands.
  43. Always offer to help clean up after dinner.
  44. Don’t flick people off in traffic. It just makes you look like someone who can’t control his emotions.
  45. Leave a room nicer than how you found it.
  46. Some people just aren’t very kind, but you still should always do your best to be kind to them anyway. This will be hard, but living with yourself after treating someone poorly (even if they “deserved it”) is even harder.
  47. It only takes one time. You are proof of that…welcomed and beloved proof, but proof nonetheless.
  48. When someone experiences a tragedy, don’t immediately go into fix-it mode or offer unsolicited wisdom. Just say, “I’m so sorry.”
  49. Don’t be afraid to admit when you’re wrong. Humility is a sign of maturity and will help you earn the trust and respect of others. Blind stubbornness just makes you look like a big baby.
  50. Sometimes when you’re blue, the best thing to do is eat some peanut butter toast and take a nap. And then give me a call. I’ll be here…always.

— ∮∮∮ —

What would you put on a list for your kids? I’d love to see what made the cut, so go ahead and leave your thoughts in the comments.

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Valerie Catrow

Valerie Catrow is managing editor of RVAFamily. When she’s not oversharing her parenting struggles and successes, you can find her raising a preschool-aged boy and watching 90s television shows.

16 comments on Raising Richmond: 50 things to teach my son before he goes

  1. Kim Boyd on said:

    Tears. At work. Love.

  2. Love this. :)

  3. chris on said:

    Sooooo, pretty much gonna bookmark this one for the upcoming journey. i agree with every bit except the oreo. Dunk ’till a slight crisp is still present (it takes a seasoned vet to recognize this level before it breaks in half and you have oreo milk), then enjoy.

  4. Tom Keller on said:

    Great list, Valerie. It rings especially true as we are expecting our first in October. Oh, and #35…I remember when you taught me that. Wisdom to live by.

  5. Kelly on said:

    Well done. I’m sending this to my parents. I feel like they should know some of these, too.

  6. Thanks, everyone!

    Congratulations, Tom! That’s awesome. I hope you pass the Oreo-eating strategy on to your offspring.

    Chris, I guess, it’s all a matter of presence. I prefer a mushy Oreo myself.

  7. For my 2 boys. All of the above and:
    #51 Open / Hold door for someone behind you.
    #52 Always give up your seat for someone else who needs it.
    #53 Flowers on 1st date — no matter how corny you may feel.

  8. Greg on said:

    I don’t have kids, but I feel like this is something that I should sock away – just in case – and that folks of all ages should internalize.

    Well done, Valerie

  9. Kristin on said:

    #10! #10! Those girls are always crazy.

  10. Susan Cushing on said:

    Valerie, Our kids are grown and gone but this list still hits home, should be required reading for all potential parents. Thanks for once again showing such great insight.

  11. Holly on said:

    I love this. I think there are lots of adults who could use this list. I take issue with #6. Mayo bomb…[Shudder]. I like #2, 19, 28, 39.

  12. Ashley on said:

    This is great, loved it!

  13. How about:

    Definitely have fun and live life in your 20s, but racking up debt while you do so is like slapping your 30-something-year-old self in the face.

  14. Robin on said:

    Valerie – thanks for this! We are expecting our first child and I couldn’t help but think this is not only some of the best advice for children, but for all us adults too who should be constantly striving to become better people. :)

  15. Crystal on said:

    Pay attention to how your date treats waitstaff at a resturant. It’s a pretty good indication of their real self.

  16. Priscila Kristan on said:

    Sugar also contributes to the moistness of desserts and their tenderness. The flour or starch component in most desserts serves as a protein and gives the dessert structure. Different flours such as All-Purpose Flour or Pastry Flour provide a less rigid gluten network and therefore a different texture. Along with flour desserts may contain a dairy product.’^

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