15 Things I Want to Do with My Son before He Turns 16

Posted October 9, 2008 by

Well, we’ve finally gotten our back-to-school routine going, and that has brought with it a set of not-so-unusual challenges. We are coping with an increase in the amount of responsibility a 15-year-old boy (now in ninth grade) should be expected to fulfill in terms of a morning routine. (I’ll be writing more about that soon!) We are also dealing with a severe case of what I am calling Get-Your-Stuff-Togetheritis, which is especially bothersome to me.

You see, I’m a flight attendant; getting your act together and taking it on the road is my stock and trade. The fact that gas has been hovering around $4 a gallon, and that my son’s school is a 15-minute drive away, makes it very annoying when I get the “Mom, I forgot my…” phone call. The stressful move to high school in September and the change to a schedule that has my son attending classes on alternate days (German and English on Monday, Wednesday and Friday of this week, but Tuesday and Thursday of next. Math and science on Tuesday and Thursday of this week, but on Monday, Wednesday and Friday of next. Oh, wait, there’s Columbus Day….) means it’s worse than it was when I had the luxury of the same seven classes every single day and a conveniently-placed locker. Having two backpacks was THE way to go. I’m not saying my son figured that out on his own, but he did hear it through the eighth-grade grapevine and remembered to tell me the idea.
But I have tried to focus on setting goals. In that spirit, and because I recently suggested to another parent that she make precisely this kind of list, I am submitting:

15 Things I Want My Son To Do Before He Turns 16

1. I want to see my son plan, shop for, prepare, serve and clean up after a meal he serves to my husband and me.
2. I want to go on a trip with my son of at least three days duration, without overlooking his packing and without him forgetting a single thing.
3. I want to play a full-blown Monopoly game with my son — not Junior, not the short version. All day, if that’s what it takes.
4. I want to complete a 5K charity walk with my son. I want him to raise $100 in pledges all by himself, and collect the money, too.
5. I want to continue to teach my son to drive.
6. I want my son to take poll-watcher training with me, and help on election day. (School is out on the day of the election.)
7. I want to spend a full day at our local food bank, sorting canned goods.
8. I want to establish two beehives in my backyard, and have my son learn right beside me.
9. I want to help my son plan a party for a group of at least 30 friends, to be held in our home, where he is in charge of planning, inviting, preparation and cleaning up. (Members of the small marching band, of which he is a member, would be ideal guests.)
10. I want to see my son take full advantage of every “extra-credit” opportunity offered by his teachers.
11. I want to visit at least one college campus — a campus he has not visited before — with my son.
12. I want my son to take at least one sample SAT test so he can see what doing well will require.
13. I want to take my son on a trip to Germany and I want to hear him use his new German language skills to accomplish a transaction or ask a question or seek assistance.
14. I want to see my son gain a minimum-wage job and fulfill the obligation to show up on time and do the work.
15. I want to see my son deliver a brief inspirational message, introduce a speaker, lead the pledge in front of a large group, or engage in some similar kind of public speaking experience.

What would your list be?


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  1. Momof6 (Edit) Report

    I Absolutley love your list. What brought me here is something very similar to what you are thinking. My oldest son of 6 is turning 13 next week and there are so many things I want him to learn/experience in the next couple of years. I would like to add learning the ediqite of fine dining. I will never forgot how lost I was when I first went to a fine restaurant and saw multiple forks, I didn’t even know where to begin. Now I’m in the business and want him to experience it with me, but most establishments are 12 years or older so I can’t wait. We teach our children how to brush their teeth and tie their shoes, we should also understand that we should give them experiences that bring them into adulthood, beyond shaving and cleaning up the dishes. Thank you for your thoughts. I enjoyed them.

  2. Pete O'Heat (Edit) Report

    What you need to do is understand your sons’s drivers and really look at what you can do to help him develop those strengths. Confused of Wales!!

  3. chiefredknees (Edit) Report

    I notice that there are a few people on here whom feel that it would be more appropriate to let the 16 year old determine the “to do” list, but I would have to disagree with that. Most kids at that age, despite how confident they seem, still have inferiority complexes of some kind. These activities that are initially listed appear to be for the benefit of the child. Lets remember that part of being a parent is preparation for the real world. I think the list is excellent and am actually taking some notes from it myself

  4. Debbie (Edit) Report

    I’d like a real hug for more than a nano second.
    I’d like less negotiating, and more doing something because he made the commitment in the first place.
    I’d like him to hang up his towel, brush his teeth without being asked every day 2x a day if he did.
    I’d like him to hang around the house and read a book instead of bugging out of here to hang with friends.
    I’d like him to respect his brother and stop calling him names for no reason. (his twin)
    I’d like a little cooperation with doing the things I “ask” him to do.
    I’d like some respect.
    I’d like to go on vacation or an outing where we all actually get along and enjoy each other’s company and not fight the second we get in the car.
    I’d like him to knock off the sugar filled items he buys, drinks, candy etc. It is not good for him.
    I’d like to be called mom more often than she or her when referring to me.

