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The Column

To My Future Children

My name is Steve, and I am your father. I know you're not born yet. I don't even know who your mother will be. But I wanted to tell you that you can not necessarily do anything if you just set you mind to it. That's a load of crap.

Someone once told me that I could do anything if I set my mind to it and I spent that entire summer trying to make my sister's head explode. I've got much more practical advice for you: if you don't actually pursue your dreams instead of just dreaming them, you'll end up working at Walmart. In the pet food aisle. At night. On weekends.

You are not entitled to success. You are not entitled to happiness. You are not entitled to have a better life than your parents. You are not entitled to anything beyond breathing. And even that, you kind of owe me for.

You will have access to video games and DVDs and the internet and action figures, but I don't have to buy any of them for you. I probably will, but only if you're not a terrible person. If you're one of the mall kids who shrieks that you're not loved because your parents don't buy you every last TickleMeSpongeBobBarneyRanger, you will be reminded that I may put you up for adoption at any time and start over.

You will have access to a free elementary and high school education, but I don't have to pay for you to go to college. I probably will, but you can help with grades and extra-curricular activities and the loans you take out based on your future earning potential. If you get Ds through high school and wonder why you ended up paying your own way through junior college, it's because your future earning potential is $8 an hour. And that's only because the minimum wage will probably go up by then.

You will have access to unlimited information about politics and world history. And I will help you interpret it. But if you choose to form your opinion of your country's socioeconomic climate based on five minutes of MTV, you will end up electing politicians that only care whether or not you buy what's being advertised during the next commercial break. If you're even smart enough to vote.

Remember that you are lucky to be born in an era when you have more to play with than a rock and a leaf. Remember that you are lucky to be born into a country that sends you to school instead of to work. Remember that you are lucky to be born into a mindset in which you will not be killed because of your political views. In most states anyway.

College will not be waiting for you when you graduate high school. A job will not be waiting for you when you graduate college. And a social security check will certainly not be waiting for you when you retire. That last one kind of stings, doesn't it?

The phrase "you can do anything if you set your mind to it" is misleading, because you also have to put in the work. Most people who feel they are entitled to something are entitled to nothing, twice. No one is entitled to anything. Also, those who base their lives on a sense of entitlement are jerks. And no one wants to give anything to a jerk.

I will prevent you from watching inappropriate television so you can not blame your temper on anything but being human. I will ground you so you learn that listening to appropriate authority is the fastest way to get what you want. I will even hit you once - but only so a stranger doesn't hit you much harder. And if you threaten to call child services and report me for abuse, you will learn the meaning of the term "double jeopardy." And it is much more upsetting than sitting through a movie with Ashley Judd.

I will not get you a cell phone when you turn twelve. I will not get you a new wardrobe when you turn fourteen. I will not get you a car when you turn sixteen. What I will get you is a personality, forged by years of actually having to put work in to achieve results. You will thank me when you're old enough to know what I've done for you. When you are old enough, your spoiled friends will still be whining that they have tons of angst. And they'll do it over their cell phones during the drive home from clothes shopping.

I will, however, love and support you in all your efforts, as long as they are efforts. You will be great kids. I know that because I will raise you to be. I'm going to set my mind to it, but I will also put in the work. That's how you get things done. And If you disagree with me, there's a cleanup in aisle four.

Oh, and if you get the chance, tell your mother I say hi. I bet she's really hot.

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