This one might be corny.

My son, Tyler, turns 16 today. He’ll take his driver’s test later and then drive over to our house.

It hit me the other day that I’ve probably taken him to school for the last time, and just how close he is to graduating and going off to college. It makes the passage of time a very real thing, and helps me see just how much of my time with him is behind me. 

Here’s the thing with Tyler.

I don’t just like him or love him because he’s my son, I like him and love him for the human being he is. He makes mistakes and he can have that teenage attitude, but he is a cool person. He is smart and curious and suitably rebellious. He loves Max a lot, and he is a great brother. He is torn about going off to college because he hates to leave his family.

I was not likable or lovable when I was his age. I was nothing but mistakes and that teenage attitude. I was not a cool person. I was dumb and uncurious and rebellious for all the wrong reasons. I was a terrible brother and my family had to be a little thrilled when I went off anywhere. I was ugly and selfish and no one was the better for having me around. 

He is all the good things I wasn’t at his age, and that’s cool. 

I don’t really make any bones about the fact that he’s the reason I got my life together. I distinctly remember deciding to try and do better because I realized this little baby in front of me really got screwed in the dad lottery. 

My dad and wife will be thrilled I uploaded this one.

I don’t really make any bones about the fact that Tyler and I grew up together in a lot of ways.

We skateboarded and watched anime and went to the park all the time. We played video games and rode our bikes all over town. We built forts and slept in them and drove around listening to Rancid and Social Distortion on a boombox that ran on batteries seatbelted into the passenger side.

I worry that he might have had more of an older brother than a dad for much of his younger life.

It’s a good thing he had a mom who was on her game.

Here are the things I’ve learned from raising a kid:

We don’t know near as much as we think we do. There is no science to raising kids and we cannot control how they turn out. Sometimes great parents wind up with real douchebag kids. Sometimes moron parents wind up with great kids. It’s weird.

Your kids cannot be the center of your world. They cannot be your world. It’s not fair to them, that’s a weight they shouldn’t have to carry.

You will regret every selfish choice you make in regard to them.

You don’t own your kids, they are not “yours” in any real sense. They are actual people with their own hopes and dreams and wants and needs. We are here to guide them and help them live on this planet effectively and usefully.

No matter how much time you spend with your kids, the day will come when they are growing up and you will wish you’d spent more.

I’ve got a cool kid, who isn’t really a kid anymore. He’s a better teenager and son than I was by a very long stretch, and someday he will be a better man than I am. And that makes me happy.