I came across this letter from Margaret Young to her son on his 18th birthday.
She wants above all things that he remains a Mormon.
Seriously, this is her greatest wish, sadly enough.
Here’s the appropriate response.
Dear Son –
As I watch you sleep in my arms tonight, I think of many things I want to tell you.
I first think of my own history and how you have made me a better man whose goal is to, one day, be able to look you eye to eye and honestly tell you I did the best I could for you.
In our family we never shied away from any difficult issues and we always shared our different views with respect and tolerance. We also felt confident in openly criticizing mutual lines of thought and understood that, sometimes, we just have to agree to disagree.
We welcome new perspectives and explore new ideas rationally and skeptically, always looking for a better understanding of ourselves and those things around us.
We have taught you to love art and music, animals and science, history and discovery, friends and family, and the planet in which we live.
I hope you continue to love and admire beauty, for there are many wonderful things in this universe that fills us with feelings of awe and amazement.
We have watched you exercise your mind and body and hope you continue to take good care of both. A healthy lifestyle will only serve to offer you opportunities to do many enjoyable things without distorting your senses and impairing your full physical and intellectual potential.
You have questioned many things and we have encouraged you to expect reasonable and sensible answers to your questions; answers based on factual conclusions. This ability to rationally analyze our world is one of the few things that sets us apart from all other living creatures, so make use of it dutifully and honestly.
Son, respect is not assigned, but earned. Earn it. It is a continuous effort with every interaction you will have. Earn it every day.
And give it.
Respect those who have earned it. Base your judgment not on any perceived notion of respect; a white collar or a position of power does not freely grant anyone any such thing Base it on character, honor, integrity, honesty, compassion, and all those positive traits we are able to display.
I hope for many things for you, son. None of which will come to you through wishful thinking or complacency. They will require primarily your own hard work and the love and care of others.
Be proud of your own efforts and give thanks for the efforts of others. Recognize and distinguish those who make a positive contribution to your life and the life of others.
Finally, I will not include all my “wisdom” and advice in this letter. The fine line between counsel and demand will inevitably begin to fade by my fear of your suffering and my failures as a father.
But I will always be available and accepting of you for as long as I live and I hope we have built a relationship based on trust and friendship, acceptance, mutual respect and love.
I love you… unconditionally.