  5. Abby Patrick (Edit) Report

    I would love to:

    Go to Wimbledon centre court with my tennis loving son in June

    Not be suspicious when my son says he needs Euro 350 for the school trip

    See my son get up on time and go to school , without me coming in to his rooom every 10 minutes and being shouted at to get out

    See my son into his next year at school

    Hear him talk to my younger son in a friendly manner

  6. luckymom415 (Edit) Report

    I know that I don’t have the Perfection Role in me as a parent now that I have read this.

    Nothing wrong with setting high goals. I would love to do more with my child too. The one about going to a college campus would be one.

    I want my child to come up with goals for his life.

    I want my son to take pride in his work.(First he has to do work again)

    I would love for him to see that I really love him and that is why I am getting back to basics with him.

    I would love to be able to trust my son enough to start drivers Ed.

    I would like to see my straight A, 134 IQ kid again.

    I want to not get choked up at a sports boosters meeting(of which I am the secretary for) because my son is not playing baseball due to grades for the first time since he was 5.(Just started to get choked up writing this because I know how much he wants to be on the team.)

    I want to not be suspicious on whether he smells like pot.

    I would love to have complete faith that this will work to get a non combative relationship with my son.

    I want my son to be a responsible adult. So I will have to be responsible in teaching him.

  7. Lynn Sneed (Edit) Report

    Dear Toni-

    I enjoyed seeing your list and have had this very same thought for my (young, maturity-wise) 16 year old. He (and I, but in different settings) are taking a Financial Freedom course. I told him that this Christmas break (when we both have more time), we are going to open up a checking and savings account in his name, with the goal of opening up a Roth IRA when he has enough $. Also, we will start driver’s ed at christmas time, with the plan to spend alot of “with parents” driving time(6 months?) Also, I’d like to plan with him what his next summer and senior year will look like, so he can be as prepared for college as possible.

    Well, I don’t have 15 items, but I do have these few, with the sense that I only have a short time left to influence him. May we parents all influence our children for good!

  8. Jnet (Edit) Report

    With the exceptions of the poll-watcher and behive I have done each of these things with my son – who is now a freshman in college. In addition we have been to 46 states (tried to get all 50 before he graduated). He has made our family very proud. I hope your son wants to experience all the things YOU have in mind and that you can all learn from being together.

  9. EP Blog Admin (Edit) Report

    Several off-topic comments were deleted from this post. Wherever possible, we will post comments exactly as they come in. We reserve the right to edit comments for clarity, exclude questionable matters, and delete off-topic comments.

  10. roger wade (Edit) Report

    TK….. while I agree with most of your comments I think they could have been stated a little differently. I’m not sure I would expect a response to your third paragraph from Toni considering the tone of your first paragraph. And from the way your first paragraph starts, it sounds like there may have been more to your response that was selectively not posted by the EP staff.

    Most of the items listed could be reformatted with a lead-in of My son could benefit from… or My son could learn a valuable life lesson from… and possibly be more palletable to a reader such as yourself. Likewise, I think your comments, while valid, could be restated in a more gentle way that might be better recived by Toni.

    It may be true that a few of the listed items are for Toni as much as for her son. You or I may not come up with the same list. That said, I sense that she has her son’s best interest and future in mind at least as much as easing her frustrations as the mother of a struggling teen. Sounds like she’s looking for a win/win.

    I think the general idea of such a list is valid. I have found that if you don’t write ideas down, make lists and periodically review them, many good ideas are never acted upon.

    I agree with your statement about Toni’s son enduring the consequences of his actions or inactions. Many parents, including myself, are tempted to just take care of issues their children create instead of using them as learning opportunities. From what I have observed, many parents could use some improvement in this area.

  11. Kathryn E. Miller, LPC (Edit) Report

    I too, read this article as things YOU want to do. Maybe
    a list should read “10 things my son wants to do before he is 16.” This is an overwhelming list to be accomplished in one year. Many of these things require a responsibility level which he does not have at this point. Maybe begin by giving him responsibilities at his level and consequences if they do not get done. i.e. leaving things at home and you taking them to him. The consequence is “too bad, maybe you can turn it in tomorrow.” As long as you play into this, you are enabling his behavior. Good luck, teenagers are a real challenge.

  12. TK (Edit) Report

    …I found it very interesting that the list of things are all basically phrased the same way: “I want to do X….” These are all things you want to do, and have your son tag along or do it with you. You want him to fix you dinner; you want him to throw a party for 30 and clean up afterward; you want to sort canned goods; you want to have a beehive; you want to (fill in the blank). Are these things that you both have mutually agreed upon? Are they for his benefit or yours?

    Right now, perhaps something he would benefit from would be having to endure the consequences of forgetting to take whatever he forgot to school.

    I am curious how two backpacks work–I’ve heard of two sets of school books but not two backpacks. Does one stay in the locker and the other go to class?



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