The 10 Lessons I Want My Sons to Learn From Me While I’m Still Here

I am in good health. But time is not guaranteed. Were I to die tomorrow, I want my sons to know these lessons.

by John Franchini

To My Boys:

I am alive and well. I do not have COVID-19. I do not have Cancer. I exercise. But there will be a day when I die. It’s inevitable. I hope it’s a long, long time from now. And it could be. Or it could be closer than any of us would like to imagine. Rather than wait for that day, here are the 10 things I would want you to know if I died tomorrow:

  1. I love you more than life itself. You have, and continue to, bring me the greatest joys and memories of my life. And most of them are not what you would think — it’s not really your first step or word, or when you got an A in school, or even winning games or championships. It’s so much bigger, and less, than that. It’s when you smile, it’s when I taught you how to throw a ball, it’s when I see my name on your back when you play sports, it’s when you do something that shows your character. This story was submitted by a Fatherly reader. Opinions expressed in the story do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Fatherly as a publication. The fact that we’re printing the story does, however, reflect a belief that it is an interesting and worthwhile read.
  2. Although I don’t always act like it, your laugh is more important than your GPA, or the final score of any game you’ve ever played in.
  3. When I am hard on you, I do it because I believe it is a lesson you need to learn. It is a behavior I need to correct. It is a mistake that I have made, and I don’t want you to repeat it. The discipline, which at times comes off in punishments, actually comes from a place of love. I understand it might take a few years before you appreciate that.
  4. Whenever I die, you will likely beat yourself up about our last conversation, for not saying “I love you” more, for not having spent the day before I died with me. Don’t do that. Stop it. Stop it now. That’s not life. Sayings like “live every day like you are dying” or “make choices so you have no regrets” are cliché’s that have no real meaning. If I lived everyday like I was dying I would have missed every meaningful moment in my life. And regret is not a real thing. It’s simply an emotion felt when the choice you made didn’t play out the way you wanted it to. There is no guarantee that changing the choice leads to a different outcome. I know you love me. I don’t need to hear you say it everyday. It would lose its meaning.
  5. Don’t ever not do something you want to do because it seems really hard.
  6. If and when you have children, always be there for every single thing that you can. No one can always be there, but when you can’t, explain why, and make sure they know you wish you could.
  7. Don’t do things you don’t want to do because other people think you should do them.
  8. When faced with a difficult decision, carefully weigh the options, think through best, worst and likely case scenarios, and then make a decision. It’s okay to get other opinions on it, but the decision has to be owned by you. Don’t revisit it after that.
  9. If you are anything like me, my death (if it comes prematurely) will shake you, will cause you to question things you had not questioned before, could even have the potential to cause you to think, feel and act in ways I spent my lifetime trying to illustrate for you not to. Do not dishonor my memory by doing so. The best way to remember me, to make me happy, is to live your life to its absolute fullest. My death should not be the defining moment in your life.
  10. I’m not dead yet, so stop playing video games and be with me so that I can tell you the story you’ve heard a hundred times before and then yell at you about all the meaningless day to day things you are supposed to be doing. Because that’s really the journey of life.

Love,Your (still living) Dad.

John Franchini is a father of 4 boys, ages 5-12, a lawyer, and a coach of all sports. He reminds his kids that when the team wins, its coaching, and when they lose, it’s their play.