Webb: Words of wisdom for my stepson on graduation, part II


ernie and brody

Taking senior pictures with my stepson Brody, whose natural-born intelligence helped him make up more than two years of high school in a year. We took senior pictures together because he’s graduating from high school this month, and I graduated with a master’s degree last week.

Three years ago, my eldest stepson, Rory, graduated from high school. Your first child graduating is a special moment. It’s as big a step for the parents as it is for them.

Now that the second stepson is graduating, all I can think is, “Thank the Lawd.”

In all seriousness, it’s been a struggle with Brody academically. The one time he excelled in the classroom, I had to bribe him with a PlayStation 4. Brody being Brody, he came home one grade short of straight A’s that semester.

The more I thought about that, the more I thought about how frustrating – and probably infuriating – it had to be for his teachers. We’re talking about a kid who got a 19 on his ACT at age 11 and got the highest assessment score at his middle school in the seventh grade.

Perhaps the most frustrating thing for his teachers (and parents) was his propensity to do virtually nothing all semester, finish with literally hundreds of missed assignments and go into finals with low F’s. And when I say low F’s, I mean low F’s (like sub-30 percent).


One of the reasons I love Brody: He looks like his mother and inherited her incredible intelligence.

Brody being Brody, we’d check his grades right after finals to find that he’d managed to pass with flying colors (as in brown with low D’s). Time and time again, he’d score better than 100 percent on finals after doing zero work during class for months. It was aggravating – and impressive as hell.

Brody probably won’t like me breaking down his blasé attitude about school, but the important thing is to recognize that I’m praising him for his will. Just last year, as a junior, he was so far behind that I was certain he’d be roughly 40 when he final walked across the stage at commencement.

In less than two years, this kid passed three-and-half years worth of high school courses. Not bad considering many of them his freshmen year were honors classes. We never questioned Brody’s intelligence. In fact, he’s probably too smart and far too bored for high school.

When Rory graduated, I shared some words of wisdom passed on from my parents. Here’s a modified version for Bro:

“You do what makes YOU happy”: I’ve heard those words many times in my life from my father, and they proved to be extremely valuable.

It’s more than about just being happy. Make decisions for yourself. If you want to go somewhere, go. If you have an opinion, voice it. If you don’t like the way you’re being treated, say it.

“Be a man of your word”: Unfortunately, you are going to find that honesty isn’t a virtue. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t practice it.

When you tell somebody you are going to do something, do it. When you see a wrong, point it out.

“Work hard”: You’re going to find that things are not going to come easily. Without hard work, you will not be successful. Find your passion, devote your life to it and bust your ass.

“Never give up”: I know you understand this. You wouldn’t be here if you didn’t. When you have a dream, believe you’ll do it. Write it down as a goal and work hard to achieve it. Be relentless in pursuing it.

“Be yourself”: Above all, you are a wonderful human being. A son to be proud of. You’re the smartest person your age I’ve ever met. You’re kind, sensitive and thoughtful.

Other words of wisdom: Tell your mother you love her. CALL YOUR MOTHER. Treat your mother and grandmother like you treat your girlfriend. Laugh every day. Cry when you need to. Tell the truth. Get to work on time. Sleep eight hours a day. Read as many books as you can. Enjoy the sunrise and sunset. Write. Visit your grandparents. Eat well. Be kind to children, older folks, animals and the less fortunate. Travel. Try new things. Do not carry fear. Never hesitate to ask me for more of these.