When you speak, I will listen. When you speak, I will care. Your words matter. I will listen to the stories you tell. I will write them down to look back and remember the little boy that once fit in my lap, to remember the kind of child you were. My memories of you will be carried through your words.
When you go to school, your words will matter. Your friends will listen to the stories you tell and retell them to their siblings and parents. Your best teachers will kneel down to your level as you speak, looking you in the eyes so you know your words mean something. They will care about what you have to say because they care about you and they understand that when a child is heard, a child is loved.
When you are on a team and you’re in a locker room, your teammates will listen. Your words will matter. Who you talk about and how you talk about them will matter. Your words will be whispered in the school halls and the word pictures you create will be etched into those young mens’ minds. Words have a way of lingering for much longer than you may be able to grasp right now.
When you banter with the firemen at the firehouse, your words will matter. (As a side note, you’ve always wanted to be a hero, to help, to serve, to be a part of something bigger than you…and when I imagine you grown, I imagine you doing what you love now, because I’m watching you and you’re showing me who you are already. And I’m listening.)
Sometimes your words will fail you. Sometimes you will choose the wrong words. You will say things and you will immediately know you shouldn’t have said them. Your stomach will turn to a knot. Nothing will ever keep you up at night like words you wish you could take back. The first time you feel this regret, I know you will get how important your words are. You are more than the words you speak, so much more, but you are not a separate entity from them. There will be days you wish they weren’t so important. But your words are a part of who you are. They are a character sketch of the kind of boy or man you are. Words can be forgiven. But they can’t be taken back.
My son, I am crying as I write this because I want more for you than the world does. I’m disheartened. As a male, you will be held to an incredibly low standard. People will expect to hear you speak disrespectfully about women because of your gender and despite the many wonderful men in your life, not every boy has been so lucky to have role models like you have. Somewhere along the way, many boys learned that their words don’t matter, that people don’t care, that no one is listening to them. And so they aren’t careful with their words. You will hear them. But I want YOU to always know that your words matter and so do theirs, they just don’t know it yet.
I respect you and I expect more from you than the world will expect from you. You are capable of kindness. You are innately created to protect the vulnerable. Like you use your hands to fix what is broken and your strength to carry heavy loads, your words can heal, your words can carry others, your words can build others up. Your words matter.
Nothing about your anatomy makes your words less credible, less important, less meaningful. When you speak, people will listen. When you speak, people will know who you are. Show them. Show them with your words the kind of man your dad and I have raised you to be.
I am listening.
Your friends are listening.
The world is listening.
Your words matter.